by PuckStopsHere on 04/27/13 at 06:35 PM ET
I have written a couple posts about teams that are having results that break from recent history by qualifying or not qualifying for the playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs are an example of a team that made the playoffs that is a change from their recent past and the Philadelphia Flyers missing the playoffs are an example of a team that has regularly made playoffs recently. The biggest surprise playoff qualifier so far is likely the New York Islanders. They last qualified for the playoffs in 2007.
I think the Islanders are an example of a team that has benefitted from the shortened season. I do not see them as a team that could sustain this level of play in an 82 game season. They don't have the talent but they have improved from their worst days and are good enough to get hot for a while and thus make playoffs in a shortened season. The Isles qualified for playoffs with such a streak. In their first eleven games in April they did not lose any games in regulation. They had 8 wins and 3 regulation tie losses. A run of 19 points out of a possible 22 is very strong and that is what cemented their playoff berth. Unfortunately for the team they lost their final three games, so it looks like their hot streak has come to an end before the playoffs begin.
When we look at the Islanders talent it is hard to see a playoff calibre team. John Tavares is definitely a very good player. He will receive some Hart Trophy consideration this year but I doubt he will be a nominee. It is hard to see the depth behind him. Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes are the next two highest scorers on the team and it is far more logical to view their success as a result of playing on the Tavares line than because of their game-breaking talents. Frans Nielsen is one of the stronger defensive forwards in hockey. Beyond that group there are few players on the Isles forward line that should make a big impact.
On defence Mark Streit has been strong. Lubomir Visnovsky settled in for a good season after he finally came over from the KHL. They have been the difference-makers. It's not a deep group here either.
Evgeni Nabokov has been solid in goal. He is not going to be mistaken for a Vezina candidate anymore but he is more than competent. Like the other positions on the team there is little depth here either.
The biggest reason for improvement on Long Island have been John Tavares making the leap to superstardom (imagine the press he would have had in a more heavily covered market) and the stabilizing influence of Visnovsky and Nabokov on defence and in gal respectively. It isn't enough for me to see them as a solid playoff team but in a shortened year with a little luck they have found their way there. I wonder how long it will be before they have another playoff appearance.
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