The New York Islanders have by all accounts overachieved, and sit in first place in the Metro division. But even with that, the Isles, only 5 points ahead of the 8th seed, need to keep up this nearly flawless play in order to stay in the playoff hunt.
I, like all New York Islanders fans, am ecstatic with how well this season has played out. Barry Trotz introduced a system and the players, both old and new, have bought in. And the results have been incredible (even better than I optimistically expected).
But we need to be realistic and understand that the second half needs to be as good, if not better, than the first.
The Isles sit in first in the Metro. That fact alone is something to be extremely proud of. But they also sit only five points ahead of the eight seed Penguins, who have a game in hand. And only nine points ahead of the ninth seed Sabres, who also have a game in hand.
Assuming that the Isles come out a little slow from the break and go 5-5 in their next 10, and the Sabres and Penguins both go 7-3 (and all teams in between hold serve), that would put the Isles only one ahead of the Pens and five ahead of the Sabres.
And if the 10 after that go the same pace (5-5 Isles, 7-3 Pens/Sabres), the Isles are now 3 behind the Pens and 1 ahead of the Sabres.
Or just a three-game losing streak start the second half with the Pens winning three in a row and the Isles sit in the 8th seed in the blink of an eye.
This is all hypothetical, but it shows just how fragile the lead is. Five points from the #2 seed to the #8 is literally one bad week. Going from #2 to #9 is two bad weeks.
I’m thrilled, and extremely proud, of the way the Isles have played this year. I personally have, and continue to think, that they will make the playoffs because of the roster and the staff they have built together.
But before we start talking about their percent chance of making the playoffs, who they are slated to face in the first round or who they should rent for a playoff run, let’s focus on how the Isles can keep up their current play by sticking to what got them there.
The cliché goes that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Keep in mind that the Isles are only just over half way through that marathon – the point at which most teams falter. They have the team and the leadership to do it, but since you know they’re not counting their chips just yet, we shouldn’t either.