The New York Islanders embark on crucial road trip starting at the end of this week. Going into action on Tuesday, February 16th, New York finds themselves in third place in the Metropolitan division, which of course is an automatic entry into the playoffs. However, they are just one point ahead of the Devils, two ahead of the Penguins and six ahead of the Hurricanes. Keep in mind the Islanders have two games in hand on New Jersey and one on Carolina. Both the Isles and Pittsburgh have played 55 games. Let’s not forget the Isles are just four points behind the second place Rangers and have one game in hand on their cross-town rivals. This Thursday the 18th, the Isles host the Capitals and then start a critical seven game road trip that begins Friday night the 19th in New Jersey.
Hit the Road Jack
Well, the Isles are hitting the road during the next four weeks. Not only does New York start a huge seven game road trip this Friday the 19th, but 12 of their next 14 games are on the road. The good news for the Isles is that will just leave four road games the rest of the season after that stretch. With how tight both the playoff races are in the Metro division as well as the Eastern Conference for the last two wild card spots, New York will have to improve upon their current road record of 11-11-3.
Starting this Friday the Isles will go to New Jersey followed by stops in Minnesota, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg and then finishing the seven game trip at Madison Square Garden to face their bitter rivals the Rangers. The Isles barely get to catch a breath as they are home just for one game versus the Penguins before high tailing it on the road again to Toronto and Boston. Then it’s back at home for just one game yet again (this time it’s the Panthers) and then back on the road for a three game trip to Pittsburgh, Nashville and Dallas. The Islanders are going to have to be road warriors these next thirty days.
The Trip, What it Means for the Playoffs
There is a lot at stake for the Islanders as they pack their bags for a long and important business trip. These road games could decide if the Isles make the playoffs or wind up home watching the first round on TV. This trip could be the difference in terms of where New York finishes in the standings even if they finish as a playoff team. This trip could decide if New York lands with one of the two wild card slots or if they finish in the top three in the Metro division. A wild card spot means the Islanders will have to face a division winner in the first round. If New York winds up as the second wild card they will have to face the best team so far this season in the Washington Capitals in round one. We all know how that worked out for the Isles last year.
Also at stake, is even if the Islanders finish in the top three of the Metro and land an automatic playoff berth it would behoove them to finish in second place and not third. Last year, the Islanders missed out on second place in the Metro by one point, which meant Game 7 of their first round match-up was played in Washington. Could that series have had a different ending if the game was played at Nassau Coliseum? Well, the Islanders could find themselves in the same boat once again if they miss finishing in second place in the Metro and find themselves having to win a Game 7 versus the Rangers in Madison Square Garden to advance to the next round of the playoffs. That’s a tall order. Keep in mind, the Islanders have been a .500 road team this year but when they play at home in Brooklyn they are 19-8-3.
With a possible 14 points on the line for this upcoming crucial road trip, the Islanders need to have a positive trip and capture eight or nine points. A poor trip where the Isles manage four or five points could wind up costing them a playoff spot.
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