Last month, we asked the question, "Did the Islanders play well enough in January, given the competition, to be a playoff team?" The answer was yes, indeed!
This month? Well, not so much. So instead, I switched my attention to the other playoff bubble teams. Which playoff bubble teams have the momentum going into the final full month of the season?
But first, the usual monthly summary. Here's how teams fared in February:
February 2012 Power Rankings
In a month where the Isles needed to knock the NHL's socks off to be considered a playoff possibility, their performance was... "meh." Not terrible, but not nearly good enough. And yet, at the end of 3/4/12, the Isles stood a mere 5 points out of 8th.
There has been plenty of discussion as to whether the Islanders have any chance in heck of making the playoffs. I'm not going to make any more cases for or against peoples' optimism (I really do hope they make it, despite what my recent number crunching seems to indicate). But to make some use of the above info, I'm going to compare the playoff bubble teams (as of 3/4/12) along with how well those teams have been faring lately. For the purposes of this little exercise, let's just look at the last playoff spot and everyone behind them up to and including the Isles:
Buffalo: Hottest of the Bubble Teams
"Rank" is the team's power ranking for February, which I hope is a decent indication of how well teams have been playing recently, taking quality of competition into account. Clearly, Buffalo has been the hottest of the bubble teams. It only narrowed its gap with eighth place Winnipeg by one point over the month (albeit with one less game played), and yet it's ranked 11 places higher, thanks to the quality of their victories.
And teams who are playing well against better teams typically enjoy that momentum as they play the lower ranked teams. They're still several places and points behind, but if I had to pick one currently on-the-oustide-looking-in team to get into the playoffs, I would be hard pressed to pick someone else.
Look at the rest of this field, for example... only one other team -- the Lightning -- has played well enough in February to be called a playoff team, ranking 16th. Washington and Toronto have been awful. All other teams on this list, however, outperformed the Isles last month, and the Isles have the most ground to cover.
Improbable, but not impossible.