The NY Islanders Qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 5th Time in 6 Seasons

Apr 15, 2024; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New York Islanders center Kyle Palmieri (21) celebrates his
Apr 15, 2024; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New York Islanders center Kyle Palmieri (21) celebrates his / Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The NY Islanders are headed back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second year in a row, locking up third place in the Metropolitan Division with tonight's 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

Aside from participating in the postseason in consecutive seasons, the Isles have qualified for the playoffs in five of the last six seasons - the franchise's best run since 1975-1988, when they made 14 straight postseason appearances.

The Isles didn't make it easy on themselves this season, giving away games in the third period on what seemed like a nightly basis. Despite their early season struggles, the team found their stride late, taking 15 out of a possible 16 points over the last eight games.

It may not be a pretty-looking record as the Isles sit at 38-27-16 on the season. With only 38 wins, the Islanders have one less win than the Buffalo Sabres and the same amount as the Devils, who sit five and six positions behind the Islanders, respectively. Since the NHL realigned its divisions in 2013, the fewest points accumulated by a team finishing in third place in the Metro was the Philadelphia Flyers in 2013-14, who ended their season with 94 points. The Islanders will need a win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night to match that number this season.

The Isles hit rock bottom on January 19th, falling to the basement-dwelling Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in OT. The next day Lane Lambert was relieved of his duties as the Islanders Head Coach and in a move nobody saw coming, in came Patrick Roy.

The Islanders didn't have the initial jolt that typically comes with a mid-season coaching change as they continued to tumble down the standings. The tide seemed to change in late February, starting with a road win against the Dallas Stars, beginning a 6-game winning streak. But the Isles quickly gave up the cushion they built for themselves, going on a 6-game losing streak immediately after.

Hope seemed lost among the Islanders faithful with postseason aspirations seemingly out of reach. At the Islanders season ticket holder event where fans were allowed to ask the Islanders questions of their own, one young fan asked the team if they thought they'd make the playoffs. Shannon Hogan quickly intervened not to put any players on the spot, but from that point forward, the Islanders have been playing like a completely different team. Maybe hearing something like that from a young fan was the kick in the butt they needed to begin their current run of play.

The NY Rangers locked up the Metro Division tonight with their 4-0 win against the Ottawa Senators, meaning the Islanders will take on the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round for the second year in a row. The 'Canes took the series in six games last season, beating the Islanders at UBS Arena in overtime of Game 6.

While the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Detroit Red Wings battle for the final playoff spot in the East, the Islanders can relax in game 82, as their ticket is already punched.