NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — When the calendar year 2015 started it looked like the Islanders were going to clinch a playoff spot early. They were playing that well.
Then they came back to Earth a bit.
As a result, with only three games left in the regular season they are still trying to put a little “X” next to their names in the standings.
The Islanders can secure their place in the postseason by either taking one point from Tuesday’s night’s game in Philadelphia or if Ottawa loses to Pittsburgh.
“If you would have told us at this point, 98 points and you’re still battling, it’s very surprising obviously,” coach Jack Capuano said. “For us, it’s just the task at hand and I’m proud of the effort the guys have put in at this point and we’ve still got three games to go.”
A win will give the Islanders (46-27-6) their eighth season with at least 100 points, but just their first since the 1983-84 team finished with 104 on its way to a five-game loss to Edmonton in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Islanders are currently in third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind Washington, which has just two games left. Considering the fact that the Capitals could very well end up being their opponent in the first round, the Islanders have plenty of incentive to play out the regular season with purpose in an attempt to grab home-ice advantage.
“Anytime that you can get home ice, it’s (important),” Capuano said.
The Isles are in fifth place overall in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of Pittsburgh, Boston and Detroit and five in front of Ottawa.
At or very close to the top of the conference during the season’s first half, the Islanders were undone to a degree by a 3-7-3 tailspin that lasted from late February into late March. They have since gone 2-0-1, looking a bit more like the team that surprised everyone by playing so well from the beginning of the season into late December.
Despite being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the Flyers (32-29-18) likely won’t roll over on Tuesday night. They got 46 saves from goaltender Steve Mason in a 4-1 win over the Penguins on Sunday that further damaged reeling Pittsburgh’s postseason chances, and have not lost in regulation in their last six (3-0-3).
There are a few interesting subplots to Tuesday night’s game. First, the Islanders will be trying to sweep the Flyers in the regular season for the first time in franchise history.
There is also the impending special teams battle between the Flyers’ potent power play and the Islanders’ revitalized penalty kill. Philadelphia is third overall on the man-advantage at 23.7 percent, while New York leads the NHL in kill percentage since the start of March (97.1).
And if that’s not enough, Islanders captain John Tavares and Flyers winger Jakub Voracek are each still very much in the running for the league scoring title. With 80 points, Tavares is tied with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Dallas’ Jamie Benn, one behind Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. Voracek is two points back.