It’s safe to say that this season is on its last legs. There is a full offseason to worry about what is next for the Isles, so let’s dream about the rest of this season. There is still a chance that the Isles will make the playoffs, make no mistake it’s not a good one. With Tavares looking like he is out for the year, the task will only be tougher. The only chance that the Isles have will be to run the table. They are currently sitting at 84 points with 5 games remaining, running the table will get them to 94 points. Once the Maple Leafs, Senators, and Bruins each get four points the season is over. In addition to those three the Isles will have to hold off challenges from Carolina, Philadelphia, and Tampa Bay as well. With eight days remaining let’s look at each day.
The weekend closes out with a busy day in the Eastern conference. The day starts early as the Bruins look to put a strangle hold on the eighth spot with a 12:30 NBC matchup in Chicago. This is the second of a back to back for the Bruins. The Islanders then take the ice against the Sabres at 3. As discussed up top, a loss here would basically end their season. Carolina plays in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia plays at MSG vs the Rangers and Tampa hosts Dallas to close out the night of action.
This is a rare day of observation for the Islanders. Both Ottawa and Toronto are on the schedule. Toronto will play in Buffalo (who are playing the second of a back to back) and Ottawa will make their last ever visit to the Joe in Detroit. These both look like winnable games which would give them each their 93rd point of the season.
The Islanders make their annual trip to Nashville who have all but clinched their playoff appearance and are playing only for positioning. The biggest game of the night will take place in Boston, as the Lightning come calling. As critical as it is for the Bruins to lose, Tampa is also two points ahead of the Isles. This absolutely cannot be a three-point game. Both Ottawa and Toronto play their second in a back to back on Tuesday. The Leafs play host to the President’ Trophy favorite Washington Capitals, while the Sens complete their home and home with Detroit. The Flyers should be able to handle the Devils at the Rock to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, and Carolina plays in Minnesota.
There are no games that have any effect on the Islanders being played. Hopefully by this point things are looking better than they do now. IF they are still alive on Wednesday they may have some hope.
Almost everyone returns to action on Thursday. If Carolina and the Islanders are still alive going into their matchup on Thursday, the loser of that matchup will not be alive on Friday. The Atlantic Division hosts two matchups that could decide the rest of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Tampa goes to Toronto, while the Sens go to Boston, again if these games become three point games it will make catching anybody almost impossible.
The Lightning finish a back to back in Montreal
Everybody but Tampa will be in action on the final Saturday of the season. That day will start off with the Sens playing a 1230 game in New York against the Rangers along with the Flyers hosting the Blue Jackets. NBC picks up the action at 3 with the Bruins hosting the Capitals in the Bruins final game of the season. The Islanders go play the Devils at the Rock, and Toronto hosts the Penguins.
Who knows if game 82 will mean anything for any of these teams but the Sunday schedule is loaded with teams in the playoff hunt. In addition to the Islanders hosting the Senators, the Flyers host Carolina, the Lightning hosts Buffalo, and Toronto hosts the Blue Jackets.
The Isles fall into this group, along with Philadelphia and Carolina. These three teams need plenty of help in order to make their playoff runs. Both Carolina and the Islanders hope to still be alive on Thursday for their game to mean anything. All three need to run the table to have even a chance.
Of all the teams currently sitting outside the top eight only Tampa looks to have a shot with games in hand against both Toronto and Boston they seem to have at least some of their fate in their own hands.
While the Bruins are in the eighth spot, they may be tougher to catch then both Ottawa and Toronto. Since they have already clinched the ROW tiebreaker against the Islanders, the Isles will have to pass them in the standing as opposed to only tying them. The Bruins do have the toughest schedule this week though which is a cause of concern. They host Tampa, Ottawa and Washington and visit Chicago. Getting four points out of those games will be difficult but at this point I would expect the Bruins to do it.
The Leafs will look to take care of business on Monday and secure points 92 and 93 with a victory over the Sabres, meaning they would only need to get two points in their remaining three games. Toronto still has matchups with the top three in the Metro left but who knows what they will even be playing for by that point. Toronto looks safe.
This is the team that the Isles have the best chance to catch, even though it is difficult to imagine Ottawa not taking care of business against Detroit. If the Isles were to catch them, they would most likely also gain the ROW tiebreaker (Ottawa currently has 2 more). If Detroit could steal even one point from them a tough stretch with a game in Boston along with a game at MSG could leave Ottawa vulnerable when they come to Brooklyn next Sunday.
This is not a likely scenario, but with 10 weeks before the expansion draft, 12 weeks before free agency, and six months before next season starts, there will be plenty of time to discuss the long-term future, let us take this one week and try to enjoy what we can of this season. Islanders hockey has varying degrees of importance to all of us reading this, even though this season has been filled with disappointment and anger we will be missing it in a few weeks.