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The fight for the final NHL playoff spot will come down to the last weekend 

Heading into the final weekend of the NHL season, fifteen out of the sixteen playoff teams have been determined. The last spot remaining is in the Eastern Conference and has come down to the Maple Leafs, Islanders, and Lightning. 

With a shootout win over Boston on Thursday night, the Ottawa Senators locked up their playoff hopes. On that same night, both the Islanders and Lightning won in regulation while the Maple Leafs lost in regulation. The young Toronto team now finds themselves in a precarious situation, however they do control their own destiny. 

All three teams currently sit with 80 games played. Toronto has 93 points, whereas Tampa Bay and New York each have 90. In terms of ROW (regulation plus overtime wins), the denoted first tie breaker in the NHL, Toronto has 38, the Islanders have 37, and Tampa Bay has 36. 

For scheduling, Toronto has definitely been dealt the worst hand on the surface. They play Columbus and Pittsburgh over the final three days of the season. However, both of those teams have already punched their ticket to the playoffs and already have their seeding (second and third place in the Metropolitan Division respectively) locked down. The Penguins and Blue Jackets technically have nothing to play for heading into the final weekend, so it is possible that they will rest their star players and starting goalies. But, the argument could be made that the Penguins and Blue Jackets want to win in order to pass the Blackhawks in points, in the case that one of those teams meets up with Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final. 

The Islanders and Lightning each play a team in the playoffs and a team outside of the playoffs in their final two games. For the Islanders it is going to be New Jersey and Ottawa, and for Tampa Bay it is going to be Montreal and Buffalo. 

In order for Toronto to fall out of a playoff position, they have to lose their final two games in regulation and either the Islanders or Tampa Bay need to win their final two games. If Toronto loses one game in overtime or a shootout and loses the other in regulation, only the Islanders can overtake them if they win both of their games in regulation. Two overtime or shootout losses by Toronto would put them into the playoffs. 

There are still a lot of moving parts and a lot can change over the course of the next 72 hours. Tampa Bay plays tomorrow, Friday night, in Montreal. A loss of any kind and they will be eliminated from playoff contention. 

Although there is not as much as usual, the end of the NHL season will have some drama to keep an eye on. Toronto has their fate in their own hands, but New York and Tampa Bay remain knocking at the door. 

Keep up with our Twitter for updates on the playoff race. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles 

State of the Islanders II: Change 

The Islanders season ended on Sunday afternoon with a matinee loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. For the first time in over two decades, the loss came in the second round as the Islanders had previously broken their 23 year playoff drought against the Florida Panthers. Read the rest of this entry

Looking back at the crazy 2012 draft deal that almost happened 

Back at the 2012 draft in Pittsburgh, a monstrous deal almost went down between the New York Islanders and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The deal would’ve sent all seven of the Islanders draft picks, including the fourth overall, to the Blue Jackets for the second overall pick. The Blue Jackets declined the deal.

Looking back on it, it was a blessing that Scott Howson and the Blue Jackets did that. The draft for the Islanders looked like this: 

#4: Griffin Reinhart 

#34: Ville Pokka

#65: Adam Pelech

#103: Loic Leduc

#125: Doyle Somerby

#155: Jesse Graham

#185: Jake Bischoff

All of those players are defensemen, with all but Pokka and Reinhart still in the organization. 

Both of those players took different paths, with Reinhart’s stint with the pro club ending quite quickly. He was traded for two picks which eventually became Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier. Pokka, on the other hand, looked like he was primed to become a solid NHL defender for the Islanders. Pokka was eventually traded as the main piece in the Nick Leddy deal and is thriving in the Blackhawks organization, and neither team is any worse off from the deal. 

Dylan Somerby and Jake Biscoff are playing at Boston University and the University of Minnesota respectively. Both players don’t look like standout prospects, but they can rightfully still become something good. Somerby is a massive 6’5 which helps. 

Loic Leduc and Jesse Graham have flipped between the AHL and ECHL during their pro careers and don’t appear to be amounting to much. 

What would’ve happened if the Islanders got what they wanted with that deal? All seven picks: gone. The Islanders are on the clock with pick number two. They reportedly didn’t mind either Ryan Murray or Nail Yakupov, but more likely the former would’ve been chosen. As we know, Murray has had his fair share of injury issues but is still a solid defenseman for Columbus. He even recently inked a new contract extension worth just north of 2.8 million per season for two years. Yakupov has been in the headlights of Edmonton criticism for quite some time now, maybe due to lack of productions compared to other number one picks Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He is still a great player with potential, however. 

Now, the fallout. The Islanders don’t get Pokka and don’t get to use him in the Leddy deal. Do they even make the Nick Leddy deal with Ryan Murray aboard? The defense could’ve had a core of Boychuk, Murray, de Haan and Hamonic moving forward. Leddy is just two years older than Murray, so the Islanders made out pretty well on this end. 

Griffin Reinhart wouldn’t be an Islander either, and although that may have saved a lot of frustration, it wouldn’t have gotten the Islanders Barzal and Beauvillier. 

The Islanders wouldn’t have Adam Pelech either, who has shown tremendous signs of growth and seems to be slated to be a solid, stay at home defenseman. The Islanders got a gem with this kid. 

All in all, the Islanders have a lot to thank Scott Howson for (who is ironically now with the Oilers, the team who traded for Reinhart) not pulling the trigger. He couldn’t have known at the time, but he did the Islanders a great favor. The declining of that deal significantly altered the future of the Islanders in a ripple effect, although it technically remains unknown how far both teams would be today if the deal actually did go down. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Is Zidlicky Really Helping the Islanders?

