NHL Playoff Picture: How the NY Islanders can clinch a postseason spot on Saturday

Montreal Canadiens v New York Islanders
Montreal Canadiens v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Last year, the New York Islanders didn't clinch a playoff spot until the final game of the regular season and didn't control their own destiny until the Chicago Blackhawks surprisingly defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins the previous night, setting up a win and, in the scenario, at UBS Arena.

In many ways, the 2023-24 season has been wilder and less predictable, but following their 3-2 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night, the Islanders can clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as soon as Saturday after game 79 with points and some help.

The Isles' magic number to secure a playoff berth is down to three and is four to finish third in the Metropolitan Division after a mixed bag of out-of-town results. The Pittsburgh Penguins blew a 5-3 lead but then beat the Detroit Red Wings 6-5 in overtime. The Pens are 7-0-3 in their last 10 games and are three points behind the Isles. The two teams play each other in the final regular season game of the season. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers snapped an eight-game winless streak with a win at MSG versus the New York Rangers. Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals dropped out of a playoff spot after a 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

The Isles can clinch a playoff spot on Saturday with a win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden and two of these three things happening: 

  • Pittsburgh loses in regulation (vs. Boston), OR 
  • Washington (vs. Tampa) loses in any fashion, OR
  • Detroit loses in any fashion (at Toronto).

The Isles can also clinch a spot with an OT/SO loss to the Rangers, and if Washington and Detroit both lose in regulation. To clinch third place in the Metro, they'll need two points versus the Blueshirts, a Penguins loss in regulation, and a Capitals loss of any kind.

It's been a frantic finish to the regular season in the Eastern Conference, but there's a possibility that some of the drama will be removed from the final two games of the season if things break the Islander's way on Saturday afternoon at the MSG and later that night around the league.