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SportsColumnistsArthur Staple

High-flying Islanders won't gloat about success

John Tavares of the Islanders celebrates his first-period

John Tavares of the Islanders celebrates his first-period goal against the Carolina Hurricanes with teammate Johnny Boychuk and Kyle Okposo at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

There has been no gloating by anyone on the Islanders. No finger-pointing at the many, many NHL media members who wrote off the team during last season's disappointment.

The closest that anyone, from general manager Garth Snow on down, will say publicly has been coach Jack Capuano's repeated line that "a lot of the people in this room didn't give us much of a chance to be where we are."

Despite being near or at the top of the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference for just about the entire season, the Isles seemingly would rather stay humble and hungry than remind people how mocked they've been in recent seasons.

It's the reason Snow has declined to speak about his team on numerous occasions when asked. All he would give is a response to one question: What do you want to see from your team in the final 36 games of the season and on into the playoffs?

"Wins," he said.

The goals for the stretch run -- which begins Tuesday with a visit from the Rangers -- are just that simple. From all indications, Snow is not remotely focused on adding any pieces to what he and his players feel is a fairly complete roster. The GM's big moves came on Oct. 4, when he pulled off a masterly maneuver in trading for Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk in the space of an hour and didn't have to part with any of his NHL roster to do so.

There could be an unforeseen injury or two that could alter such a plan, but the March 2 trade deadline likely will not feature any dealing by Snow. The Islanders have NHL-experienced depth in Bridgeport with forwards Colin McDonald, Cory Conacher and Harry Zolnierczyk and defensemen Aaron Ness, Griffin Reinhart and (currently injured) Ryan Pulock. Snow is not looking for anything splashy to disrupt this good group.

"We like what we've got in here," Travis Hamonic said before the All-Star break.

It's hard to argue against sticking to Snow's preseason plan. He made six significant moves, starting with the May 1 trade for Jaroslav Halak's rights, and all six -- two goaltenders, two forwards and the two defensemen -- have factored in the team's success.

For a general manager who has stuck to his long rebuilding process over nearly a decade, that's a lot of moves. There's no reason to think Snow would get antsy now that his team is showing that it can put together consistent efforts and results.

There certainly are areas for improvement as the Islanders resume their push not only for a playoff berth but for the top seed in the East., a website that provides daily updates on playoff percentages, has the Isles with a 99.6 percent chance of making the postseason, so a playoff berth seems secure at this point.

But there are worries. The Isles' slumping penalty kill ranks 28th in the league. Halak is an All-Star, but his .923 even-strength save percentage is ranked only in the middle of the starting goaltender pack.

There are no signs, though, that this is a team waiting to hit the wall. Their advanced team statistics, such as Corsi (total shots attempted) and Fenwick (total unblocked shots attempted), are ranked as high as their standings. John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, who got off to somewhat slow starts this season, have totaled 15 goals and 18 assists in the last 14 games.

The Islanders have 21 of their last 36 games at home, where they have a 16-4-0 record. They have 25 of the last 36 games within the East, where they hold a 22-6-1 record. The difficult road trips out West are over.

There will be no gloating, to be sure. That's not because the Islanders are worried about themselves. Instead, it's because they have nothing to prove, even to a hockey world at large that's just now starting to understand what's happened with this team and what could happen this spring.

"Everybody's just bought in, all year long," Okposo said. "We just want to keep getting better. We realize we've got a chance to do something special."


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