Nick Leddy (2) and John Tavares (91). (Photo: Getty Images)

For the hockey fans out there that think October games aren't important, let me take a moment to remind you of what happened to the New York Islanders last season. 

 

After making it to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since the 1992-93 season, New York began the 2016-17 campaign under then-head coach Jack Capuano absolutely flat. 

 

In the first month of the season, a broken-looking unit went just 4-5-0 to usher in a dreadful November that saw them go 2-5-4. 

 

It put them in what looked like an insurmountable hole that led to the firing of Capuano in January and forced assistant coach Doug Weight to take over behind the bench as the interim head coach. 

 

Something clicked, the Islanders rallied and somehow were in the playoff conversation during the season's final weeks. But a late six-game winning streak still was not enough for the team to make a third-straight playoff appearance as they fell just one point short of the postseason. 

A better stretch in October or November and the Islanders would have been in. 

Weight saw the interim label removed during the offseason and was given the responsibility of navigating the Islanders toward contention within a difficult Metropolitan Division that features the defending-champion Pittsburgh Penguins, the strong Columbus Blue Jackets and the Alex Ovechkin-led Washington Capitals. It was understandable why many tabbed the Islanders to miss the playoffs for a second-straight year. 

Don't look now, but the Islanders are contending during the early parts of this season. 

After 12 games, the Islanders are 7-4-1, good for third in the Metropolitan behind the surprising New Jersey Devils and Blue Jackets. They quickly turned around a 1-2-1 start by recording wins in six of their final eight games of October, accruing 15 points in the process, their last couple coming in a 6-3 victory over the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night

The Islanders did not record their 15th point last season until a Nov. 22 shootout win over the Anaheim Ducks. 

"It's good," Weight said of his team's start. "I think we've fought hard...hopefully, we've learned a little bit along the way here."

"We knew we needed to get off to a better start this year," forward Andrew Ladd said. "I just like that there's no panic. Obviously, we had a few tough games early on in the year. But I think we were confident in our group and what we can do here and how we can play."

Much of their success this season has to do with the reunion of John Tavares and Josh Bailey on the first line after the newly-acquired Jordan Eberle wasn't able to generate much through. 

Bailey is on a seven-game point streak — tops in the NHL — which was extended with three assists against the Golden Knights. 

Tavares has been an unstoppable goal scorer with eight in his last four games. 

He became the first Islander since Ziggy Palffy in 1996 to record two hat tricks in a three-game span last week against the Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators. The captain was also the first Islander to record 10 goals by the end of October since Mark Parrish in 2001.  His 11 goals this year, including two on Monday, ranks second in the NHL behind Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"Sometimes, the chances you get, they start going in," Tavares said. "It breeds some confidence and it just changes the narrative a little bit."

He gave a lot of the credit for his success to Bailey. 

"Josh is a heck of a player," Tavares said. "He doesn't get enough credit not only with his offensive ability, which is flourishing but his all-around game... To win games and be a successful team, you need guys like Josh...It's been a lot of fun to play with him." 

Lost in the shuffle has been their linemate, winger Anders Lee, who has a six-game point streak of his own with four goals and six assists. With the way they're playing, it looks like the solution for Tavares' perfect match on the first line was staring the Islanders in the face all along. 

Of course, there is a long, long way to go this season for things to change. But things are trending up in Brooklyn at the moment.