Mathew Barzal believes the NY Islanders have found their groove at the right time

Boston Bruins v New York Islanders
Boston Bruins v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

You always want to be playing your best hockey down the stretch of the season, although, preferably, your playoff lives wouldn't depend on it. The New York Islanders have little margin for error after a maddening up-and-down first three-quarters of the season.

They fired Lane Lambert, are on pace for playing the most overtime games in NHL history, have the worst penalty kill in the league and scored their first empty net goal in their 59th game. Individually, Noah Dobson is a Norris Trophy candidate, while Ilya Sorokin has looked average at times, and the team's defense has struggled to stay healthy.

This season hasn't made much sense, but however they got here, the Islanders are within striking distance of the post-season and are collectively clicking at the right time. After winning their first two games after the All-Star break, some old habits showed up, resulting in a 1-3-2 stretch that jeopardized their playoff chances and had fans thinking a sell-off could be coming.

Not so fast.

Patrick Roy's team showed signs of life last week that have them believing that their best hockey is in front of them. Mathew Barzal's herculean overtime shift set up Bo Horvat for a game-winner in Dallas. They followed that up by showing resolve and snapping the Detroit Red Wings' six-game winning streak. Then, they capped off the week with their most complete game of the season in a 5-1 win over the visiting Boston Bruins at UBS Arena.

“The last three games especially have shown [Lamoriello] and even proved in our locker room that we're good squad in here,” Barzal said. “It's been some ups and downs here, but it's all about finding your groove at the right time. And seems like we're playing our best hockey right now.”

The Islanders will need to maintain their level of play over the final 22 games to make the postseason. This recent stretch has shown enough to GM Lou Lamoriello that if they do anything at the trade deadline, it will be making an addition. Lamoriello is hoping his steadfast belief in his core pays dividends once again, as it did last season when they clinched a playoff berth on the final regular season game of the year.

If they are to earn their way into the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season they will have maintained their groove for a prolonged stretch and shown they are capable of doing a whole lot more.