The New York Islanders have qualified for the playoffs just four times since the start of the 2005/06 campaign and Doug Weight’s men look set to miss out again this year. Currently sitting seventh in the Metropolitan Division, stopping the opposition from scoring has been New York’s biggest problem this season. With 228 goals conceded, the Islanders have the worst defensive record in the National Hockey League.
Weight’s side have had no issues at the other end of the ice though and most of New York’s games have been exciting – some compliment to the passionate fans who watch them on a weekly basis. Only five teams have scored more goals than the Islanders (208) in 2017/18.
And then we have the Montreal Canadiens. It hasn’t been much better for Claude Julien’s side to be perfectly honest; the Canadiens are sixth in the Atlantic Division and it will take some effort for Montreal to reach the postseason.
Simply put, Montreal haven’t been good enough as a whole. Only two teams have scored fewer goals than the Canadiens (160) this year and their offensive woes have hindered any sort of momentum. Now out at 300/1 with Bet365 for Stanley Cup glory, it would take a brave man to back the Canadian franchise for hockey’s ultimate prize.
Islanders: Go Out With A Bang?
New York are struggling in the Metropolitan but a playoff spot isn’t out of the question just yet. Currently out at 66/1 to win the Stanley Cup, the Islanders will need to put a solid run of form together and they will need to shore things up in defense.
Most importantly of all, they MUST start winning matches – New York have lost their last four NHL games. Snapping that run is of vital importance; the Islanders need to win most of their 18 remaining regular season fixtures in order to stand any chance of featuring in the postseason.
KEY MAN: Mathew Barzal. Move over John Tavares, there’s a new superstar at Brooklyn Center. That may be a little premature but the 20-year-old, selected in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft, is now leading the team with 67 points in 64 games this year.
Barzal’s form will have Islanders fans excited for the future. With 49 assists, he has built a formidable partnership with his line and he has notched five points in his last five games – including three against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Keep an eye on Barzal this weekend.
Canadiens Already Looking At Next Season?
Montreal’s year is done. It will take some turnaround for the visitors to climb the standings and Julien may have one eye on the 2018/19 campaign. The Canadiens have a few talented players but there are clear issues in this squad – most obviously in the final third.
To put things into perspective, Brendan Gallagher leads the team with 37 points in 63 games this campaign. That tally simply isn’t good enough; Montreal have struggled to get into good attacking positions all season and focusing on offense will be the number one priority in the offseason.
KEY MAN: Antti Niemi. We rarely opt for a goaltender here but Montreal’s chances of glory in this game could rest on Julien’s selection at this position. Carey Price, once regarded as one of the top keepers in the league, has struggled this year and the experienced Niemi may get the nod here.
Niemi has started nine games this season – Montreal have lost twice. His 2.43 goals against average isn’t fantastic but it is better than Price’s ratio and that could sway Julien’s thinking. The Canadiens need a reliable figure between the sticks in order to keep this potent New York offense at bay…
Unfortunately for the visitors, this one is going to be tough. New York have too much talent on offense and the Canadiens could struggle to keep tabs on the home side. Backing a few home goals may prove prudent…
ISLANDERS 5-2 CANADIENS