The Isles have finally taken the first step in their rebuild. Despite losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in a shootout, the Isles clinched a playoff spot for the first time in 6 seasons. They are currently projected to finish 6th in the East.
How did this team get here? Almost every news source projected the Islanders to finish near the bottom of the East once again, and even a lot of fans, myself included, did not have faith in this team. However, the Islanders proved that an advantage of a lockout shortened season is youth, as they went on a run, starting April 1st in a win against the Devils, of games where they recorded at least one point in the standings. The amount of determination shown by this bunch, led by the stellar play of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Evgeni Nabokov, and others have proven to teams around the league that the Islanders are not a doormat any longer. Players such as Travis Hamonic, Matt Martin, Colin McDonald, and Casey Cizikas have taken huge steps forward in their development as players. Despite all the solid play, this means a lot more to the fans as it may seem.
The Islanders fanbase has been starved for good hockey since the early 80's. After constant belittlement from other fans, rumors of relocation, a carousel of bad owners, and utter disappointment, these fans who have stuck with the team can finally wear their colors proudly. Being an Islanders fan all my life, I could write an entire article about the nasty things hockey fans have said about my beloved Islanders, and how they made fun of the never ending rebuild, but the fact that this core of players has finally clinched a playoff spot goes to show everyone that the rebuild is actually working. Throw in that the Islanders have made it here without their last five first round picks, and you can see- the future is bright on Long Island. And for the first time in a long time, I can say that the Islanders will be in the playoffs.
They currently sit at 2nd in the Atlantic Division, behind the rival Pittsburgh Penguins and 6th in the Eastern Conference. Their opponent is not yet set, but as it stands they will play the Washington Capitals in the first round. The Islanders also have two regular season games left, against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres, respectively. These next few games are still important because they will decide where the Islanders ultimately place in the standings. The New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, and Winnipeg Jets are all in the hunt for the final two spots in the East as well.
I will be bringing you post-game analysis for every game the Islanders play in the post season. Make sure to check back constantly for more insight and hockey talk as the postseason approaches!