When the Islanders started the 2013-14 season with a shootout win over Metropolitan division rival New Jersey, you kind of felt the momentum from the hard fought playoff series that ended the team's prior season.
And then the next night you got a taste of what was mostly to come as the Isles blew a two-goal third-period lead against new division foe Columbus, eventually losing the game in a shootout.
The Islanders would start out the season with a 2-0-1 record against the division, but since then have gone a dismal 3-14-2 versus Metropolitan teams. That mark gives the Islanders the worst divisional record of any team in the NHL.
The Islanders last season became the first team in 14 years to make the playoffs after having a losing record against their division (7-9-2). If they thought lightning would strike twice, they were sorely mistaken.
Division woes are nothing new for the Islanders or us fans, but with the promise the team showed in closing out last season, we thought maybe times were changing. We were wrong.
Even as the Islanders began to turn the season around a few days before Christmas, they still couldn't find a way to solve the rest of the Metropolitan division. In the 20 games since Dec. 23, the Islanders have at least played above NHL .500 (11-8-1). But in that span, they are a disappointing 2-6 against division foes.
In the end, the Islanders were unable to beat the very teams they needed to take points from in order to climb the standings. They were 9-2-1 against the rest of the NHL in that time. But if you can't beat the teams in your division, you can't expect to be in the playoff picture.
The offense has pretty much par for the course, averaging 2.64 goals a game in division games, basically matching their 2.68 GPG average for the season. The defense is another story.
The Islanders have been outscored in divisional games 76-58 this season. That's an average of 3.45 goals allowed per game. In their other 35 games against the rest of the NHL, the Islanders only averaged 2.88 goals allowed per game.
In the end, if the Islanders ever want to turn the corner, they need to start by beating the teams in their division. The excuse that the Flyers and Penguins own us is over. Our division added mediocre teams in the Capitals, Hurricanes, and Blue Jackets this season. The Isles should have been able to at least win half of those games, but they couldn't.
With another third-period meltdown capping back-to-back losses to the Rangers, the thoughts of a possible playoff run can be put to rest. The Islanders can now set a new goal for themselves, to try and win the majority of their remaining divisional games.
At least it would be a start.