The NY Islanders look to carry their strongest finish since 1980 into playoffs

Apr 17, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA;  New York Islanders head coach Patrick Roy during the third
Apr 17, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders head coach Patrick Roy during the third / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders are the hottest team in the NHL.

The team finished the season 8-0-1. That's 17 points in nine games after being given a less than 5% chance to make the postseason in late March. To put things into perspective, if they had secured 14 points, they would've missed the playoffs. That's how good they needed to be down the stretch of the season to play for the Stanley Cup.

They're riding a nine-point streak to end the season for the first time since 1980, when they went 8-0-4 after an underwhelming regular season and went on to win their first Stanley Cup. We're not predicting the same result come June, but this sustained level of success in the final three weeks of the same and the overall trajectory of the team under Patrick Roy should make them more dangerous than advertised in a best-of-seven series.

None of their recent success will change the outside perception and reality that the Islanders will be significant underdogs when they start their best-of-seven series against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night. The seasoned Canes pushed the New York Rangers until the final games of the regular season and finished with 111 points. They are the Vegas favorite and feel primed to win a Stanley Cup for the first time since 2006. They've added Jake Guentzel at the trade deadline and this year, have a healthy Andrei Svechnikov. Plus, players like Seth Jarvis raised their game to a new level, going from 14 goals to 33 this season. They're really, really good.

A year ago, the series with the Canes was winnable, with Carolina winning Games 2 and 6 in overtime. Ilya Sorokin, who was supposed to give the Isles a clear edge in goal, struggled in the series. This year, the Isles will start with Semyon Varlamov in net after he went 5-0-0 in April and allowed just eight goals, posting a .946 save percentage and a 1.59 goals-against average.

Will the Islanders be able to carry over their late regular season play to the playoffs? It will be hard to beat Carolina even if they do, but this team is entering this year's matchup in a better place than they were last season, which makes pulling off an upset within reach.