New York Islanders
Wild-Card Update: Islanders Control Their Own Destiny
The New York Islanders didn’t take care of business on Saturday night, as a win over the Washington Capitals would have had them two points up on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Instead, a regulation loss to the Capitals and Pittsburgh’s domination of the Philadelphia Flyers saw the Islanders fall into the second wild-card spot due to the Penguins having two games in hand, with both teams tied at 76 points.
Not to mention, the Florida Panthers lost in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets, earning a point to creep within three points of the Islanders with just one game in hand.
That was Saturday.
On Sunday, a travel day for the Islanders, the Penguins beat the New York Rangers in overtime as they are now 7-2-1 over their last 10 games.
They also now have a two-point lead over the Islanders with two games in hand and now face a struggling Canadiens team before two straight games against the Rangers, who have looked like a shell of themselves since Patrick Kane came to town.
The Islanders play two weaker teams on their California road trip, the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks, before returning home to face the Toronto Maple Leafs.
But the Islanders start their trip with a matchup against the Los Angeles Kings, who are 4-0-1 over their last five games. Despite how bad Anaheim has been this season, the Islanders will be on the second of a back-to-back when they head to Honda Center on Wednesday.
The Islanders are 7-5-0 on the front ends of back-to-backs, and 7-4-1 on the back ends.
As for the rest of the wild-card race:
The Panthers do not play another game until Thursday night, when they host the abysmal Montreal Canadiens, before a tough matchup against the New Jersey Devils, followed by the Detroit Red Wings and Flyers.
The Capitals are at 71 points with one game in hand. The Ottawa Senators, who were surging for a bit but were killed by the Chicago Blackhawks, the Vancouver Canucks, and the Calgary Flames, with just one win in their last four games, are six points back with two games in hand.
The Sabres are five points back of the Islanders after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Monday night with two games in hand. They face the Capitals next, before ending it against the brutal Flyers.
The Red Wings are seven points back of the Islanders, with two games in hand, respectively and face the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche.
So, how safe are the Islanders?
With the way the Penguins are playing and their games in hand, the Islanders will have a tough time catching them for that top wild-card spot.
The goal is to make the playoffs, and the Islanders have three points of leeway to build on this week.
The Islanders control their own destiny because even with the games in hand that every team below them has, not one of those teams could tie the Islanders in points by just winning those.
The New York Islanders only have 14 games left before their season ends. Five of those 14 teams (Tampa twice) are currently in playoff spots, while two of the remaining nine (Capitals twice) are teams hunting for a wild-card spot.
The stakes will be high. The points will be critical. But the second wild-card spot is the Islanders’ spot to lose, and it starts with a battle against the Los Angeles Kings Tuesday night at 10:30 PM ET.