With the new NHL divisions set for the 2020-21 season, the MassMutual East Division, which includes the New York Rangers, will also now include the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres, as the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets move to the Discover Central Division. The Rangers will face their division rivals eight times each this season, and one of those foes is the New York Islanders.
The feud between the two teams, which stems from the “geographically situated perfect storm,” will forever be a significant NHL rivalry. In recent seasons, these two New York teams have established themselves among the best in the league but with opposite identities. The Rangers have focused on developing their young players while the Islanders have focused on defense and their veteran core. Yet, one of the Isles’ youth consistently stood out in recent matchups. That is 23-year-old forward Anthony Beauvillier.
A Closer Look at the Numbers
Beauvillier’s first NHL point was a secondary assist on a Brock Nelson goal back in the 2016-17 season. The season home-opener was Beauvillier’s NHL debut against the Rangers. Later that season, he recorded a pair of assists against the team. He has managed to strike against the Blueshirts from the very start of his career.
During 2017-18, he put up three points in the second meeting of the season between the clubs. He then recorded an assist in their third contest and a goal in their last matchup. Beauvillier had a role in the brutal season sweep completed by the Orange and Blue.
Beauvillier’s dominance over the Rangers officially began after his first career hat trick, which was during the first meeting between the two rivals in the 2018-19 season. He also recorded an assist that game, to add insult to injury. He wrapped up the season series with a goal for a total of five points against the Rangers.
The winger struggled to hit the scoresheet last season, with only a pair of goals against the Rangers. However, even when his name doesn’t appear in the game log, the Rangers feel his presence. In his career thus far, Beauvillier has 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in 14 games against them, his most against any team in the league.
Though most of his career points were earned at home (75 points at home, 52 away), seven of his 15 points against the Rangers were tallied at Madison Square Garden where he is especially comfortable.
Beauvillier and the Departure of Lundqvist
Beauvillier faced former Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist the most when the two teams met. Still, Alexandar Georgiev started in each rivalry matchup last season, and Beauvillier saw Lundqvist less and less. Against Georgiev, the Islander only has three goals in six games.
The last time he faced Lundqvist was Jan. 10, 2019; however, he failed to register a point. Two days later, he tallied against Georgiev with a goal. Though he accomplished bigger feats against Lundqvist, Beauvillier will now face Georgiev or Igor Shesterkin, and this could completely change his narrative.
Although he has faced the New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals most often, after the Rangers he has capitalized the most against the Devils, Capitals, Sabres, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, there is a bit of a gap.
On this group, he registered eight points. This means he picked up points almost twice as much against the Rangers than other teams, even teams he saw just as often.
Beauviller has fared well against other Metropolitan teams, but his numbers show that he is more driven against the Rangers, and without significantly higher ice time.
With the playoff format set up, the top four teams from each division will qualify for the postseason. Each game becomes more crucial, even more so for these two clubs, who both possess the talent to be in the running.
The past proves the likelihood Beauvillier will step up in each meeting. The importance of limiting his chances is clear, but they will need to shut down the Islanders as a whole. Each rival match should be viewed as an indicative test for the Rangers — to see if they can overpower this defensively solid team again and stifle a prolific offender like Beauvillier.
He will likely look to finesse the Rangers’ budding defensive core and force the young goaltenders to make the difficult saves. He has a particular affinity for going to the net or taking a short-side shot. Yet, Beauvillier has learned to net the puck in several ways, which makes him a pain to defend, and he is only looking to improve.
One-timers from the slot, tip-ins, and stick working through traffic are all goal-scoring methods for Beauvillier. Even when he is not the player scoring himself, his passing abilities are refined enough to pitch in with assists, shown by his six assists (three primary, three secondary) against the Rangers.
Beyond the regular season, there is no question he was one of the best players in the Islanders’ playoff run last season and he is looking to keep his streak alive moving forward. With the Isles still fuming over their failed attempt to snag the Stanley Cup, we should expect to see the team improve in 2020-21.
The Rangers open their season at home when they host the Islanders to kick off the 2020-21 season. With the teams set to see each other more often in a shorter time span, the long-established rivalry is sure to heat up this season.