While the New York Islanders officially clinched a playoff berth last weekend, they can also snap a streak that has endured since the late 1980s.
The 2018-19 New York Islanders are already a wonderful story. After suffering an offseason that saw them lose their franchise player John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Islander nation was humiliated.
Very few legitimate followers of the NHL predicted the Islanders would finish anywhere near the postseason, never mind finish with one of the highest point totals in the league.
Their amazing turnaround has seen them go from allowing the most goals in the NHL last season to allow the fewest this season. Currently, their +100 goal differential equals the improvement of the 1973-74 team which saw them allow 100 fewer goals than they did the prior season. They will also become the first team in modern NHL history (since 1942) to lead the NHL in goals allowed after finishing last the prior season.
An afterthought after health problems had forced his season to end prematurely last year, goalie Robin Lehner ranks third among goaltenders in GAA (2.18) and save percentage (.928). 2017-18 Calder Trophy winner Matthew Barzal showed that last season was not a fluke, as he leads the team with 62 points (18 G, 44 A).
Despite this amazing season, the Islanders missed a chance to end the second-longest drought in the four major sports.
After leading the Metropolitan Division for the first half of March, the Islanders chance to win their first division title since the 1987-88 season ended on Thursday when the Capitals defeated the Canadiens. Only the Edmonton Oilers (last won their division in 1986-87) has gone longer in the four major sports without winning a division.
While the Islanders missed their chance to win the Metro, they still have the chance to do something they haven’t done since that same season (1987-88) and that is host a playoff series.
|Playoff Year||Playoff Series|
|Entered NHL in 2000-01|
Since hosting Game 1 of the 1988 Patrick Division Semifinals against the New Jersey Devils on April 6, 1988, the Islanders have not held the home-ice advantage in any of their 13 playoff series. Going back even further, that series against the Devils marks the only home-ice advantage the Islanders have had since losing the 1984 Stanley Cup Finals to the Edmonton Oilers (19 total series).
Among the 31 teams currently in the NHL, the team with the second longest streak without holding home-ice in a playoff series is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Since joining the NHL in 2000-01, the Blue Jackets have been the visiting team in each of their four playoff series. The Maple Leafs have the second longest streak among teams that have hosted a playoff series before, last owning home-ice advantage in the second round of the 2003-04 postseason.
A funny thing about the 1984 Stanley Cup Finals is the Islanders only had a home-ice advantage due to a coin-flip. From 1982-85, the NHL flipped a coin to decide which division (Conference Finals) and conference (Stanley Cup Finals) would host in the final two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
While the Islanders should celebrate earning a playoff berth this season, it would be nice to see them host Game 1 for the first time since Ronald Reagan was president.