Halfway through the season, the Islanders need a barometer to see where they stand against the elite teams in the league.
So how fortunate that game No. 41 happened to be against the Metropolitan Division leading Washington Capitals, where No. 1 can play No. 2.
Ultimately, the 4-1 Washington win showed us how formidable the Capitals are rather than how far the Islanders have to go to compete.
Right now, the Isles are an incomplete team without Johnny Boychuk and just getting back Jaroslav Halak, who looked very rusty in the first period, when he gave up two goals.
“There’s a lot of good teams in this league,” said coach Jack Capuano. “I just think they’ve got a goalie that’s dialed in like that, it just gives you the confidence level that you can have breakdowns. You (give up) some really good chances and he’s there to shut the door. Things don’t get magnified as a group. They know they’ve got a guy back there that’s in the zone that he’s at now. They get two or three goals, they’re tough to beat the way that he’s playing.”
Look it doesn’t matter how you’re playing in January, just as long as you are playing well at the end of April. The Islanders have done that. And they are a very confident team to boot.
Add to that, this team feels it can beat any team in the league, especially after toughing out Dallas 6-5, they lose this one, which makes the team .500 against the elite. So be it.
“I think we are right up there with the best teams in the league,” said defenseman Travis Hamonic. “We are playing really well as of late. We are high in the standings and we are a confident group.”
More importantly, this team seems primed to make a run in the playoffs. They need Boychuk back, of course and they probably could use another blue liner to boot. Maybe more scoring, as well. But after all you heard for the last three months is how bad the Barclays Center is for hockey, the Islanders can change the subject by just winning.
That is the cure all for this team. No one will complain about the sightlines and bad views if the go to the playoffs and win a few rounds. It will wash away any stain of leaving Long Island and act is a mint to the bad taste it left.
If the Isles just win, they will bring back a lot of their old fans from the Island, while creating a new culture in Brooklyn.
And if the standings remain the same, take a guess who they will be playing in the first round? Yup, the New York Rangers.
So even with this loss to the red hot Caps, the Isles still have a lot to look forward to over the next few months. Their next test comes in a week with the Rangers making their second visit to Barclays and then all they have to do it just win.
The best is yet to come for this team.