The Islanders lost to the Predators and the Bruins in back-to-back games. The Islanders only have 82 points now and have played 75 games. The Bruins have 84 points and the Lightning have 83 points and have also played 75 games. Yet the Islanders are still this author’s dark horse pick to make the playoff…the hipster pick if you will.
The Islanders have one of the best players in the world, John Tavares. He is just as good as any player in the league and had the ability to single handedly take over games. The Islanders need goals and they need them very, very badly. It is entirely possible that over the remaining seven games, Tavares could drag the Islanders into the post season, single-handedly. Just two seasons ago, Tavares had 86 points. This season, he has 65. A big finish for J.T. is a very real possibility.
It is also possible that the Islanders secondary scoring comes alive. Sure, the Islanders have an entire crop of underwhelming and largely overpaid forwards (Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Andrew Ladd, Brock Nelson, Jason Chimera, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck), but there is a new threat: Joshua Ho-Sang. Sure, he has only played 14 games this season, but he already has eight points. Ho-Sang will need to contribute in a big way if the islanders are going to return to the post season.
The Islanders might also benefit from a better-late-than-never return of Johnny Boychuk. Boychuk has not played since March 3, and has been out with a lower body injury, but has already put up 21 points through 59 games earlier this season. His scoring on the blue line is sorely missed and a return from Boychuk could enable the Islanders to score more than one goal per game and actually win some hockey games.
Lastly, the schedule is easy. Of the seven remaining games, the Islanders only have one back-to-back left. The Isles play Philadelphia and New Jersey later this week. Both should be easy wins against non-playoff teams. The Islanders then play the Sabres, the Hurricanes and the Devils in April. Three more games against non-playoff teams. They should be easy points. The Islanders play Nashville and Ottawa as well. The Predators game will be tough, but the Sens game is the last game of the season for both teams. It is likely the Sens will have nothing to play for and might dress a drastically reduced lineup. It is not at all unreasonable to think that the Islanders could go 6-1 to close out the season. The 12 extra points would put the Islanders at 94 points for the season and would very likely turn them into a playoff team.