The New York Islanders’ playoff chances will hinge on the team’s ability to overcome their current and extremely constant struggles.
It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.
So said Vince Lombardi, namesake of the Super Bowl Trophy and one of the greatest coaches in the history of professional sports.
Here’s the rundown: Lombardi wasn’t talking about the New York Islanders, but he might as well have been. The fledgling Isles have gone through their fair share of struggles; their fate now rests on how effectively they can bounce back.
But hockey is a game of ups-and-downs, ebbs and flows. One day a team could be at the pinnacle of the league; the next day they can be at the cellar. For every team, but especially the Isles down the stretch, it’s the rebound that counts.
“We had a stretch where we were really consistent and now it’s a couple good ones and a couple bad ones,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said, via Arthur Staple of Newsday. “You can’t keep playing if you don’t get the consistency back. It’s too late in the year for that.”
As the 2016-17 regular season nears its conclusion, the Isles find themselves in the thick of the wild card race, one point back of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who also have a game in hand. The Tampa Bay Lightning — winners of six of their last ten — are in the hunt, as well, as are the Boston Bruins.
For the Islanders to make it to the postseason, they’re going to need a little luck and a lot of help. Most importantly, though, they’re going to have to win the games they have to win. That includes contests with both top teams — the Rangers and Penguins, to name a few — and cellar-dwellers — Devils and Sabres.
Firstly, Thomas Greiss will have to be at peak form. Sure, he’s not totally at fault for his recent struggles (he’s been overused and placed behind a poor defense), but let’s face it: he’s been giving up plenty of soft goals. To make the playoffs, and advance through it, Greiss will have to steal a couple of games for New York.
But for Greiss to be sharp, the Isles’ defense will have to be much more effective. That starts with Travis Hamonic, who for all the off-ice drama the media would like to bombard you with, just hasn’t been good enough. And Thomas Hickey, who’s been too easily knocked off the puck. And Dennis Seidenberg, who’s old age has been showing in recent weeks.
The Isles understand that it’s go time. Says John Tavares, longtime captain and the team’s lone representative at the All-Star Game, “I think all we can do is keep chucking forward. We’re still in a good spot. We know we’re right there battling for that last wild card.”
They can steal that spot by bouncing back.