Bubble Update: Isles Rolling, Rangers Winners


The New York Islanders have advanced to the second round of the NHL playoffs. (Courtesy of Flickr)

After five long months of no professional sports, the NHL finally entered the bubble on Aug. 1. Both the Rangers and Islanders departed for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in Toronto for their first action since the pandemic began. Ever since, it’s been a great few weeks for both of the squads, but for very different reasons. 

Let’s start with the Blueshirts, the 11th seed in the qualifiers and faced Carolina in a best-of-5 series. Immediately, there were signs that it was not meant to be for the Rangers. On the morning of their first game, star rookie goalie Igor Shesterkin was ruled “unable to play” with an undisclosed injury. He would eventually return for the following games, but it was not enough to slow down the Canes, and the Rangers were swept out of the qualifying round. However, there was a silver lining for the eight teams who lost the best-of-5 matchups. Each of those teams was given a 12.5% chance to win the first overall pick and the right to draft star winger Alexis Lafrenière. Toronto, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Edmonton, Florida, Nashville and Arizona all joined the Rangers praying on ping pong balls, but they all fell short while the Rangers pulled away with a huge jump in the draft lottery for the second straight year. From the start, this was not meant to be the Rangers’ year to contend, but as Mika Zibenejad and Artemi Panarin grow into a dynamic duo, Kaapo Kaako and Lafreniére develop into young stars and Shesterkin continues his outstanding play, they will quickly become an Eastern Conference powerhouse. 

Now onto the Islanders. Barry Trotz’s squad took on the Panthers in the qualifying round, and for the second straight time in the postseason they took down Florida, this time in four games. They moved on to face Trotz’s former squad, the Washington Capitals. The Islanders took a quick 3-0 lead, only to lose game 4 and take a second stab at eliminating Washington. They shut down their explosive offense in game 5, taking the clincher by a score of 4-0. Seymon Varlamov has been outstanding in the bubble so far, and it has been Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey on the offensive end who have been lighting it up. Beauvillier has nine points in nine games, including six goals, two of which came in game 5 vs. Washington. Bailey leads the team in points with 10, accumulating eight assists. These two have been dynamic together throughout the playoffs, and the Islanders will need that to continue against a hot Philadelphia team in the second round. 

The second round of the playoffs began this past weekend, with Dallas taking on Colorado and Vegas squaring off with the Canucks. The winner of the Isles-Flyers series will face the winner of the high-flying matchup between Boston and Tampa on the Eastern Conference side. 

All in all, the bubble experience has been positive for both the Islanders and the Rangers. Long Island fans have reason to get excited and hope for a better ending than last season, while the Ranger fans have another exciting forward to lean on for the coming years.