January and February are infamous for separating the contenders from the not-ready-for-prime-time pretenders in the NHL. The New York Islanders are one of the “on-the-bubble” teams whose fates will be determined by their play over the next two months.
The New York Islanders currently sit in the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. In the minefield that is the Metro Division this year every game is important. On any given night, a team could let valuable points slip away to another team vying for the same playoff spot they are.
As previously discussed, the Isles have the fourth toughest remaining schedule in the NHL. Their opponents average winning percentage is a fear-inducing .567. If they want to put any space between themselves and the rest of the pack, the Islanders need to play with playoff-level intensity every single night.
The Islanders will no doubt be physically and emotionally drained by the time March rolls around if they can bring that type of energy on a nightly basis. That could result in the arrival of some of the New York Islanders highly-touted prospects a bit earlier than expected.
Help is on the way!
It’s correct to assume that the influx of young talent coming soon to the New York Islanders may not pay dividends overnight. In the cases of Ryan Pulock and Joshua Ho-Sang, who are both as ready for the NHL as they will ever be, we should begin to see positive results immediately.
The next line of reserves includes youngsters like Devon Toews, Mitchell Vande Sompel, and Alan Quine. These raw, yet incredibly talented, neophytes (Toews and Quine toe that line at 23 and 24 years old, respectively) may need some time to adjust to the speed of the NHL game.
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Once that transformation takes place, the Islanders should have a formidable defensive pairing in Toews and Vande Sompel, as well as new back-end centerman to plug into the rotation in Quine. Along with the rest of the prospects waiting to make their debuts, the New York Islanders should be stocked with talent for the foreseeable future.
What’s at stake?
The New York Islanders are in the position to control their own destiny. If they play to their full potential and quit giving away goals and points to inferior teams, they can considerably improve their playoff positioning over the next eight weeks.
The Islanders would be a hazardous opponent for any team they face in a seven-game series. If they can build some steam and move up in the standings, the Islanders would be putting themselves in a position to do a ton of damage come April.
If the New York Islanders can claw their way into a top-six seed they would hold the key to a door that hasn’t been unlocked for them in a very long time, the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Whether they can play themselves into a position like that before the end of the year is yet to be determined. What’s known for sure is that the Isles absolutely have their work cut out for them.