The New York Islanders’ backs are up against the wall and it looks like there is no escape barring a miracle.
With 86 points through 78 games, New York was five points back of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot entering Monday despite a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
As a team that once controlled its own destiny by holding the No. 8 seed in the East, Brooklyn’s club endured a 10-game stretch in which it collected just seven points.
The defense looked lost and the goaltending couldn’t do much better, allowing an average of almost four goals per game during that span.
It came to a head on March 30, when the Islanders were manhandled by the Philadelphia Flyers in a 6-3 loss. They gave up five of those goals in the first period in what was their worst performance of the season during one of their most crucial games.
The Islanders have stabilized since then with two-straight wins, but they came at a supreme cost.
During the third period of a 2-1 win against the New Jersey Devils one day after their embarrassing showing in Philadelphia, John Tavares suffered a hamstring injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of the season.
As the captain and superstar, Tavares is the engine that makes the Islanders go, leading the team with 28 goals and 38 assists for 66 points.
Without him available for each of New York’s final four must-win games, the postseason seems like an unreachable destination this season.
Two of those final four are against teams currently holding a playoff spot in the Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators. Another is opposite a Carolina Hurricanes team that sits just two points back of New York in the Eastern Conference standings.
Wins in their last four would put the Islanders at 94 points, but they would need a lot of help in order to make the playoffs.
The Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs possess 91 points, meaning that just four more points were needed in their last five games to eliminate the Islanders.
Ottawa will face the Detroit Red Wings while the Maple Leafs meet the Sabres on Monday night.
New York would also have to hop over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the current No. 9 seed in the East with 88 points through 78 games.
It’s unlikely that three teams will endure such a heinous slump that could leave the door open for the Islanders given the urgency this time of year brings.
While difficult to admit, it might be logical for those around the organization to start preparing for the offseason and finding more support on the blue line and for the recovering Tavares despite Anders Lee’s 31-goal season and the sudden emergence of young winger Josh Ho-Sang.