Thursday, February 16, 2017

Things are about to get really difficult for the Islanders

The New York Islanders have worked really hard to become relevant again under interim coach Doug Weight. And they've now crept to within one point of the last Wild Card in the Eastern Conference after Thursday's 4-2 win over the Rangers at Barclays Center. But the Islanders are a team that has thrived on home cooking since Weight took over, and basically all season.

With Weight at the helm the Islanders are 8-0-2 at home, with 38 goals for and just 23 against. And their special teams have been spot-on during that stretch as well. The Isles have clicked at 24.2% on the power play and killed penalties at an 87% clip in those past ten home games.

But there's a problem looming, and it's looming large: The Islanders will only play hosts in eight of their final 26 games, and when you consider that this team is tied for the lowest total of road wins in the NHL this season, at 7-12-4, there's still a fairly large hill for this team to climb to make the post-season.

Weight has prided himself on matchups early in his tenure, but the matchups he likes will be tougher to get when he's on the road for much of the season's final two months.

If there ever was a test of a team's mettle, this is it. We'll know a lot more about the Isles' playoff hopes by March 11th, when the club concludes a stretch of ten away games out of eleven, including a run of six games in nine nights that starts in Dallas, goes all the way out west and finishes back in St. Louis.

Here's what those final six look like:

Can the Islanders keep themselves in the race by the time their schedule evens out in the latter half of March? One thing is working in their favor: They are due for road wins.