3 reasons the NY Islanders should have more optimism this postseason than last

A few key players could be the difference between success and failure against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Feb 8, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (6) and New York
Feb 8, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (6) and New York / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
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The NY Islanders have clinched a postseason berth for the fifth time in the last six seasons. This marks the most playoff appearances in a six year span since the post-dynasty years of 1984-1990. Similar to those Islanders teams, this roster has mostly remained the same with positive additions added along the way. Unlike those teams, this Islanders roster is yet to play beyond the Eastern Conference Finals. Suffice it to say, we will keep our fingers crossed that 2024 will be the year, despite what the pundits may say.

The glaring wall standing in the Islanders' way of achieving success is taking down the Carolina Hurricanes in round one. In 2019, the Isles were swept 4-0 after they shut down the Pittsburgh Penguins in round one. Last season, the Isles put up a better fight but still lost in six games. This season, there is more reason to be optimistic given certain circumstances surrounding some of the team's top players.

1. Bo Horvat is better acclimated to playing with the Islanders

In 2022-23, the Islanders' biggest problems came on the offensive end of the ice. The team's powerplay ranked in the NHL's bottom tier with their goal total being 23rd overall. With the immense effort from Ilya Sorokin to keep the Isles top five in terms of the fewest goals allowed, the team remained in the midseason playoff picture. Just like when Jacob deGrom used to pitch for the New York Mets, the Islanders were losing many low-scoring games that were becoming unacceptable.

Given the circumstances, Lou Lamoriello traded the team's 2023 first-round draft pick along with Anthony Beauvillier and Aatu Raty to the Vancouver Canucks for a top goal scorer in Bo Horat. Upon his arrival, Horvat had 31 goals and 23 assists in 49 games. However, the 27-year-old centerman did not keep this pace as he only scored 7 more goals in 2022-23, including just one in the playoffs.

Without question, Horvat has proved his first 30 games in an Islanders uniform meant nothing in terms of his career trajectory. In 81 games this season, the centerman has scored 33 goals with 35 assists. Horvat has produced these numbers mainly with Mathew Barzal by his side. More impressively, the Isles' top line has lacked a consistent left winger, leaving Barzal and Horvat to carry the offensive load. If the Islanders are to compete well with the Hurricanes, having a version of Horvat that is more comfortable playing on Long Island compared to last season will certainly give fans more optimism.