3. The Home Stretch: Looking Ahead
The New York Islanders have seven games remaining on their 2020-21 regular-season schedule. I’m not quite sure if that’s a good thing because it leaves less chance for them to be bumped from playoff contention, or if it’s a bad thing because it likely means they’ll head into the tournament looking pretty much dead on arrival.
Either way, maximizing their victories and points in these final seven games has become an imperative objective for the team to avoid missing the postseason. Fortunately, they are facing three non-playoff teams and the Boston Bruins in their final seven.
The Islanders will play the Rangers, Sabres, and Devils two times a piece in this last stretch. Beating the Rangers twice should be a top-of-the-list priority, as they are the team who will likely be threatening for the fourth seed in the East Division until the final couple of games.
It could probably be said that these two games are the most important for both teams that the Islanders and Rangers have played in years, and that would probably be true. The balance of each team’s season now swings in the balance down the stretch.
As for the Devils and Sabres, they’ll predictably be looking to play the spoiler role, and are definitely not teams to be taken lightly.
New Jersey just rattled off six goals on Philadelphia on Tuesday night, and despite poor goaltending, they have found ways to pose problems to their opponents a lot recently. They will play the Isles in the final ever regular-season game at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday May 8.
The Sabres have managed to beat Washington, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, and the Rangers since coming off their epic losing streak earlier this season. They’re a team who have been playing spoiler for a little while now, and they’ll be looking to do so to the Islanders on May 3 and 4 in Buffalo.
On May 10, the Islanders will play the Boston Bruins at TD Garden in their final regular-season game of the year. By then, you’d hope the team has clinched a playoff position, but a scenario does exist in which they must win on that Monday night in Boston to secure a spot at the dance.
The home stretch has become a lot more interesting, and nerve-wracking, for the Islanders and their fans after dropping three straight games to Washington and collecting a single point of a potential six. If the Islanders we saw earlier this season are ever going to make a reappearance, it should probably happen now.