The NHL is having a moment in the New York metropolitan area. It’s a moment that we’ve never seen before.
The New Jersey Devils are the shock of the season, amassing a 19-4-0 record while playing an exhilarating brand of hockey. The New York Islanders are 15-9-0, bouncing back from a disastrous campaign last season thanks to Ilya Sorokin, who could be the NHL’s top goaltender. Although the New York Rangers have yet to get rolling, they went to the Eastern Conference finals last season and returned a roster with star players and recent award winners.
Through Tuesday night, the Devils, Islanders and Rangers had a combined .657 points percentage, or the number of points in the standings divided by the total possible points. If that holds, it would be the most successful season for the three rivals combined since the Devils relocated from Colorado in 1982. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the previous high for combined points percentage is .599 in the 1993-94 season.
As Stan Fischler told me recently: “I don’t recall a trifecta quite as special as this.”
That assessment carries the weight of history. Fischler attended his first Rangers game in 1939. As a journalist, he covered each of these franchises during their Stanley Cup championship runs. He’s seen a lot of New York hockey. He’s never seen it look like this.
“Right now, we have the rare opportunity — slumps notwithstanding — for each of the Met clubs having a shot at making the playoffs,” he said. “This is rare, exciting stuff for the fans overall, and me in particular. It feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’m sopping it up every night.”
Don La Greca doesn’t quite have Fischler’s work history. He has been covering hockey in New York since he was working for Sports Phone and making $15 per Devils game in the early 1990s. Now co-host of “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN Radio 98.7 FM in New York, he’s also soaking in the moment.
“The Rangers are off to a slow start, but you know how good they are. If they get their act together, and if the Devils are for real, these are three of the better teams in the conference. And that never, ever happens,” he said. “As someone that makes a living talking about all sports, and as someone that’s dying for all three teams to be good so Michael Kay will let me talk hockey, this is a dream come true.”