With a win over the Washington Capitals, last night the New York Islanders are within three points of the final wild-card spot in the east.
Just a month ago the New York Islanders were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference without much hope of an escape. They were back by double digits and behind another seven teams in the hunt for the last wild-card spot.
Now, with two full months of the season left, and a sliver in April, the Islanders find themselves three points out of the final wild-card spot in the East while still maintaining a three-games-in-hand advantage over the Philadelphia Flyers.
This wasn’t part of the narrative. We all thought: “sure, making the playoffs is still mathematically possible, but…c’mon…”
We at Eyes on Isles were no different. Writing pieces about how the Isles might need to be sellers at the trade deadline, or saying that history isn’t on their side. Teams generally don’t move much in the standings between Christmas and the end of the season.
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It’s All Happening
But here we are with a ton of hockey left to play and the Islanders are ever so close to post-season hockey. They’ve kept winning, or least putting up points since January 16th, but they’ve had some luck with other teams simultaneously losing.
Like last night. In order for the Islanders to get to within three of the wild-card they needed two other results to go their way.
First, they needed the Philadelphia Flyers to lose. They hold the last wild-card spot and have played three more games than the Isles. The Carolina Hurricanes did the Isles a solid by thrashing the Flyers 5-1
Then the Isles needed the Toronto Maple to also lose in regulation. A single point would have put the Maples Leafs even with the Flyers and would have placed them in the wild-card. The Isles don’t have a game-in-hand advantage over the Leafs.
Of course, Dallas pulls a fast one on the Leafs, dispatching Auston Matthews and his boys with a dominant first period that saw the Stars score five. The Stars won easily 6-3.
This isn’t to say that the Isles owe their ascension to other teams. It’s a byproduct of winning. As the Isles continue to put up points other teams inevitably falter. But the same can also be true. If the Isles revert to their October to mid-January form there’s going to be a number of teams ready to jump them in the standings.