Marek Zidlicky’s last go-a-round in the NHL hasn’t gotten off to the best start. The veteran of just under 800 games is turning 39 this February and the Islanders are his fifth team. Zidlicky needs to turn his game around soon to save himself from becoming an extra defenseman. 

Like many other players his age, Zidlicky has lost a step both speed wise and playing wise. He was brought in to be a powerplay specialist, but his five on five game hasn’t matched the Islanders run and gun offensive strategy. Zidlicky has been caught countless times being beaten to a puck or on a bad pinch. Sunday night against Buffalo, Sam Reinhart and David Legwand came in and scored the game winner on a two on one which was caused by a bad Zidlicky pinch. 

Although he does lead the team in CF%, his defensive game is as bad as advertised. Brought in to help the dismal powerplay, he only has one goal and that came during the first game of the season. He’s put more pucks (two) into his own net than he has on opponents. The Islanders powerplay has been relatively good this year as well, and they have enough talent to role out two solid groups without Zidlicky and even if they don’t bring up Ryan Pulock. Nick Leddy, Frans Nielsen, John Tavares and Ryan Strome are plenty to help with zone entries. 

Maybe the coaching staff doesn’t want to do it right now, but changes will need to be made if the slide continues. Thomas Hickey’s injury certainly hurts, but the team still needs to be able to rely on Zidlicky to get the job done on a nightly basis. Rookie mistakes would be better served being made by Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, or Scott Mayfield and not by a veteran on his last legs like Zidlicky. 

Out of the group above, Pelech has been the best so far in the minors, but Mayfield saw playoff time last year and Pulock is their best defensive prospect. None of them are a bad choice, but if the team is looking at the real problem (defense not offense), it’ll probably be Mayfield or Pelech. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Nelson’s Loss Could Be Dal Colle’s Gain

The contract struggle between the New York Islanders and forward Brock Nelson is coming down to the wire. The restricted free agent Nelson, drafted 30th overall in 2010, has less than a week to sign, as the Islanders have had a long term policy of sitting a player out for the entire year if they don’t sign by preseason, a rule last enforced in the mid-2000s with Sean Bergenheim and Denis Grebeshkov.  Read the rest of this entry

Patience is the Most Important Virtue for the Islanders

The 2014-2015 Islanders season was a successful one that ultimately ended in a Game 7 heartbreaking loss to Washington in Round 1. The young team came together with the likes of John Tavares, Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Nick Leddy leading the bunch. Now, as free agency is entering its stagnant period, it’s more evident than ever that the Islanders are sticking to their belief of internal growth and will go into next season with what they have already. However, their Metropolitan counterparts haven’t done the same. 
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Both Edmonton and New York Won the Reinhart Trade 

There’s been a lot of debate over the trade that the Islanders and Oilers made on Friday night. The deal sent former Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart to Edmonton in exchange for the 16th and 33rd overall picks. The trade is in question mainly because of Griffin’s draft pedigree, as he was taken 4th overall in 2012. 
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State of the Islanders: What’s Happened and What’s Going On

In terms of the first year coming out of the rebuild, this year was a very successful one for the Islanders, but it doesn’t mean changes aren’t needed. To keep moving forward and surpassing the success of this season, Garth Snow and company have to take a long, hard look at the roster and the management for next season and what they are going to do with it. 

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Islanders’ New Defense is Set for Now and the Future

Just over two weeks after the Islanders locked up Nick Leddy for seven years, Garth Snow and his team signed their other top-2 defenseman long term. The Islanders announced on Thursday afternoon that Johnny Boychuk would be returning for an identical seven years, but at six-million per year. Boychuk, acquired on October 4th, has put up career number with the Islanders this season, with seven goals and 32 points in 59 games. He and Leddy are both top-20 in the league for shots attempted and are the Islanders’ most consistent defensive pairing.
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Nick Leddy has Quickly Become the Islanders’ Best Defenseman

When the Islanders acquired Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk on October 4th, there were little to no doubts that their presence would be felt along the thin Islanders blueline immediately. Johnny Boychuk started off hot with his big slapshot showing up on the powerplay, and he continues to do that well and be a big force, but Nick Leddy has proven himself to be a true hidden gem from that day. His all around good play on both the offensive and defensive sides have made him a strong nominee for best defenseman on the team. Leddy, 23, is set to be a restricted free agent after this season.
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All Four Lines Contributing to Isles’ Success

Although it’s only three games into the season, the Islanders look good, very good. The team is coming off three straight wins, one being admist the last home opener at Nassau Coliseum, a game driven by emotions, and a six-goal game at MSG vs the Rangers. The Islanders have found their new success over the start of this season with depth, not only on defense but up front as well. All four lines have been playing well and to their roles, combining to a great team effort.

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Hockey is Back on Long Island after Snow’s Successful Offseason

It’s been a long, long time since Islanders fans have been able to truly say they are confident with their team’s roster going into the season, with this year is one of those times. With defense and other questions up in the air before the last home opener at Nassau Coliseum kicks off on Saturday, Garth Snow went out and made a flurry of moves on Saturday to solidify the team all around. He acquired Johnny Boychuk for a second in 2015, a second in 2016, and a conditional 3rd in 2015. But, he wasn’t done there. Snow went on to acquire Nick Leddy within the same hour, this time for Ville Pokka, Anders Nilsson (who now plays in the KHL), and the recently signed TJ Brennan. Defense, which was the main concern going into the season for the Islanders, was then amped up to a whole new level that any Islander fan could be excited about.

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