Potential Playoff Opponents for the Islanders

The Islanders hope for a favorable draw come playoff time. (Courtesy of Flickr)

The Islanders hope for a favorable draw come playoff time. (Courtesy of Flickr)

By Chris Hennessy

Two weeks ago, I wrote my panic piece about the Islanders falling apart and potentially missing the playoffs. After beating Philadelphia and Arizona this past weekend, the team have helped itself  tremendously in its campaign towards the tournament. After the game on Sunday, the furthest they can fall is ninth place, out of the playoffs by one, so their spot is looking more secure now. They have had some stinkers over the past two weeks, but the recent uptick has the fan base believing once again.

So now that the Islanders will most likely be in the playoffs, let’s look at some potential opponents for them and how they match up.

Best Case Scenario: Win Division and Draw Montreal/Columbus

It is likely that Montreal and Columbus will be the wild card teams in the East bracket, leaving the worse of those two to Tampa Bay, and the better of the two to the winner of the Metropolitan. Either one of these teams would be good draws for the Islanders, especially Columbus. The Isles have owned the Blue Jackets this season, beating them all three times they’ve faced off so far, including two shutouts. Montreal just beat the Islanders 4-0 over break, and Carey Price is playing his best hockey right now. Columbus is a much more ideal matchup,  but we can’t complain if the team wins the division.

Tough, but Fine: Second Place, Host Carolina

Carolina has played some unbelievable hockey this year, and its team camaraderie is second to none. This would be a tough matchup for the Islanders despite the success they’ve had against the Hurricanes this year. Carolina is hot as of late, and if the Islanders continue their stumble, they could be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

Not Ideal, but Winnable: Second/Third Place, Face Pittsburgh  

The Penguins are the Penguins. They just went back-to-back on Stanley Cups a few years ago and have the best hockey player in the world. No matter what their regular season shows, they will be a tough matchup in April. Matt Murray is a top-tier goaltender in the league with two Cup rings before the age of 25. That experience is invaluable in the playoffs, and it could be a major advantage for Pittsburgh if this matchup comes to fruition.

Nightmare: Wildcard, Face Washington/Tampa Bay

It is possible. If the Islanders fail down the stretch, they could fall into the wild card and have to face either Washington or Tampa Bay. After a great season, this would be the worst way for it to end. I would put the odds of this happening at very little right now, but the Isles have shown that they are capable of long stretches of bad play.  

The Islanders shouldn’t be worrying about whom to play, because this year, the more they win, the better draw they get. This is not always the case in the NHL’s wacky playoff system, as in 2016 when the Islanders lost a game late in the season to draw Florida as opposed to Pittsburgh, which paid off. This year, if they win, they will reap the benefits. As long as they don’t fall into the wild card, I believe in the Islanders’ ability to win a first-round series.