The Islanders Just Won’t Die

Against all odds — and hopes — the Islanders are STILL in the playoff picture.

John Tavares was out with an injury. Thomas Hickey was playing as the second line left winger. Connor Jones and Stephen Gionta were playing on the same line. And yet, with all those negating factors, the mediocre Islanders STILL managed to beat the playoff-bound Nashville Predators on Tuesday and keep their playoff hopes alive. All the Islanders’ best efforts to lose aside, the Islanders just wouldn’t die, and Hickey, an elite forward, ripped an overtime winner that kept New York alive in the postseason picture.

So the roller coaster pushes on, more gut-wrenching and vomit-inducing with every twist and turn. What started as a miserable, lost season turned into a miraculous playoff push. That push, in reality, died last week and the reality of this disappointing season came crashing back. All the Isles had to do was lose to Nashville and put the final nail in the coffin, but instead, they gave fans one last reason to hope. It’s almost frustrating to watch this terribly managed team still hold on to a sliver of success. This franchise opened the season by throwing P.A. Parenteau to the curb, and spent the last three months messing with Jaroslav Halak in favor of J.F. Berube. Garth Snow and company might still get a pass if the club finishes within a few points of the eight seed. But nevertheless, with three games left in the season, there’s still something left to believe in.

The Islanders’ improbable playoff push starts on their end, but they’ll need a lot of help, too. As of now, they’re five points behind Toronto, who also has three games remaining. Toronto has the first tiebreaker, and the Islanders have the second. Mathematically speaking, the Isles have about a three percent chances of making the playoffs, but I got into journalism so I could ignore math in the first place.

Here’s how the Isles can sneak into the post-season:

  1. The Isles win out, the Leafs lose out. This is the most straightforward situation. If the Isles, who are five points back, gain six points while the Leafs get none, the Isles get in without any issues. This means the Isles would have to knock off the Hurricanes, Devils and Senators, while Toronto would need to lose to the Lightning, Penguins and Blue Jackets.
  2. The Isles win out, but the Leafs pick up just one point in any of their remaining games. Here, both teams would finish with 94 points, and if the Islanders managed to get at least two ROWs in their last three games, they’d claim the last spot. The Leafs hold an advantage in that category, which is the first tiebreaker, 38–36, which the Isles can overcome or tie down the stretch. If they end tied in points and ROWs, the tiebreak becomes head-to-head-record, where the Isles would prevail with a 2–1 mark against Toronto.
  3. The Isles go 2–0–1, the Leafs lose out. There is a scenario left where the Islanders can lose a game, but it has to be in overtime. If they manage that, and get two wins before shootouts while the Leafs drop their last three games, they’d be tied in points and ROWs, and the second tiebreak would kick in again, giving the Isles the eight seed.
  4. The Isles win out, the Senators lose out. The Isles can still end up tied in points, and ahead in the tiebreak with the Senators, but this is probably the least likely scenario. The Sens have the Bruins and Rangers left, teams that have nothing to play for, before squaring off with the Isles in the final game of the regular season. It’s unlikely, but could set up an improbably 82nd game with a spot in the playoffs on the line.

Is any of this going to happen?

No.

The Leafs have lost to each of the three teams left on their schedule once each this year, but are too good to drop every remaining game. On the other hand, Carolina has given the Isles fits for years now, and against the Canes, Sens and Devils, the Isles have gone 3–5–1, and that was with Tavares in the lineup.

But it’s never easy or painless with this team, and I can already tell they’ll leave us waiting until the last game to finally collapse and spend another season on the outside looking in. But that’s the thing with roller coasters: No matter how sick you feel at the end of the ride, you always find yourself back in line again.

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