The New York Islanders closed out 2023 with a stretch of five straight games against Metropolitan Division opponents, going 2-2-1 and capturing five out of a possible 10 points. As 2024 begins, the Islanders find themselves in fourth place in the Metro and in the Eastern Conference's top wild card spot with with a 17-10-9 record and 43 points.
The 2nd place Carolina Hurricanes and 7th-place Pittsburgh Penguins are separated by just four points in the division, making "four-point" intra-division games all that more important during the second half of the season. However, the Isles won't have another opportunity to put distance between them and their divisional foes for a prolonged period of time.
The Islanders' next 17 games are all against teams that reside outside of the Metropolitan Division. Their next game against a divisional rival comes on Feb. 18 against the New York Rangers in the Stadium Series matchup at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. It will be the first meeting between the two teams this season and their first match-up since December 22, 2022. It's still wild that the two cross-town rivals didn't play at all in 2023.
Last season, four teams made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs from the Metro and Atlantic divisions, with the Islanders earning the top Wild Card and the Florida Panthers finishing as the eighth seed, which led to them knocking off the President's Trophy-winning Boston Bruins on their way to the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights.
This season, the toughest competition for a playoff spot will come from the Tampa Bay Lightning (41 points) and the Detroit Red Wings (38 points). It's quite possible that five Metro teams will make the post-season, given that the NHL schedule does not overload divisional games as they did in past seasons. What we do know is that a peak at the Metro standings on any given day will either bring you joy or strike fear into you as one bad week can make you slide from near the top to near the bottom.