3. Islanders re-Capture Second; The Week Ahead
It’s been a busy last few days for the NHL East Division’s teams. The Islanders and Bruins played a back-to-back set in Boston just before the weekend began, and then the rest of the division’s teams were in action for the remainder of the weekend, with New York and Boston returning to action on Sunday as well.
The good news for the Islanders is that the Buffalo Sabres beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in regulation during a Sunday matinee, which brings the Isles and Pens to the same number of games played, with New York up in the standings by one point.
The sorta good, sorta bad news is that the Boston Bruins beat the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon. With the win, the Bruins move to within four points of the Islanders, while also having two games in hand.
The good side of that is the division-leading Caps took a regulation L, which helps the Islanders to potentially catch them for the top seed in the East. If the Isles can play to their potential, which we haven’t seen in some time now, they could still theoretically capture the East’s top seed and secure home ice in the first two rounds of the upcoming playoffs.
The worst outcome for the Isles on Sunday was the Rangers defeating the New Jersey Devils in back-to-back games. In each game New Jersey came back from an early deficit to make for an exciting finish, but also in each game they ended up falling in regulation.
The Rangers now sit just four points back of the Bruins for fourth place in the East. They have the highest goal differential (+33) in the division, and they’ve picked up points in nine of their last ten games.
The Islanders will play the Rangers three times between Tuesday and May 1 to close out the season series between the two teams. Those three games and six points might ultimately prove to be the most crucial of the season.
But not so fast. The Blue and Orange also have three meetings remaining against Washington on the schedule in that same timeframe. In each three-game set remaining the Islanders have home ice twice. They need to collect points in each of those sets, and they need to do so desperately. A playoff spot is still not guaranteed for this team, especially if they continue playing this way.
With only eleven games remaining, there’s also the season finale, another game that could prove to be crucial for New York. They play the Bruins on May 10, in a make-up game that was missed earlier this season. It may not be hyperbole to say when that game rolls around both teams’ playoff hopes could still hang in the balance. Only time will tell, so buckle up.