COMMENTARY | Something special is happening in New York.
The Islanders are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot for the first time in since the 2006-07 regular season -- a feat few believed when the season began.
Powered by a 7-1-1 run, a dynamic duo and goaltending excellence, the Islanders have gone from a cellar squad to a legitimate playoff contender. However, questions do remain through the stretch run.
Thanks to their recent run, the Islanders now sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. While impressive, the battle isn't over yet.
The Isles will probably have to win at least five of their remaining eight games in order to safely secure a playoff berth. But that could be a tall order, especially considering they still have four games remaining against legitimate playoff contenders, one of which is the Winnipeg Jets -- a team that is just two points out of the playoffs.
They also have a road game against a Carolina team they have yet to beat this year, falling twice in Uniondale to the team from Raleigh.
The Islanders are 8-7-3 in 18 games against remaining opponents.
John Tavares and Matt Moulson have unquestionably been New York's best two players. Their skill and on-ice vision has combined for 37 goals, nearly a third of the entire team's offensive output in that area.
But most players are prone to slumps. While that might seem unlikely now, it's certainly a possibility that would be detrimental to the stretch run.
Apart from their two most offensively gifted forwards, the Islanders don't have too many skaters that can be relied upon to make regular scoring contributions.
Sure, Brad Boyes puts up points, but he hasn't scored a goal since March 16 -- a 12-game scoreless span. Michael Grabner is the only forward, other than Tavares and Moulson, with more than eight goals.
Although Evgeni Nabokov has been phenomenal this year, perhaps he's being overused. After all, the 37-year-old has played in all but six games this season, including nine of the last 10 games. That means they may have to strategically rest him, provided such an opportunity presents itself.
The Dreaded Dive
Since the current Islanders squad has never been this close to the postseason, choking during the stretch run is certainly a possible but highly undesired outcome.
But better teams have fallen in this manner, and a squad with less experience is arguably more prone to this than a veteran club.
And as for experience, it's no secret the club doesn't have too much of it. In fact, more than half the squad has yet to participate in the postseason, which may make it difficult to introduce to them the level of commitment necessary to make it there.
Kenny Lindberg is an award-winning journalist with a bachelor's degree in journalism from Chico State. Lindberg proudly covers the New York Islanders as a Yahoo! Contributor. In 2003, he served in Iraq as a U.S. Army combat engineer.
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