A quarter of the season gone the New York Islanders are standing right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. In their first 20 games, the Islanders are 11-7-2, good for 24 points and a wild-card playoff standing. As I review how we got here, these are some notes of interest regarding the team’s schedule so far.
The Islanders have a youth-laden team this year to go with a new coach and owner. A reasonable fan might’ve expected a period of growth to be required before all of the team’s pieces started working as a well-oiled machine.
The quarter point of the season is usually telling of a team’s future. The Islanders began the season as an uncertainty, and despite starting stronger than the last go around their inconsistent play still leaves plenty to question.
According to hockey-reference.com, in the 20 games the Islanders have played, eight have been part of a back-to-back sequence. In these back to back series, the NY squad went 4-4. Twice they won the first night and dropped the next game, twice they got shutout 5-0 on the first night and came back to handle their next opponent. There are three more back to backs in the next three weeks.
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The team seems to be gaining steam as they improved in their second set of ten games compared to the first ten games. The first ten they finished 5-4-1, but as the “newness” of the team has worn off their play has improved, slightly. In their last 10 games, they are 6-3-1. Every game counts in a league where only five of 31 teams are below the .500 mark in points%.
The Islanders are 7-4-2 against opponents from the West. These include an ugly loss to the stars on the road, but also three out of four possible points earned from the West’s best St. Louis Blues. Also notable are some ugly losses to teams with many injuries to key players, such as the Ducks and Wild.
Of the Islanders’ 7 regulation losses, none have come on home ice. Out of their 9 overall losses, 5 have been 1 goal games. In their 11 victories, they have won by a margin of two or more goals 10 times, the exception being a win by shootout over the Rangers at the Garden.
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The Islanders have played 7 games against eastern teams. They’re 2-0-0 against the Atlantic, including an impressive, if not flawless victory over Tampa on the road.
Where’s The Metro?
Only a quarter of the Islanders’ games played so far have been against Divisional opponents; five out of 20. In those five games, the Isles are 2-3, defeating the Rangers, splitting with the Hurricanes, and losing to the Blue Jackets and Capitals.
I think it’s fortunate the Islanders have had time to get their ducks in a row before facing the Metro in force. The Metro doesn’t have any weak teams and it’s full of perennial playoff contenders.
While every game counts, games against divisional opponents count more, with a proverbial “4 point swing”; meaning one team gets two points and the loser gets nothing but one game less to get points.
Only five out of 20 isn’t so crazy, but the Islanders only play the Metro five more times in their next 20 games as well.
That means there are 18 divisional swing games in the back end of the season. I hope by then the Islanders have their confidence up.
Right now the team ranks in the top ten for SOS and SRS, which help rate the strength of schedule and how the team is performing. I think the Metro is still the strength in the schedule though, so we’ll know where we stand once they’ve gotten a few more divisional matches under their belts.
But if the showing so far is any indication, I’d warn the league to watch out, because here comes the NY Islanders!