Islanders are the sleeper team of the Eastern Conference

Kevin Allen of USA Today predicts the Isles will be playoff-bound

Monday, 08.8.2011 / 11:24 AM ET / News
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Islanders are the sleeper team of the Eastern Conference
By Kevin Allen, USA Today

The New York Islanders have a better chance of ending their playoff drought than they have had the past few years. Even though I have reservations about their defense, they are my sleeper pick in the Eastern Conference.

Why the 14th-place Islanders, who have missed the playoffs the past four seasons, have a reasonable chance to be six places better this season:

1. Evgeni Nabokov is going to join the team, meaning the Islanders either have a new No. 1 goalie or an attractive backup to the injury-plagued Rick DiPietro.

2. Offensive-minded defenseman Mark Streit will return from the shoulder surgery that cost him the entire 2010-11 season. He will help the team's transition game and power play.

3. In John Tavares, Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson, Blake Comeau, Kyle Okposo, Brian Rolston and PA Parenteau, the Islanders have interesting/noteworthy/desirable scorer options for their top six forward positions.

4. Tavares will be 21 when the season starts, and it's not unthinkable that he could go from 67 to 90 points. Would anyone be stunned if he netted 40 goals?

5. With seven short-handed goals, Frans Nielsen has proved to be an effective penalty killer and role player. He had 13 goals and 31 assists last season and deserved, and received, votes for the Selke Trophy.

6. The Islanders have quality rookies, particularly Nino Niederreiter and perhaps Calvin de Haan, who could make some contributions this season.

7. Defenseman Travis Hamonic, 21, played more than 21 minutes a game last season as a rookie and presumably will be even more effective this season.

8. In the offseason, the Islanders added one of the NHL's better role players in Marty Reasoner, who is a good face-off guy and owns a knack for making big plays at the right time. Of his 14 goals last season, four were game-winners.

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SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 x - TBL 77 47 23 7 249 201 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 76 31 33 12 168 194 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 77 34 43 -2 77
R. Strome 76 16 32 20 48
K. Okposo 55 16 31 -11 47
F. Nielsen 76 14 28 8 42
B. Nelson 77 19 22 7 41
A. Lee 71 23 16 10 39
J. Bailey 65 15 23 3 38
J. Boychuk 67 8 25 9 33
N. Leddy 73 10 21 14 31
T. Hamonic 67 5 26 16 31
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 36 16 2 .913 2.42
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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