The New York Islanders' long break certainly can play with the minds of players, coaches and especially fans. Having had a difficult start to the season, the Islanders have dug a big hole to contend for playoff hockey.
The team has shown signs of life and currently has taken 12 out of the last potential 18 points. A 5-2-2 record over the last ten games has provided flashes of the team we have grown accustomed to seeing under Barry Trotz.
Every defeat in those ten games has been by one goal. Despite inconsistencies, the Islanders could easily have won all ten games. This would provide a streak capable of climbing the current standings, even with the recent break.
New York Islanders are streaky
As difficult as it is for the Islanders to be on an extended break, it is even harder to see the teams above them pick up points. Having games in hand on the rest of the league is nice in theory but does not take away from the obvious work needed to get back in the race.
This core group of players has put up a 10 and 9 game win streak respectively over the last few seasons under the new regime. It is easier said than done, but the capability is there for this team to show streaks.
The most important thing at this point of the season is getting everyone healthy and back to form. The points will come with better play.
Although the Islanders need to focus on the Islanders, it's possible the teams around them cool down. As the Islanders have gotten off to a slow start, other teams have started hot. It is not out of the ordinary to see a hot team cool off as the season progresses.
Islanders Wild Card Contenders
The Toronto Maple Leafs sit in third place in the Atlantic Division with 47 points. The Leafs have shown inconsistency over the last few seasons and are perfectly capable of hitting a dry spell.
The rival New York Rangers have thrived under new head coach, Gerard Gallant. The skill on this team is undoubtedly strong, but is it possible they have peaked? This is a team that did not make the playoffs last year. I personally do not think the Rangers will fall far, but to keep up the current pace is not likely.
Currently, two teams ahead of the Islanders are on losing streaks. The Washington Capitals have lost four straight and are losing ground on a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division. The Philadelphia Flyers have struggled all season and currently find themselves on a five-game losing streak.
The Islanders have four games in hand on the Boston Bruins and six games in hand on the Pittsburgh Penguins, who both represent the Eastern Conference Wild Cards.
Hypothetically, the Islanders could win the games in hand on the Wild Card teams and find themselves just six points back from the Bruins. More importantly, 50 games would remain in the season.
Hot and cold streaks will come with any team in sports, but to write off the season is premature. The break will hopefully be over shortly, and the Islanders will be able to answer the questions. For now, put the calculators down and wait for the games to finally be played.