Islanders’ Playoff Picture Comes Into Focus Following (Lucky) Win Over Rangers

Yesterday, I discussed how unsettled the Metropolitan Division playoff picture was heading into last night’s slate of games. As promised, last night’s results did much to clarify much of the uncertainty. The Penguins reached the 104 point mark with their overtime win against the Capitals, which means neither the Rangers nor the Islanders will surpass them for second place in the Metropolitan division. As such, the Penguins will have home-ice advantage against which ever team finishes in third place, i.e. the Islanders or the Rangers.

One Facebook commenter noted that although yesterday’s article was a “nice read,” it was also “a little biased.” Thus, it is in the interest of blog shtick   journalistic integrity, then, and in light of the Islanders’ victory last night, that I present today’s update regarding the Metropolitan Division playoff picture solely from the perspective of Islanders’ fans (a perspective which, I might add, is often far too obsessed with the Rangers, but I digress). Here goes…

Johnny T. and the Isles smacked around the Rags last night to finish off a season sweeeeep. By doing so, Boychuk’s Boys pulled even in points with 99, but have two games remaining, while Queen Henrik and the lowly Rags have only one. (UGH, I CAN’T DO IT ANYMORE!!)

Truth be told, the beauty of the remaining schedule for the Islanders is that the Rangers’ regular season will be done before the Islanders play their next game. The Rangers host Detroit at 12:30 on Saturday, while the Islanders’ Saturday home game against Buffalo doesn’t start until 7:30, followed by their season finale against Philadelphia at 7:00 on Sunday (which is a makeup game necessitated by Winter Storm Jonas, remember that?).

A win of any kind for the Rangers on Saturday would get them to 101 points. Under this scenario, the Islanders would have to get to at least 102 points to finish ahead of their cross-town rivals due to the Regulation Overtime Win (ROW) tiebreaker. Incidentally, if the Islanders were able to tie the Rangers in points and ROWs, the Islanders would finish ahead by virtue of the second tiebreaker (head to head points). At this point, though, that scenario is impossible. Here’s why:

  • The Rangers currently have 99 points, with 42 ROWs.
  • The Islanders currently have 99 points, with 40 ROWs.
  • If the Rangers win in regulation or overtime Saturday, they finish with 101 points and 43 ROWs. The Islanders can’t get to 43 ROWs, and so the only way for them to surpass the Rangers is to get to 102 (or more) points.
  • If the Rangers win in a shootout Saturday, they finish with 101 points and 42 ROWs. While the Islanders could still reach 42 ROWs, if they do so they will have earned 103 points, rendering all tiebreakers moot.

Simply put, if the Rangers win on Saturday, the Islanders will have to earn points in both of their final two games (including at least one win of any kind).

If the Rangers were to lose in regulation on Saturday afternoon, they’ll finish with 99 points, and the Islanders will take the ice Saturday night knowing they need just one point in their final two games to finish ahead of the Rangers. Likewise, if the Rangers lose in overtime or a shootout, they’ll finish with 100 points, and the Islanders would only need two points in their final two games to secure third place in the Metropolitan Division and take on the Penguins in the first round.

All of this sheds light on the 800 lb Penguin, er, gorilla in the room. Does either team really want to finish in third place for a first round match-up with the scorching hot Pittsburgh Penguins? Yesterday, second place and home-ice advantage in the first round were still a possibility, albeit a remote one, which is part of what made last night’s game so important. That possibility was eliminated, though, with Pittsburgh’s win over Washington last night. With home-ice advantage out of the equation, wouldn’t both teams prefer to finish in the wild-card and take on the Florida Panthers? Maybe, but fans of both teams who harbor these feelings should be careful what they wish for. The Panthers are a good team. More importantly, as alluded to by Marc Staal in today’s New York Post, the hockey gods would not take kindly to tanking. 

Having said that… Let’s Go Islanders!