I really need to stick to my guns when I make an original prediction. Scroll down a couple of writings (2/29) and you'll noticed I had hoped for 83-88 point from the Islanders. Then, in my last post, I thought for sure 77 was the magic number. Welcome to the enigma and the growing pains (of all kinds) that are the New York Islanders. They currently have 77 points with five games remaining after whipping a Pittsburgh team twice in a home and home series. The Islanders have found life in the form of the Bailey-Neilsen-Okposo line. You all know the numbers and you know the stats, to put it simply, they're on fire. Most important, the Islanders are winning without the help of their first line and their start center John Tavares.
As a fan, I could not be happier getting out of the lottery draft because I firmly believed that the Islanders simply did not belong in that mix. Yes there is still five games left and anything is possible, but my hope is that the Islanders get close enough to 80 points so they can avoid it. I've been reading a lot from fans saying that these games are meaningless and that there is no pressure for the Islanders, win or lose. I see where they are coming from, but only to a point. If you look at the Islanders schedule from this month, there are only two teams (Toronto and Tampa) that really are not playing for anything at this point. Every one else is either in a race for a playoff or even bigger, their division. So there is some meaning for the other team to win against the Islanders, but on the flip side, the Islanders don't want to be beaten down anymore that what they've gone through already, so pride has meaning for players and fans alike. Many fans have come to think that the Islanders did not have an Identity this season, which is true, but they have one right now....spoilers and they're doing a great job of playing that role.
But seeing players excel the way they have recently, is it less pressure or has this team finally turned the corner? Are Islanders fans witnessing a very promising future or just another tease? No doubt, fans expected more in the free agency last summer from Garth Snow than what was done, but what fans weren't expecting was the rise of players Snow drafted such as David Ullstrom, Casey Cizikas and the excitement of maybe having Michael Haley up for a full season along with having Nino Neiderreiter on a scoring line. Make no mistake, this offseason is crucial for Snow, the Islanders and it's fans, but what needs to be seen are the players who are excelling now do the same thing in October and November when the season begins to compliment what hopes to be a good offseason of acquisitions. That responsibility lays squarely on the head coach, whoever that may be. This team needs to be assembled and ready before training camp, no more invites and sudden signings. The coach must have this team wanting to win and win early. If this all comes together, then it's time the players looked at themselves in their mirrors and show to the rest of the NHL that they, the Islanders, truly have arrived and show that these last games of the season are not meaningless.