The New York Islanders have now clinched for the first time at home in 17 years. What an accomplishment for this team. At the beginning of the season, no one had the Islanders in this spot. Despite all the doubt, this team has found a way to be successful. Now, with two games left, they are trying to secure home advantage in the first round.
Despite their success, the Islanders do have some concerns as they head into the playoffs. What are they going to do about the abysmal power play? In the playoffs, special teams becomes even more important, and you have to take advantage of all the chances you get because there won’t be many.
Another problem for the Islanders is injuries. Valtteri Filppula and Tanner Fritz are both out for a longer period of time, and the depth at center was already not that great. Leo Komorov has been filling in to the middle when needed. Will that work in the playoffs though? There doesn’t seem to be many other options, so we will have to wait and see if Barry Trotz comes up with anything else. The bright side is that Filppula should be back earlier than expected, perhaps even by the playoffs.
Now onto a few positives that hopefully the Islanders can ride heading into the first round. The first is their goaltending. Robin Lehner has been outstanding since coming back from injury, and he has gotten every start except one since he’s been back. Not to say that Greiss has played poorly, but my thinking is that the coaching staff wanted to get Lehner back in the groove before heading into the playoffs. Though, it will be interesting to see how they are both used once the first round starts.
Just to hype on some other specific players that I’ve noticed over the past month, Jordan Eberle and Casey Cizikas have upped their games. Cizikas has now hit the 20-goal mark including his clutch game-tying goal against the Winnipeg Jets. Jordan Eberle has been a bit of a scoring machine later on in the month, and also had the clutch game winner against the Jets shortly after Cizikas had scored. Both of them playing well and helping the offense will be important for the Islanders in the playoffs.
Overall, you have to feel pretty good about the Islanders going into the playoffs. They’ve played well, and I feel like they have a good chance no matter what team they are playing in the first round. Though, if the Islanders do have an early first round exit, I will still be proud of this team. They overachieved everyone’s assumptions about them, and really made an impact on the NHL this year. Who knows though, maybe the team from Long Island isn’t quite done yet.