New York Islanders: Remaining five games are anything but meaningless

There’s still plenty to play for for the New York Islanders. 

The New York Islanders clinched a Playoff berth Saturday when they defeated the New York Rangers by a score of 3-0. Currently, the Islanders sit in third place in the East Division, two points back of the Washington Capitals and four points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

While many teams that have already clinched will be resting players and focusing on the big picture, the Islanders need to do all they can to finish in a top-two spot and garner home-ice advantage.

With five games to go, the New York Islanders cannot slow down with home-ice advantage still a possibility.

There is an importance to resting players, and with five games left, many may say these games are ‘meaningless.’ For me, that could not be farther from the truth. When it comes down to it, each hockey team, in a seven-game series, is home at least twice, so why is it so critical for the Islanders to start the Stanley Cup Playoffs at home?

It is a confidence thing. Whoever the Islanders draw in the opening round will be a formidable opponent, given the strength of this division. More than likely, these Playoff series will be heart-wrenching, brutal battles to the end. There is no better way to kick off a Playoff Round with the Islanders faithful in a packed Nassau Coliseum.

Most teams in the NHL play better at home, so of course, teams would like the opportunity for that advantage in the postseason. Saying that the Isles were good at home this season may be the biggest understatement of this shortened 56-game NHL campaign.

They have been lethal.

Currently, the Islanders are 20-3-3 on home ice, garnering 43 of a possible 52 points (.830 P%). Like an infomercial, ‘but wait, there’s more.

The Islanders rank 18th in offensive production and second in defensive production, scoring 2.73 goals per game this season while allowing only 2.20.  At home, their offense has been exponentially better, having scored 3.57 per game. They have allowed a mere 2.15.

Semyon Varlamov (40), Ryan Pulock (6)

Semyon Varlamov #40 and Ryan Pulock #6 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

This dominance at home started way before a single fan was allowed into the arena. Given that this is the last year at ‘The Barn,’ the Islanders are doing their best regarding a proper send-off.

Since the Islanders allowed fans in the arena (healthcare workers on March 11), they are 9-3-1 on home ice. And, given the remaining schedule, two against the Sabres and Devils, and then one against the Bruins to end the season, the Isles have a substantial opportunity at finishing in a top-two spot.

Fans are asking for certain players to be rested, like Andy Greene or members of the Islanders’ tough fourth line.

But if I’m the Islanders, and Head Coach Barry Trotz, why sit anyone. Given the way they have been playing, a Playoff spot was no guarantee. Over the last two games against the Rangers, the Islanders look the best they have looked in quite a while.

Last season the New York Islanders limped their way into the postseason, finishing the season 0-3-4 before the COVID-19 hiatus allowed them to get healthy. It also permitted Trade Deadline acquisition Jean-Gabriel Pageau to get more acclimated.

Trotz has finally cemented his lines, and with five games left, these games are valuable in creating momentum and strengthening chemistry.

Not to mention, if the New York Islanders could get back to the semi-finals, the final four teams are reseeded based on point totals. These remaining games are not meaningless in any form of the word.