Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
With a road-heavy schedule (22 of their final 34 games, including a nine-game road trip) coming up, it's impossible to determine if the Islanders recent 3-0-1 run under interim head coach Doug Weight is something that propels the team back into the playoffs.
However, if I would have told you three weeks ago they would even be back in the discussion, would you have believed me? Likely not. You would have called me all sorts of names on social media to voice your obvious displeasure.
Fortunately, for us all, that never happened due to the cautiously optimistic approach I tend to favor in situations such as these. New York still has to overtake either the Philadelphia Flyers or Boston Bruins (assuming they get passed by Toronto, which is looking extremely likely) for that final wild card spot IN ADDITION to hoping six teams continue to tread water.
The teams New York has to play more than once over their final 36 games reads as follows: Devils, Hurricanes (4), Red Wings, Predators, Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Rangers, Senators, Blue Jackets and Flyers (2). Only one game each remain against the likes of the Blackhawks, Penguins and Capitals.
So, yes, the Islanders have captured six of seven points under Weight and 11 of 14 overall (5-1-1) since Jan. 13. But even the players are keeping an even keel, not letting this run give them any delusions of grandeur where they might possibly ease up or take a night off, similar to what we saw Sunday in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
"Overall, a really good effort from us," Josh Bailey said to the media. "From Greisser (goaltender Thomas Greiss) right on out, our D did a heck of a job, especially in the offensive zone, keeping lots of forechecks alive. But we're going to need a couple more runs like this. I think when you get on a hot streak, you try to ride the wave as long as you can. We're going to need more of that going forward."
Greiss was indeed solid, but he really was not tested, as the Islanders tied their season low for shots against with 23 against a solid Columbus team that came in third in the NHL in goals per game and first on the power play. Consequently, New York played sound in their own zone with excellent gap and rebound control and did not commit one minor to put themselves shorthanded.
Jason Chimera, who was extremely effective yet again in 12:49 of ice time, scoring his 10th goal and adding a fighting major, spoke about the game.
"It was a boring first period, the game kind of got going and we started playing better in the second. Great last two periods. We buckled down, played with more structure in the neutral zone, forcing a lot of turnovers, pinned them in. You know, we dug ourselves a hole early in the season, there is no time to rest, we're in playoff mode right now. Win one, move onto the next."
The next would be the Montreal Canadiens tomorrow night in Brooklyn, game five of the homestand and the final game before the All-Star break, against a team they have a 58-86-15 lifetime record against. If they win that one, color me impressed. Very, very impressed. For now, I'm sticking with Sportsclubstats.com's odds of 27.9%, much improved but still with a ways to go.