The NHL playoff picture is finally taking shape and for the first time in six years the New York Islanders will be apart of the league's second season. By picking up a point in a shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Islanders punched their playoff ticket.
The playoff berth is sweet music for Islanders fans that have suffered through some truly miserable seasons over the past several years. The Isles have been near the bottom of the league's standing for five consecutive seasons before turning things around in 2013.
The last time the Islanders were in the playoffs was back in 2006-07 when they lost in the first round to the Buffalo Sabres four games to one. What followed was five years of misery as the Isles not only failed to make the playoffs, but failed to post more than 79 points in any season.
It's incredible how much has changed over the course of the shortened season. Not long ago we were all wondering whether or not Lubomir Visnovsky would report to the team from the KHL (He did) and we were debating which arena the Islanders would call home beyond the 2013 campaign (Brooklyn). Since then, we've actually been able to focus on what the Islanders have done out on the ice and it's been surprisingly good.
We all knew John Tavares was a stud, but he's taken his game to the next level in 2013 with 46 points in 46 games. He currently has the 13th most points in the NHL and the third most goals. Beyond Tavares, Matt Moulson has played extremely well (44 points in 45 games) and cheap free agent acquisition Brad Boyes has provided a great return (35 points in 46 games) on his tiny $1 million contract.
Evgeni Nabokov has been tremendous in net, appearing in nearly every game the Islanders have played this season. The 37-year-old goaltender has suited up for 40 contests and is 23-11-6 with a 2.54 GAA.
The Islanders join the Toronto Maple Leafs as unlikely participants in this year's postseason. A big congratulations to both teams and their fans for returning to the second season.