It's known as "Dry January." After weeks of holiday indulgence, many choose this month to abstain from alcohol to get back on track. For the New York Islanders last year, it was a month where they refrained from scoring, not by choice, that almost sent their season off the rails.
The Islanders are a much better offensive team this season than they were in January 2023, a month that ended with the acquisition of Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks. Unlike last season, we don't expect goal-scoring to be the main issue like it was last season when they scored just 24 goals in the first 13 games of January and went 1-7-3 to start the month, averaging just 1.64 goals a game. The 2023-24 Isles have the 11th best power-play in the league and have been scoring 3+ goals per night on a regular basis (except when they play the Penguins).
However, that doesn't mean there isn't the possibility of this being another difficult month for the team to navigate, starting with seven of their first nine games of 2024 on the road, starting tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. The team's next eight games are against all teams in playoff position as the calendar flips to a new year, with their first game against a non-playoff-positioned opponent not happening until Jan. 18 against Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks.
As tight as things are in the Metropolitan Division, a bad week, let alone a month, can see you drop as far as seventh place. There's only a four point differential currently between the second place Carolina Hurricanes and the seventh place Pittsburgh Penguins, who just beat the Islanders twice and are playing some of their best hockey of the season.
The Islanders need to do what they have been doing the last month and a half, and that's finding ways to pick up points most nights. They were able to pick themselves up after a seven-game winless streak and move back into playoff position.
With a tough January stretch of games to start the year, they need to avoid another similar slide, or they'll be left out in the cold and outside the postseason picture before February begins and their run of 17 straight games against the division comes to an end.