It has been two weeks since the Islanders could entertain any realistic hope of making the playoffs. Still, head coach Scott Gordon had done the math prior to Monday’s workout at Nassau Coliseum.
“The Flyers and Boston [both with 84 points and essentially sharing the right and final playoff spot] have to lose all the rest of their games,” Gordon said. “The Rangers [82 points] can get into two shootouts but can't win. And Atlanta [81 points] obviously has to be out of the picture.”
The Islanders, with 76 points going into Tuesday night’s game against Montreal, naturally would have to win their final four games to reach 84 points.
Meanwhile, Gordon is clearly encouraged by the way his team has pursued the final two weeks of the season. “Part of it is the willingness to do it and do it the right way,” he said. “They’re supposed to be professionals. But I’m not going to stand behind the bench and pretend mistakes don’t happen.”
The bad news about his exceptionally young team is that they still are learning to be NHL players. The good news is that they are learning.
“Some of these guys will tell you,” Gordon said, “if they make a mistake, they’ll hear about it. But for the most part, they’re going back on the ice. They’re got to realize, ‘I’m not just sitting here. I’m not missing a shift, I’m not missing a period,' for goofing up.”
As a result, the extended ice time available to such young players as John Tavares (19), Josh Bailey (20), Kyle Okposo (21), Andrew MacDonald (23), Blake Comeau (24) and Jack Hillen (24) has accelerated their progress. Six of the team’s top seven scoring leaders -- with the exception of defenseman Mark Streit, who is 32 -- are 26 years old or younger.
Defenseman Bruno Gervais, out with a groin injury since March 26, participated in Monday’s workout. Regarding his availability for Tuesday’s game, Gordon said, “We’ll see.”
Blake Comeau’s continued offensive clout (two points in each of his last three games) represents “probably his best stretch,” Gordon said. “But, besides his offensive success, it’s also his overall game. With Blake, it’s not so much improvement, but consistency.”