The Islanders are very likely to be spectators rather than participants this post-season. Like last season, they will probably still be playing meaningful games in April, relishing in the opportunity to play spoilers to a few Eastern-conference teams. But no miraculous comeback is on the horizon.
What the team has mounted, however, is a case that they should be taken seriously next season.
Overshadowed in a dramatic and disappointing season is the irrefutable emergence of the young core of goal-scorers the Islanders have moving forward.
With 14 games to play, it is entirely feasible for the Islanders to finish with three 30-goal scorers and five players reaching 20.
Following a breakout 30-goal season last year, Matt Moulson leads the team with 28 goals. Michael Grabner, who went from waiver-wire pick-up to rookie of the year candidate in a matter of months, is one behind him at 27. And John Tavares has already matched his rookie season output of 24 goals with roughly four weeks to play.
Blake Comeau and PA Parenteau have both set career highs with 19 and 15 goals, respectively.
“It just shows that we’re for real,” Moulson said. “We may not get praise from that many people but I guess it would show the league that this is a good team on Long Island. We have a lot of good young players. A little bit of a wake up call to the rest of the league.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Islanders haven’t had at least three players amass 30 goals since 1993-94, when they had four players—Benoit Hogue (36), Derek King (30), Steve Thomas (42) and Pierre Turgeon (38)-- reach that benchmark. The team had six players score 20 goals that season.
“Especially with the way things started off, that would be pretty incredible,” Tavares said if the Islanders were to accomplish that achievement.
And the best part about that scoring potential? The key components are sticking around.
Moulson and Parenteau signed contract extensions this season. Tavares’ entry-level contract runs through the 2011-2012 season. Comeau and Grabner both are restricted free agents this summer, although the Islanders will likely lock up the latter to a longer-term deal.
“When you see great teams, they have three really great scoring lines and a good checking line,” Moulson said. “Our team that’s coming together now is three really solid lines that can put the pucks in back of net in any given game and carry the team. Pretty damn good fourth line, too. It’s a really good mix going right now.”