With two months left in the NHL regular season, the New York Islanders lead the Metropolitan Division with 71 points — just as everyone projected.
Or maybe not. Last year, the Islanders finished eighth in their division and second-to-last in the Eastern Conference with 79 points and have not been generally known as a powerhouse NHL team. They have only made the playoffs twice since the NHL lockout in 2004-2005. However, this season, the Islanders seem to be the real deal.
“I’m a little surprised that they are doing this well, but with the young leadership of [John] Tavares and [Jaroslav] Halak in net, it isn't out of the ordinary that they are fighting for a top seed in the East,” said Ramapo sophomore Brandon Kurtzman.
The Islanders have the fourth best offense in the league, averaging 3.14 goals a game.
Former first overall pick and current team captain Tavares leads the team with 24 goals and 51 points, good for the eighth and 11th most in the league, respectively.
Halak has also been a factor to the team’s success, holding a 2.41 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage with 28 wins, including four shutouts.
“They have a great franchise and have gotten better players to represent their team,” said Ramapo senior Gabrielle Vecchio.
Kurtzman said that a lot of their success has to do with their first-round picks from recent NHL Drafts.
“All of their first round picks from the last five years are all starting to contribute on both ends of the ice,” added Kurtzman. “The older veterans are playing their roles and Halak is having a stellar season in net.”
Despite the success, some hockey fans still do not consider the Islanders a Stanley Cup threat.
“I feel they will make it to a certain level of high achievement this year in the playoffs,” said Vecchio. “I’m not sure on being a part of the Stanley Cup, but this team will push to the playoffs for sure.”
Kurtzman thinks that the Islanders have the potential of fighting for the Stanley Cup in June.
“I think that the Islanders have the talent and the veteran leadership to make it to the Stanley Cup, but it will a tough road,” said Kurtzman. “The top of the East is stacked.”
However, Vecchio thinks that the Islanders can continue their success from this season.
“Everyone has their ups and downs as a team,” said Vecchio. “If they stay levelheaded I can see them being great in the future.”
Kurtzman said the success will continue if the front office is “smart.”
“I think if the front office is able to resign their young players to long-term deals and make other small moves along the way, [the Islanders] have an opportunity to be a contending and successful franchise for years to come,” said Kurtzman.
Moving to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center next year will also help the Islanders win games, as well as improve fan attendance, according to Kurtzman.
“Nassau is a dump,” he said. “Brooklyn is state of the art — it’s in a busy area. It’s a huge upgrade.”
The Islanders look to continue their success tonight on their home ice against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 p.m.