As the Islanders gear toward the final week of the regular season, they can start to feel a bit better about themselves. They've gotten five points (2-0-1) in their last three games, with three left to play.
They have not clinched a playoff berth, though. The Senators' chase for a playoff spot continued Sunday night after they earned a point by losing to the Maple Leafs in a shootout.
Thanks to the Capitals' 2-1 win over the Red Wings, the Isles are a point out of second in the Metro Division with a game in hand on Washington.
The Islanders can remedy both of those situations with a win Tuesday in Philadelphia, something that has not been a given with the Isles' poor record during the last five weeks.
They are 5-6-4 since the end of February, but some of the numbers show that the Islanders were not as pedestrian as their record indicated. One statistic is easy to comprehend: They outshot their opponent in 12 of the 15 games during that run, maintaining their league-best plus-5.5 shot differential.
Another stat is a bit different, but it still is a measure that confirms the suspicion that the Isles may have hit a run of rotten luck to help their results take a dip.
The advanced stat PDO, a made-up acronym that adds a team's on-ice save percentage with its on-ice shooting percentage, is essentially a measure of what you might call "puck luck." The mean is about 100. The Isles' PDO for the month of March was 95.8, worst in the NHL, below even the Sabres and Coyotes. The good news is that all teams either revert or rise close to 100 over time.
That long explanation was presented to Thomas Hickey the other day.
"As players, I think you tend to take the old-school view, which is when you're not winning, you just need to work harder to get yourself out of it," Hickey said.
"Hearing that stat, I guess there's some comfort in knowing that when you suspect you've gotten some bad bounces, there's a number to back it up," Hickey said. "But honestly, that stuff is really if you want to try and be optimistic. We know we're a good team and we've been good for long stretches this season. It's just a matter of getting back to that, and we've got a few games before the playoffs to do just that."
The Islanders began that process with their 3-0 win over the Sabres on Saturday. Perhaps the bounces -- such as the Buffalo pass that banked off a broken stick lying in the middle of the Sabres' zone and right to Brock Nelson, who scored for a 2-0 lead in the third period -- will keep tilting the Islanders' way.