It’s hard to believe that there are roughly three weeks left of the regular season. Despite their recent strong record the New York Islanders have not secured anything yet. On the one hand the Islanders are just three points behind the New York Rangers with two games in hand to move up to the number two spot in the Metropolitan Division. On the other hand the ninth place Philadelphia Flyers are just five points behind the Isles (both teams have played 69 games). Only being five points up on the Flyers is too close for comfort in terms of making or missing the playoffs. The Islanders can finish as high as a number two seed or miss the playoffs entirely.
Securing a Playoff Spot
The Islanders have a very good chance to accomplish one of their big goals for the 2015-16 season. That is securing home ice for the first round of the playoffs. But first they must secure a playoff spot. The team that plays in Brooklyn has been on a strong run during a recent brutal stretch. After tomorrow, the Islanders will complete a 14 game stretch where 12 of those games were on the road. These road games included a Western Canada swing, as well as trips to visit the Rangers, Bruins, Penguins, Predators and Stars. The Islanders take on Dallas tomorrow to complete this difficult 14 game swing. The Isles have a record of 8-3-2 so far during this stretch .
But despite the Islanders’ strong record in the last month, they still have work to do before they can start printing playoff tickets for the third time in the last four years. Keep in mind, New York’s goal is to make a deep playoff run this year. This is a franchise that has not won a playoff series since the spring of 1993. If the Islanders are going to have a special playoff run this spring, they will have to take care of business the next three weeks.
— New York Islanders (@islesbuzztap) March 17, 2016
Finishing 2nd in the Metro
The Islanders, Penguins and Rangers are all fighting to finish in the top three in the Metro, with the ultimate goal being to finish second in the division and get home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. Going into action on March 18th, the Rangers have 88 points, the Islanders have 85 and the Penguins have 84. The Isles have two games in hand on the Rangers and one game in hand on the Penguins.
No one has to preach to the Islanders the importance of home ice in the playoffs. The captain John Tavares is well aware of what is at stake. This week Tavares said the following:
“It’s a matter of keep pushing ourselves, wanting to get home ice. First steps first: You want to get into the playoffs and secure position. A lot of those games are coming up. Each point is valuable, and we have an understanding of that.”
Recently many players on the Isles talked about how last year’s first round loss to the Washington Capitals could have had a different outcome if Game 7 was played at Nassau Coliseum instead of being on the road in the nation’s capital. How last season ended and where Game 7 was played should give the Islanders plenty of motivation down the stretch. Where the Islanders finish this season will probably come down to their offense.
It is amazing to me the #Isles have as many points as they do, because they just disappear offensively a lot.
— Jeff Capellini (@JCapGLJ) March 18, 2016
The Islanders have 13 games left on the schedule. Tomorrow night’s game concludes this gauntlet of road games the past month. After that, of New York’s final dozen games, eight are at home and four are on the road. In the Islanders’ final eight game of the season six are at home and only two are on the road; one of which is at Madison Square Garden, so the Isles barely travel during their last eight games. The Isles have been a very strong home team so far this season going 21-8-4.
The Islanders face off twice against the Flyers (both at Barclays Center), Lightning and the Hurricanes. That’s half of their remaining games. During the last week of the season, the Islanders play the Penguins (at home) and the Rangers (at MSG). The Islanders have to rack up points versus teams below them in the standings down the stretch. Five of the Islanders remaining games are against teams whose fan base is praying to the ping pong ball Gods. New York has to make hay with their remaining games against the Hurricanes, Senators, Blue Jackets and Sabres. The playoffs start now for the Islanders.