The New York Islanders are currently one of the eight playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, holding down one of the two wild card spots. The Islanders are only four points behind the New York Rangers, who rank second in the Metropolitan Division in points.
There is no question the Isles are under pressure to take the next step and win a playoff series, but are teams truly concerned about facing the Islanders if they get there?
New York has not won a playoff series since 1993, losing in the first round in their last seven playoff appearances. On the Islanders roster, only Steve Bernier, Johnny Boychuk, Jaroslav Halak, Nick Leddy and Marek Zidlicky have even won a playoff series, while only Boychuk and Leddy have won the Stanley Cup. The lack of experience is concerning and New York’s performance against playoff-caliber teams is even more so.
Against teams currently in playoff spots, the Islanders are 14-10-3, a fine mark for any contending team. However, when the East is separated from the West, the Islanders have a problem.
Of the other seven current playoff teams, the Islanders have only defeated the Rangers, Devils and Lightning. Add in the Penguins, the first team outside of the playoff picture, and there is another team the Islanders have failed to beat.
New York’s 5-7-2 record against Eastern Conference playoff opponents hardly sparks intimidation. Should the Penguins pass the Devils, the Islanders record would drop to a putrid 3-8-1 heading into three consecutive games against potential playoff opponents. The Islanders have 10 games remaining against current playoff teams, so there is not much time left to make an impression.
Halak and Thomas Greiss have a combined .906 save percentage against the main eight potential playoff opponents, a far cry from their combined .916 save percentage overall. Captain John Tavares has only scored eight points against the playoff eight in 13 games played. Leading scorer Kyle Okposo only has seven points in 15 games played. The players most relied upon have failed to get the job done against their rivals, showing little reason for confidence come April.
To be the best, a team must be able to beat the best. The Islanders have proven time and time again that is something they struggle with.
There is depth on the roster, solid goaltending and defense to fall back on, but when the playoffs roll around, New York must find a way to beat the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Luckily for the Islanders one of the most likely outcomes is a matchup against the New York Rangers, a team they have handled well over the last couple of regular seasons. A matchup with the Washington Capitals would prove to be a daunting task, and New York would be wise to press for every point possible to avoid playing Alexander Ovechkin and Co. come April.