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New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins: Wild cards [Game #67]

NHL: FEB 20 Islanders at Penguins
Stay away.
Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the NHL season ended this afternoon — which, to be clear, it did not — the New York Islanders (33-25-8, 74 pts.) would hold the first wild card and draw the Carolina Hurricanes for the first round of the playoffs, while the Pittsburgh Penguins (32-22-9, 73 pts.) would draw the Boston Bruins.

An Isles regulation loss tonight in Pittsburgh would reverse those positions.

I don’t know how you feel about either scenario, but contemplating them does bring up a few “Wait, what is it we’re fighting for exactly?” feelings. But that’s for another day. Things can change. Injuries can happen.

Speaking of which, the Islanders, with their strong run of results despite missing Mathew Barzal and J-G Pageau, have put themselves in position for fans to have conversations like this as they keep themselves in playoff position.

They’ve made March and April really interesting again, overcoming some early 2023 stretches that made it look like this would all be for naught. Still might be, but it’s a luxury not to know right now.