Islanders’ 2023 playoff spot officially there for taking

Islanders Casey Cizikas
Casey Cizikas (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

A strong week for the Islanders ended with a bit of a whimper on Saturday night when they were soundly beaten by the Washington Capitals 5-1 at UBS Arena. 

But they did exactly what they needed to do in the run-up to it. 

Victories over the chasing Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres before a dramatic come-from-behind stunner over the Pittsburgh Penguins have the Islanders, finally, a bit more secure in their postseason standing.

Entering Monday night’s slate of NHL action, the Islanders sit in the second Wild Card spot and final postseason place in the Eastern Conference with 76 points thanks to a torrid stretch in which they went 11-3-3 over a 17-game stretch. All the while, teams that had peculiarly garnered so many games in hand (as many as five or six fewer games played) have begun to catch up in that department.

Eastern Conference Wild Card Standings (as of March 13)

Team Games Played Games Remaining Wins Losses OT/SO Points Regulation Wins
1. Pittsburgh Penguins 66 16 34 22 10 78 25
2. New York Islanders 68 14 34 26 8 76 29
3. Florida Panthers 67 15 33 27 7 73 28
4. Washington Capitals 67 15 32 28 7 71 25
5. Ottawa Senators 66 16 33 29 4 70 26
6. Buffalo Sabres 65 17 32 28 5 69 24
7. Detroit Red Wings 66 16 30 27 9 69 24

What once was the possibility of the Panthers, Senators, Sabres, and Red Wings all leapfrogging the Islanders thanks to their games in hand has disappeared. Now, none of the trailing teams can overtake New York in the standings simply based on evening things up in the games played department.

If the Panthers win their extra game and the Sabres take each of their next three, they still would come up just one point short of where the Islanders currently stand through 68 games played. 

This leaves the Islanders in an all-out sprint throughout the final, not-so-heavy stretch of the regular season. They head out west for three games against the Los Angeles Kings (Tuesday), Anaheim Ducks (Wednesday, and San Jose Sharks (Saturday). By the time they return home to UBS Arena for a March 21 matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs for Game No. 72 of the season, the Penguins, Red Wings, and Sabres will have played 70, the Panthers and Senators will be at 71, and the Capitals will be dead even at 72.

Simply put: The Islanders control their destiny. If they do their jobs, they’re in the playoffs.

For more on the Islanders, visit AMNY.com

Islanders Penguins Brock Nelson Anders Lee
The New York Islanders celebrate a 4-3 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins during an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 9, 2023, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Philip G. Pavely)