New York Islanders a genuine threat to the Washington Capitals for a playoff spot

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The New York Islanders were supposed to not only be in the playoffs this season, but contend for the Stanley Cup with the likes of the Avalanche, Lightning, and Panthers.

An extended road-trip to open the season waiting for their new home to be completed, bouts with COVID-19, and injuries have derailed this campaign. However, the Islanders are far from quitters and have crawled back into the race for the final wild card spot.

Islanders trending up

The Islanders are 32-27-9 for 73 points as they sit 11 points from the final wild card spot in the East behind the Washington Capitals. Barry Trotz’s charges also have a game in hand on the Caps.

A look at the schedule includes a home and home series towards the end of the regular season between the two clubs. Could we be looking at a miraculous climb for the Isles?

“We’re professionals here, and at the end of the day, we’re building towards something that’s bigger,” Mathew Barzal said. “We’re building towards (winning) a Stanley Cup. Whenever that time comes to get that opportunity, we’re just trying to be ready for it.”

The Isles beat the Devils yesterday to extend their winning streak to four games. In their last 14 games, they’ve been on a bit of a tear going 11-3-1 to make things interesting in the East.

Capitals struggles have opened the door for the Isles

washington capitals
Mar 15, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) celebrates after scoring a goal against the New York Islanders in the third period at Capital One Arena. It was Ovechkin’s 767th NHL goal, moving him into third place in all-time goals. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals at one time earlier in the season were in first place for awhile.

They’ve only been slightly above average at best since late February going 9-7-1. That includes a 2-4-0 stretch in their last six games allowing the Islanders to climb back in.

Which is fairly remarkable considering the gap was so wide it made the Grand Canyon envious.

“I think turnovers, bad decisions with the puck, that kind of killed our momentum,” Washington captain¬†Alex Ovechkin¬†said in after losing to the Wild on Sunday. “When we put the puck deep, forecheck, we all know what we have to do, just for some reason we try to make a cute play, you know. I think we just have to forget this game.”

Unfortunately for the Capitals, they’ve been trying to forget too many games of late. Their defensive play has been suspect and their goaltending continues to be a concern. That’s why they went after Marc-Andre Fleury at the deadline, only to be rebuffed by the former Pittsburgh Penguins goalie citing it just wouldn’t feel right after so many years of intense battles.

Islanders not so magic number

The Islanders are not going to stop coming and should the Capitals continue to falter, those two games on April 26 and 28 will be playoff battles.

Washington needs a combination of 12 points either won by them or lost by the Islanders to secure the second wild card spot. Not out of the realm of possibility by any stretch of the imagination.

Seriously though, did anyone think we would even be having this conversation about the Islanders and the playoffs? This team went 11 games without a win from November 7 to December 5 (0-8-3).

A lot of credit needs to go to Trotz and company for battling adversity, even if it is just to raise some eyebrows around the league.