Evaluating the 3 potential NY Islanders playoff opponents

Which matchup is more favorable, and which opponent do fans want to see the most?
Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders
Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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The NY Islanders have uncannily brought meaning back to their 2023-24 season. Just a few weeks ago, the Islanders were seven points back of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. When the doors open at UBS Arena tonight, the Islanders will hold third place in the Metropolitan Division. They are two points ahead of the Washington Capitals for this playoff spot and three points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins

On March 11th, the team would have given anything to be within three points of a playoff spot with four games remaining. Quite put, a second wild-card finish would now be a disappointment considering how far ahead the Isles have put themselves. However, the possibilities are endless given the amount of teams still alive, including the Detroit Red Wings at 84 points. In reviewing all of the playoff possibilities, who are the opponents the Isles are most likely to face in the first round?

1. Carolina Hurricanes

If the season were to end today, the Islanders would find themselves in a 2022-23 round-one rematch against the Carolina Hurricanes. Just as last season, the Hurricanes would hold a home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series. In four matchups this season, the Islanders have had success going 2-1-1 against the former Hartford Whalers.

While the Hurricanes are the most likely opponent, they are also the worst-case scenario for the Islanders. As fans, we all have post-traumatic stress disorder from seeing our team get swept in the second round of the 2018-19 Stanley Cup playoffs. We are also beaten down from the six-game series that saw the Isles get blown out or play non-competitive on multiple occasions, including on their own ice in game 4. 

On the other hand, home-ice advantage has meant nothing in terms of their regular season decisions against one another. The Isles defeated the Hurricanes twice at PNC Arena in 2023-24 while losing both matchups at UBS Arena, one of those times being in overtime. This is a far cry from going 1-3-0 against the Canes last season, including a heartbreaker in overtime to lose 2-1. Mathew Barzal was also rusty having missed the final 24 games and only playing with Bo Horvat for a handful before the playoffs. Regardless of past and current performances, the Islanders have never matched up well against the Hurricanes.