BUFFALO - The latest playoff picture snapshot is not a pretty one for the Islanders.
Even an OT or shootout point would have made this a bit easier to take. The Isles dropped from sixth and controlling their own seeding destiny down to eighth, thanks to OT wins by both the Senators and Rangers. Now, the Isles need to win Friday night here against the Sabres and hope for help to avoid the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup with the Penguins.
There’s no ideal matchup when you’re starting near the bottom of the playoff qualifiers: Pittsburgh and Boston have been the dominant teams this season and the Isles own one win against each. The Caps are a better matchup, but they have the hottest player in the East right now in Alex Ovechkin and would be equally difficult to face.
So, as has been the mantra all through the Isles’ 11-2-3 run, it’s time to focus on their own play Friday night and worry about everyone else when it’s all done.
Here’s what lies ahead with an Islanders regulation or OT win:
-- If the Rangers lose to the Devils on Saturday, then the Isles will have at least the No. 7 seed
-- If the Senators get fewer than two points in their final two games or pick up only one shootout win, the Isles could finish sixth.
-- A Rangers win and the Isles lose that tiebreaker, and a Senators regulation/OT win gives them the tiebreaker over the Isles as well, rendering the Isles’ win Friday moot.
If the Isles win in a shootout Friday:
-- Same as above, only the Senators can add just one point for the Isles to finish ahead of Ottawa.
If the Isles lose Friday:
-- Pack your bags for Pittsburgh. According to MSG statistician Eric Hornick, the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh is booked on Tuesday, which would likely mean a Wednesday start to the series.