The Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and to an extent, the Edmonton Oilers are in a room with the door closed and there’s a sign in front of the door that says “Misery Loves Company.” These are the bottom five teams in the entire NHL and the New York Islanders have a chance to make two of those teams feel utterly demoralized within a weeks time. I’m not going to delve into the Oilers as I feel they will eventually get things back on track and I had the Buffalo Sabres as one of the least likeliest teams to make the playoffs this year.
After last night’s loss to the Kings, some fans are already trying to trade Carey Price, so there’s no need to even go near that team. The Rangers, Sharks and Coyotes are the next three teams the Islanders must face and there could be some major implications, especially for the Rangers should the Islanders win tonight.
The Islanders current record is 2-3-1. It’s been talked/written about to the point of nausea and that’s on the team. You’re not going to get an argument from me and I’m not going to regurgitate what you already know. Should this record be better? Absolutely! However, the Rangers are coming into this game with a 1-5-1 record and already there’s talk of replacing their head coach, Alain Vigneault. Is there playoff implications at stake tonight? You bet there is and if the Isles can win and win big, it’s very possible for the Rangers to miss the playoffs after such a slow start. Allow me to explain.
When playing the percentages, you can actually begin to eliminate teams from playoff contention by game thirty. That’s when the word possiblilty turns into probably. You get definitely by the trade deadline when teams will surrender and prep for the draft in the summer or very late in the season when the basic math kicks in and teams are then mathematically “eliminated.” Beating the Rangers tonight would put them five games under the NHL .500. If everything holds true and it does indeed take 95-97 points just to make the wild card, the Rangers would have to win six games in a row just to get back at .500 plus win an additional thirteen to fifteen games throughout the course of the season in one of the toughest divisions in the NHL. How miserable do you think Rangers fans and the organization will be? Some already are. For me, I need to see a blowout win like the Isles displayed against the Sabres. I need to see the Isles score 4-7 goals tonight, would love to see two power-play goals and I want to see Jaro Halak post either a shutout or keep that number low. Any kind of win is fine, but demoralizing your cross-town rivals and keeping that team at the bottom of the standings will only add to the misery and it must be done tonight. The Islanders must treat this game like it is a playoff game and if they prevail, you’ll hear the Rangers fans screaming for the head of the coach because you don’t lose to the Islanders.
Having said that, there’s always something to the next game after the Isles play the Rangers and many have called it a let-down. Usually after the Isles beat the Rangers, there has always been a pattern of the Isles losing to the next team they play. That next team are the San José Sharks, a team that the Islanders recently defeated by a score of 3-1 in San José. The positive to this matchup is that the Sharks will be playing the New Jersey Devils the night before and the Isles will have one night off in-between games. The Islanders must keep their foot on the pedal and begin beating teams at home at it starts with the Sharks. A win against the Rangers can gain confidence and playing at home should give the Isles enough energy to get a win against the (hopefully tired)Sharks once again.
The other team that could see their playoff dreams turn into a miserable nightmare are the Arizona Coyotes, a team that has not won in regulation in this short season. The Coyotes are currently sitting at a 0-5-1 record and are in the same boat as the Rangers just in the Western Conference. Did anyone expect the Coyotes to make the playoffs? Not really. This is a young group that is still learning and the last thing the Islanders want to do is allow the Coyotes to win, even if it’s their first of the season at the Barclays Center. Nothing is worse than allowing a young team to stay in the game because you’re giving them confidence and hope that they have a chance to steal a game. That is why the Isles must take care of business and frustrate the young Coyotes and finish them off by the second period. Another loss and Arizona will be looking like a lottery team by game ten, a place the Islanders should never be in unless the Flames implode and the Isles keep their 2018 first round draft pick.
Should the Islanders win the next three in a row? Yes, but I think it should be expected now. It’s expected that the Isles should end up 5-3-1 heading into Minnesota by next week. To watch the Sharks, Coyotes and especially the Rangers end up in the bottom of the league is needed because the Islanders are not as bad as the record indicates. They need to come out and play like a team that is going to the playoffs. Should the Isles fail in this task and indeed end up in the bottom of the league before their trip to Minnesota, then yes, misery does love company and there will be plenty of misery from this fan base that has already been put through too much. The Islanders must keep that door closed and not even look back from this point in the season. If I only have to hear about John Tavares and his contract, but the team is winning, I’ll take that over trading Carey Price, or an actual rebuild of the Sharks and the growing pains of the Coyotes. I will definitely take what the Islanders have over what the Rangers fans will be talking about, but they must not only beat the Rangers, but demoralize them. It starts tonight.