The Islanders are in first place in the Metropolitan Division heading to the All-Star break. They are assured of at least a tie for the most wins in the league at the break.
These are not sentences that were likely to have been written when this season began. But the Islanders are not just resilient, as they showed Monday afternoon when they shook off any effects from a sloppy loss Saturday. They are also dominant, which they were at times in a 7-4 thrashing of the Flyers.
"Everybody's feeding off one another," said John Tavares, who had a goal and an assist to give him seven points in his last three games as he heads off to Columbus this weekend to represent the Isles in the All-Star Game. "It's important to take some time off and enjoy it a bit, heal some bumps and bruises. Then it's time to gear up for the start of the stretch run."
Tavares' power-play goal with 7.6 seconds left in the second period was crucial, restoring the Isles' three-goal lead. He took a great pass from Frans Nielsen and put a neat backhand flick over the shoulder of Flyers goaltender Ray Emery.
There were big contributions from up and down the roster, beginning with Nikolay Kulemin. The summer free-agent acquisition scored twice and added an assist, including a brilliant shorthanded goal to make it 3-0 at 4:53 of the second.
Kulemin blocked Matt Read's shot at the point, corralled the puck, held off Read as he skated down the ice, waited and then beat Flyers starter Rob Zepp for Kulemin's team-leading third shorthanded goal and 11th goal of the season. He had seasons of seven, seven and nine goals the past three years with the Leafs.
"Kule deserves everything he gets," said Josh Bailey, who scored later in the second to make it 4-1. "He works so hard and does the right things. He should get rewarded."
Kulemin's focus, despite being one of five Isles with double-digit goals at the break, is at the other end of the ice. He was a tad disappointed his team surrendered four goals, despite the fact that the Isles never let the Flyers get closer than two.
"A win is a win. We still have to be better defensively," Kulemin said. "We give up four goals, that's not the type of game we're supposed to play."
Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Hickey had a bad miscommunication behind the Islanders' net to allow Claude Giroux an easy goal to make it 5-3 early in the third, but otherwise the Islanders kept Giroux and Jake Voracek, two of the NHL's top five scorers, to just one shot on goal combined. Former Islander Mark Streit scored on the power play in the second, as did former Ranger Michael Del Zotto, but the Flyers never really threatened to make it close.
So the Islanders head into the break -- albeit with one more practice day Tuesday before the majority of them scatter and Tavares and Halak head to Columbus -- sitting on top of their division with a 15-2-0 record in the Metro, a 16-4-0 record at Nassau Coliseum and as gaudy a mark at 31-14-1 as anyone can remember.
And to them, it's only the beginning.
"We still haven't done a whole lot," Bailey said. "We're looking ahead."