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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Keys to the Playoffs

Enough hoping for the future. Enough waiting for prospects. Enough complaining about the past.
As I write this entry, the New York Islanders sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, tied with the rival Rangers in points, although the Rangers have one more game left than the Islanders. The Islanders are right on the cusp of their first playoff birth since 2007. Is this what we have been waiting six years for?

Throughout all of the third period collapses, the Islanders have been resilient. They have gotten contributions from everyone, and they will need to keep that up if they want to play in May.

Here are three keys to the Islanders success that they will need to get if they want to play in the playoffs.

Credit: Getty Images

1. Strong Goaltending
Every playoff team has a great goaltender. The Islanders have one in Evgeni Nabokov. He is tied for fourth in the NHL with 16 wins. He has been in net for every single one of the Islanders wins. Out of all of the Islanders, Nabokov is the one who knows exactly what it takes to make, and win, the playoffs. He has played in 80 playoff games with the San Jose Sharks over a decade, winning half of them and recording seven shutouts. Nabokov should start every game for the Islanders down the stretch of the season, unless they are playing games on consecutive days, which only happens twice for the rest of the year. Kevin Poulin should start at least once, but no more than twice if the Isles stick around in the race.

Credit: Newsday
2. Contributions from the D
The Lubomir Visnovsky saga is over, he is an Islander, and he is a very good hockey player. He, along with Mark Streit, have been in command of the Islanders powerplay from the time Visnovsky arrived on Long Island. If the Islanders are going to win, they are going to need to get the contributions from the point, especially by Visnovsky and Streit. Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald have been solid as the Isles top defensive defensemen the entire year, and they will continue to go up against the other team's top lines. If the Islanders are to win, the D is going to have to be up in the rush creating offense, as well as shutting down opponents.

New York Islanders' Colin McDonald (13); Lubomir Visnovsky (11), of Slovakia; and Thomas Hickey (14) celebrate after a goal by McDonald during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Philadelphia. New York won 4-3 in a shootout
Credit: Associated Press
3. Be the Road Warriors
The Islanders are an NHL worst 6-11-2 at Nassau Coliseum. Outside of the Coliseum, the Isles are 10-5-1. Luckily, they only play five more games at the Coliseum the rest of the way, while eight games are played on the road, including a five game road trip to end the season. I really can't explain why the Islanders have been so bad at home, but the schedule is in their benefit going down the stretch. The Islanders have been great on the road, and if they keep that up,  they not only will make the playoffs, but may have a chance to shock the NHL.

Those are the three keys to the Islanders success down the rest of the season. I don't expect the Islanders to make any big moves at the deadline. I do expect the Islanders to sign one of their top prospects, Anders Lee, and for him to play at least some NHL games by the end of the season

I fully believe this is the year the Islanders take the step into the playoffs. Will they make it? We'll find out in a month.

Lets Go Islanders!