Islanders Insight’s Top Shelf: 2|10|15

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BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 07: Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders and Torey Krug #47 of the Boston Bruins exchange punches during the first period at TD Garden on February 7, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Tonight marks the beginning of a four-game home stand for the New York Islanders and with it a chance to convert a tentative hold of the top spot in the Metro division into a considerable lead.

The Edmonton Oilers (15-30-9, 39pts) are playing the backend of a back-to-back, having finished off the Devils at the Prudential Center last night by a score of 2-1. And that’s the thing about bottom-dwelling teams, isn’t it: just when they see that you’re looking past them, they remind you in the most abrupt manner that they’re to be reckoned with.

With the Oilers you have a cellar-dweller who ignores the standings and simply plays the game in front of them. So, when Edmonton does win, they’ll usually do it against teams that shouldn’t lose. Case in point: these same Oilers drubbed the Islanders at Rexall Place by a score of 5-2 back on Jan. 4th, in one of the more uglier losses to start 2015.

And it’s not that the competition gets any easier, per say, on this Coliseum home stand, but in all honesty, if the Isles want to begin pulling away from the pack, this relatively winnable four-game stretch is the time to do so. Losing to weaker teams is verboten at this juncture of the season, especially at home.

See, aside from the Oilers, you have a troubled Toronto Maple Leafs squad who are all but done for the season (and assuredly relieved of that fact), but who, alongside the Edmonton, have given the Islanders nothing but headaches, as their Oct. 21, 5-2 loss would have you believe. (Granted, that was the period in which Jaroslav Halak was trying to find his groove, but still, it’s a worrisome fact.)

Afterwards, the Columbus Blue Jackets will do what they can to salvage a most disappointing season, proving just how ridiculous this Metro division has been thus far, as a 10-2 stretch in December only garnered Columbus five points in the overall divisional standings. Then a four-game losing streak and a lowly 5-8 record to end the first month of 2015, pushed this once promising Columbus team down in the standings. Sitting at 49 points, their postseason chances dwindling by the day, and their loss to the LA Kings last night, all but makes the Blue Jackets cannon fodder for the ’14-’15 season.

And lastly, the Lundqvist-less New York Rangers, who of the four teams comprising the Islanders current home stand, are the only team arguably in legitimate playoff contention. Some would extend that thought to say that the Eastern conference teams are locked down and it’s now only a matter of seeding. Whatever the case, the Islanders should exploit the Rangers injuries and round out this stretch before facing two more conference rivals in Carolina and Washington before closing out February.

{Interesting to note: once the Isles finish off this home stand, they’ll face five Western conference teams. So, it’s an understatement to say that this home stand is of dire consequence if the Islanders want to keep a hold of first place.}

Thus, the first order of business during this four-game adventure is to mop up the Oil slick, then rake the Leafs, follow that up with a dry-cleaning of the Blue Jackets, and um…well, just beat the Rangers. (Sorry, I couldn’t finish that last part.)

With this in mind, our own Eric Bordin poses a legitimate question to all Islanders fans: is being first in the Metro division all that important? Is it better to just make the postseason and see what happens, or finish as a division leader and carry that momentum into a postseason? Does it matter what you do in the regular season when it comes to placing in a division?

San Jose and Los Angeles most definitely have things to say about the aforementioned.

Now, no one is saying or suggesting a team lay down and quit, but is there such a thing as peaking at the wrong time? Should a coach reign in his squad so that there’s enough in the tank for a strong postseason run?

Whatever the case, check out Bordin’s piece coming out later this afternoon.  Be sure to chime in.

And be sure to check out Alex Kuhlke’s weekly segment, Red’s Rewind–a staple here at Islanders Insight. Sort of our organizing principle for all our readers. Then Tom Henderson gives you an update on the Isles power play, and it’s actually a positive piece, so go and read it!

 

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