The New York Islanders came up with a massive 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins coming out of the holiday break. The offensive outburst marked the Isles’ second consecutive 5-1 win after beating the Florida Panthers before the break. The Metropolitan Division standings are tighter than ever, and the team trails the New Jersey Devils by four points for second place among some of the hottest teams in the league. The Islanders will need to keep their foot on the gas pedal to remain in the playoff picture, and their upcoming schedule will dictate the season’s direction, as they have an excellent opportunity to string together a lengthy winning streak.
Islanders Vital Road Trip Looming
The Islanders’ next eight-game stretch features four games against teams currently sitting outside a playoff position. However, the stretch ahead includes a lengthy road trip which will be vital to the team’s playoff hopes. They play host to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 29 before beginning a four-game Western Conference road trip, which features stops in Seattle to take on the Kraken, who, despite sitting third in the Pacific Division, have been stumbling lately, going 4-5-1 in their last ten outings. From there, the team travels through Western Canada to play the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, who are all having their own struggles this season.
The Islanders have yet to play the Kraken or the Canucks this season but have picked up wins over both the Oilers and Flames. They secured a 4-3 overtime win over Calgary in the early stages of the season, with Noah Dobson notching the overtime winner on the power play. The Isles will also be looking to sweep the season series after they shut out Connor McDavid and the Oilers 3-0 on Nov. 23.
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The Western road trip provides an excellent opportunity for the team to improve their 9-8-2 road record and a great chance for team building along the way.
Islanders Have a Favourable Schedule Ahead
The Islanders’ January schedule includes just one back-to-back, playing the Oilers and Flames on consecutive nights. Despite posting a 4-2 record on the second night of back-to-back games this season, they will benefit from having more rested legs throughout the month, and they will be leaning heavily on goaltender Ilya Sorokin with Semyon Varlamov still sidelined.
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The Isles also have a pretty favourable schedule compared to their division rivals as the Devils’ next eight games feature stiff competition with contests against the league-leading Boston Bruins, Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes twice and the New York Rangers. Pittsburgh’s next eight feature the Devils, Bruins, Vegas Golden Knights, Winnipeg Jets and Hurricanes. The Rangers will also play strong teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Panthers, Hurricanes, Devils, and Dallas Stars. Of all the teams in the Metro playoff picture, the Washington Capitals have the most favourable schedule, with only one of their next eight against a team in a playoff spot.
Time for Islanders to Take Advantage
The Islanders must take advantage of their upcoming schedule to return to the playoffs this season. While it is still early in terms of the Metro playoff race, it is never too early to fall out of contention. With two consecutive offensive outbursts leading to big wins over tough opponents, they will need these kinds of performances consistently going forward. The club is positioned well to string together some much-needed wins and potentially top their season-high five-game winning streak.