With 15 games remaining and the last spot in the Eastern Conference still within their grasp, the New York Islanders are on a mission. Thanks to a schedule that has them sharing the ice with several teams beneath them in the standings, the goal can be attained. They just have to run the table.
The Last Road Trip
The Islanders skated to a 5-3-1 record on their most recent road trip, thanks mainly to timely goals from their first line and ample secondary scoring. The play of Thomas Greiss and JF Berube was spotty during that stretch, but good enough to win. In order for this team to make the post-season, however, the hatches need to be tightened. The turnovers that cost them their last game against the Blues have to stop. The weak periods against the Flames that cost them a game they could have won must stop as well.
However, regardless of their inconsistent play at times, the Islanders still got points in six-out-of-nine games and are only a point behind the Maple Leafs. They don’t need to be perfect to get into the playoffs, they just need to continue to keep winning the way they have since Doug Weight took over as interim head coach.
Go With Beau and Ho
While Ryan Strome and Andrew Ladd have thrived since Weight became the coach, Anthony Beauvillier has been stellar as well. Since playing against his hometown team in Montreal, Beauvillier has done an admirable job of filling in for spark plug Casey Cizikas on the fourth line. If the Islanders are to make the playoffs, Beauvillier must continue to play a larger role in the offense.
The same thing can be said for recent call-up Joshua Ho-Sang. Although a minus-five in five games, his two points during that time are indicative of his skill. Not scared to skate and create offense, Ho-Sang has to be a factor. The Islanders first line of John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee have got it done down the stretch, but the team needs more. In order for the Islanders to reach the playoffs, they’ll need every line to be a factor — Ho-Sang can be exactly that.
Chasing the Leafs
Although one point behind the Leafs, the Islanders have the rare edge in overall experience and in tight races towards the playoffs. The additions of Dennis Seidenberg, Jason Chimera and Ladd this offseason give the team grizzled veterans that can calm the younger players and keep them focused. Comprised of talented young players or older ones with little to no playoff experience, the Leafs are in uncharted territory. Regardless of Auston Matthews and the host of talented players on the Leafs, they may, in fact, be in serious danger of not making the playoffs at all.
Racing Towards the Finish Line
If the Islanders win 10 of their last 15 games, they will make the playoffs. From there, things get scary, though. Regardless of who they face, it’ll be one with offensive firepower and goaltending that surpasses their own. But this group of players has defied the odds and beaten teams they shouldn’t have in the playoffs before. They just have to get there first.