Happy April Fools Day everyone! Luckily for New York Islanders fans, the jokes are not going to be on them. There are five games remaining in this regular season and many fans are eager to just see the Islanders make the playoffs, while some would like to see home ice advantage. Let me ease some of the nerves. As of this writing, with the Boston Bruins defeating the Florida Panthers, you can take the Panthers out of playoff contention. If this were any other year, the Panthers would still be in it. But as I had written a while back, the Eastern Conference will have close to 7 teams ending their seasons with at least 100 points. That has never happened and the closest comparison is the 2005-06 season when the Eastern Conference had 6 teams with 100+ points.
So with five games remaining, it’s not so much if the Isles make the playoffs, it’s where will they end up. The Isles are in striking distance of the second place Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division along with the Washington Capitals. I will continue to hold to my earlier article that the Isles and Pens will meet in the first round but as the Capitals continue to play, the more they continue to impress, but they may have the toughest schedule to end a season. I’ll get into the playoffs for another article, but for now, let’s focus on the last five games. For me, this is a great schedule if you’re prepping for a playoff push. Two out of the next five are against one of the hottest and probably the biggest spoiler in the East, the Columbus Blue Jackets. They’re out to ruin any team that’s making the playoffs and they’re playing like it. The Blue Jackets were one of my preseason picks to make the playoffs until the Jackets got riddled with injuries, so it’s no surprise to me that the Blue Jackets are playing like they are. The Islanders need to show up for both games, especially the second time when they face off because it will be the last regular season game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Philadelphia Flyers are 21-9-7 at home, so they are not a given, despite the injuries that have occurred for them as well. Buffalo is playing with zero pressure, which is something the Isles did for the last couple of years and teams like these cannot be taken for granted. The other major game is against the Pittsburgh Penguins. I do not have to say any more about what the Isles need to do.
All five games are huge and I believe no team other than the Capitals may have a tougher schedule coming out of the East. If the Isles get 5 points in the next five games, Isles fans may in fact get their wish of a second place finish and home ice advantage in the first round. If not, then it’s just another obstacle the Islanders will have to endure and this time persevere over the Pens. As I said I will get into the playoff picture as it gets closer and we see who is in what place. For now starting against the Blue Jackets on Thursday, the playoffs have begun for the New York Islanders. They just have to make sure that they show up for the rest of their season because at this point of the year, only they can decide how long they want to play for.