The New York Islanders, with a new coach, are suddenly back in the playoff race.
The Isles beat the Blue Jackets, 4-2, last night in Brooklyn. They’re now 3-0-1 under interim bench boss Doug Weight. And don’t forget, they won their last game with Jack Capuano in charge, a 4-0 victory in Boston on Jan. 16.
“We looked like a confident team that has something to prove and somewhere to go,” Weight said last night, per Newsday. “Top to bottom, one of our best efforts of the year.”
With their surge, the Isles (20-17-9) have moved to within four points of Toronto for the second wild-card spot in the East. That’s still a significant gap to close, but their chances of making the playoffs have risen to almost 30 percent, according to Sports Club Stats.
Less than two weeks ago, their chances were pegged at just 3 percent.
The biggest key has been goaltending. Thomas Greiss has a .960 save percentage in his last four starts, and Jean-Francois Berube won a game himself, stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 4-2 win over the Kings on Saturday.
But it’s not just one thing that’s made the difference. The Isles are also getting more goals from more forwards, and the defensemen are playing their part as well.
“Our D did a great job for us (against Columbus),” said forward Josh Bailey. “They were in and out of our zone quick.”
Looking ahead, the Isles play once more before the All-Star break: Thursday at home to Montreal.
Once the break is over, another good team pays a visit: the Washington Capitals on Jan. 31.
Looking even further ahead, the Isles have a very road-heavy schedule for the rest of the season. They only have 14 home games left, with 22 away. That includes a whopping nine-game stretch of road games from Feb. 21 to March 11.
So it’s going to be tough.
But we’ve seen a couple of teams make big second-half runs in the last few years. The Flyers did it in 2014, the Senators in 2015.
Now the Islanders will try to pull off a similar feat.