TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 07: Anthony Beauvillier #18 of the New York Islanders is congratulated by teammates on the bench after he scored a goal in the first period against the Florida Panthers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 07, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario.
(Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

The New York Islanders are in the league’s toughest division, but the playoffs are a realistic goal for this strong group.

The NHL released the schedules for all 31 teams on Wednesday. The New York Islanders will be playing in the most difficult division, the East, but making it out and heading to the playoffs is very realistic.

Last season, the Islanders made it to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 1993, but lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.

With an almost impenetrable defense and a great deal of talent, the Islanders have become one of the best teams in the league. They’ll have to compete with other dominant teams in their division, but no one should count them out.

Let’s look at some of the highlights of the Islanders’ schedule for the 2021 season.

The Islanders will play the first two games of their season against their cross-town foes, the New York Rangers.

This series will be exciting because of the deep-seated rivalry, but also because it will likely feature a face-off between two of the most promising goaltending prospects in the game, young Russians Ilya Sorokin and Igor Shesterkin.

For the Islanders, the end of the month of January will go how rounds one and two of the playoffs went last year.

They’ll play two away games against the Washington Capitals and then two away games against the Philadelphia Flyers. They’ll play another four against those two teams, two games each in the same order, from March 15 to 20.

This marks the beginning of the toughest stretch in the Islanders’ schedule.

After hosting Philadelphia, the Isles will travel to take on the Boston Bruins and then the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’ll then head back home to take on the Capitals and Flyers yet again.

The Bruins, Capitals, Flyers, and Penguins are going to be the Islanders’ toughest competition in the division, but the Rangers will prove difficult to take down.

On paper, the Islanders are a better and more experienced team than the Rangers, but rivalry games such as those between these two teams are always challenging.

Beginning March 15, the Islanders will have to play the five aforementioned teams all the way until April 27 when they take on the New Jersey Devils.

This is a crucial stretch that can either go the Islanders’ way and take them to the playoffs or can prove to be devastating.

In May, the Islanders will hope to finish the season strong when they face the Rangers, the Buffalo Sabres in two games, and the Devils on May 6th and 8th to close things out.

The Islanders are entering the 2021 season as one of the best and most exciting teams in the league, but they’re going to have a lot on their plate.

They’ve proven that they can run with the big dogs and are capable of taking down the very best teams in hockey, but they must be prepared to do so on a regular basis in the most competitive division.

The task will be an arduous one, but the Islanders are up to it.

Leen has written about the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and international soccer. She is currently the primary NHL writer for ESNY. Leen's work has been featured on Bleacher Report and she was formerly a contributor for FanSided's New York Mets blog, Rising Apple. She is a co-host of the Yankees-Mets Express podcast.