The New York Islanders tonight have a tremendous opportunity in front of them. In their final game in a successful month of March, they visit the Washington Capitals on the heels of a demoralizing loss on Saturday night to the Pittsburgh Penguins that likely ended their season.
Pittsburgh had gone up 3-0 entering the third period, and in typical-for-this-season Penguins fashion, they choked up that entire lead with a few minutes remaining. But then Anthony Mantha (trade’s working out real well) carelessly gave away the puck in the neutral zone to allow Evgeni Malkin to restore Pittsburgh’s lead with just over one minute left in regulation. What looked like one or even two points quickly went back to zero, and they’re now six points back with multiple teams to jump and only eight games to play.
And speaking of the Penguins, they lost in demoralizing fashion themselves last night to the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit had gone up 3-0 in the first. Pittsburgh tied it 3-3 in the second. Detroit took a 4-3 lead in the third, but Pittsburgh tied it up almost immediately. Then, Pittsburgh took a penalty in the final minutes, and Casey DeSmith gave up a howler to David Perron, who scored in the first period. That made it 5-4 with some time for the Pens to come back again until DeSmith immediately gave up another howler to Perron so he could complete his hat trick. Throw in an empty-netter, and you get a 7-4 regulation loss in a game that looked like it could be worth one or two points. It’s tough to work so hard to come back that many times to bail out your goalie, only for your goalie to scrap it anyway.
So anyway, the Pens remain three points back of the Isles for the first wild card with just one game in hand. After tonight, Pittsburgh will have two games in hand again, but if the Islanders can win tonight, they’ll be five points up on them.
The Islanders already are six points clear of the cut line above the Florida Panthers, who have a game in hand and are in action this evening, visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs. Two points for the Islanders would also mean they would stay at least six points ahead of the Panthers—and possibly seven or eight, depending on how their game goes.
And finally, whatever chance Washington has left would probably hinge on taking both of their final games in regulation against the Isles.
What I’m saying is that an Islanders win tonight, especially in regulation, would make it rather difficult for them to miss the playoffs or even fall out of the first wild card spot. The Caps have had the Isles’ number recently, but I can think of no better time to extinguish the demons. On the off chance the Isles actually read my drivel, absolutely no pressure fellas. We all love all of you madly.
FIGs go here. It’s a 7:30 p.m. puck drop, and the game is on TNT. But we have confirmation that our man, Brendan Burke, will be on the call.
Bringing a travel buddy with me on my trip to DC. She’s seriously cramping my style by checking a bag and hates flying but she chugged a mimosa in the lounge and off we go. @mrsburkie pic.twitter.com/o6iX8acWEC— Brendan Burke (@brendanmburke) March 28, 2023
- A preview of tonight’s game, courtesy of the team site. [Islanders]
- The Isles are 9-3-0 against playoff teams dating back to January 27, and a big part of that is playing physical against those teams. They need to keep that up. [Newsday]
- Their hot run since the end of January, combined with a healthy dose of assistance from the rest of the league, has them in an ideal spot for a playoff berth. [NY Post]
- Their magic number to clinch is 11, and their magic number for WC1 is 14 (but really 13 because even if the Pens tie them in points, it’s highly unlikely they catch up in regulation wins, the first tiebreaker). Eric Hornick has the updates. [NYI Skinny]
- This playoff push has made it increasingly likely that all three tri-state area teams will be in the playoffs, a rare occurrence. It’s also nearly a guarantee that two of the teams will meet in the first round. [NY Post]
- Kyle Palmieri is finally fully healthy, and we’re seeing how much of a beast he can be. He’s got 22 points in the 27 games since he returned from his second upper-body injury. [THN]
- Palmieri’s linemate, Pierre Engvall, is getting used to the Islanders’ system and arguably thriving in it. [NY Post] Lane Lambert deserves credit for easing him and finding the right spot for him. [THN]
- Stan Fischler compares Ilya Sorokin’s run to the playoffs to Chico Resch’s in 1975. [THN]
- I forgot to link it yesterday, but Mike and Dan recapped the depressing weekend the Islanders had, as well as that wonderful win over the Maple Leafs and John Tavares. Subscribe to their Patreon! It’s well worth it. [Islanders Anxiety]
- March is Women’s History Month, and the Islanders celebrated women in sports with their annual panel event, moderated by MSG’s Shannon Hogan. [Islanders]
- Rookies Ruslan Iskhakov, William Dufour, and Vincent Sevigny have played a big role in the B-Isles’ push for the playoffs. [Islanders]
- A couple of college dudes the Islanders drafted have signed ATOs with Bridgeport for the rest of the season, Matt Maggio won an award for being the highest-scoring right-winger, and the CHL playoffs kick off this week. [Islanders Prospect Report]
Last night’s NHL scores include the Red Wings knocking off the Penguins in regulation (thank you very much). Also, the Tampa Bay Lightning shut out the Carolina Hurricanes to leave the door cracked for the New Jersey Devils to win the Metro Division, which is relevant for the Isles, as there’s a good chance they’ll be WC1 and play the Metro winner.
- Out west—we’ve been so wrapped up in our own race that we’ve neglected the one out there—the Winnipeg Jets got shut out by the... San Jose Sharks? And the Calgary Flames hung on to beat the Los Angeles Kings, while the Nashville Predators managed to defeat the Boston Bruins on the road. All this means that the Jets’ playoff spot, once secure, is now very precarious: The Flames are even with them in games played and only two points back, while Nashville has two games in hand and is three points back.
- Needless to say, Winnipeg coach Rick Bowness was displeased. He called out his players for not giving their all. [Twitter | TSN]
- Vancouver native Michael Bublé is part owner of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. But how did he get involved? Everyone’s asking. [ESPN]