The Islandersâ€™ schedule isnâ€™t set to come out for another few days or so when the league is set to release for all 31 clubs. When it does, fans might have to do a double-take to notice that they might be seeing a division opponent three or even four times in a row.
Sportsnetâ€™s Chris Johnston wrote yesterday that teams began receiving a draft of what their 2021 regular season schedules would look like. In it included two-game segments â€” most likely back-to-back because of the short travel and the season being only 56 games â€” but also some three-game â€œbaseball styleâ€ segments and even a four-game style format.
Teams only play the same opponent three or four games consecutively in the postseason. Only in the AHL do clubs play three-in-three during the regular season, and those are usually on the weekends and the opponents vary. But this would be new territory for the NHL.
What this means for the Isles is their intra-division games will take on a whole new dynamic.
We already knew a condensed schedule was going to heighten the importance of the regular season, but playing a rival that many times in less than a week would make for some new or re-established hatred and ups the ante then it just being another game on the schedule.
Just imagine the Islanders squaring off with the Rangers three times in a week? Four?
It would be unbelievable.
As Ryan Mead, a Rangers podcast host for The Athletic pointed out, the two teams faced each other three times in a two-week span last year and every game had each tilt had its own twist.
Not just the Rangers, but Washington, Boston, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh? These are all clubs the Isles have stacked up well with the past two years; three of them theyâ€™ve also seen in the postseason. A three-game sprint against any of those teams would be ridiculously entertaining and could help with gaining an edge.
Where itâ€™s also unique is this type of format could also be quickly â€” and I put emphasis on that word â€” damage playoff hopes. Only the top four spots out of the eight teams in each division will qualify for the postseason.
So letâ€™s say the Islanders lose two or worse three straight to Buffalo. Thatâ€™s four or six points potentially missed. It could also be the difference between making or missing out on the playoffs.
These are just some of the interesting things this season will bring for the Islanders. But thatâ€™s where it will also make for a fun challenge.
Isles fans seem confident that their club is one of the best in the East Division and are better than most of the competition.
Outside of the Devils and Sabres, a lot of the supporters believe the Islanders have the advantage over the Capitals, Rangers and Penguins. Itâ€™s the Bruins and the Flyers where it gets hairy.
The Isles did defeat the Flyers in the bubble postseason, but Philadelphiaâ€™s Stanley Cup window has been open and theyâ€™ve shown to be a formidable opponent.
Boston, despite their aging core, theyâ€™ve given the Islanders the most fits in recent years. Seeing them eight times starting next month as opposed to three in past seasons, itâ€™s easy to spot why many Isles fans have them at another level.
NBCâ€™s Pro Hockey Talk rating the Islanders and Leafs as the best potential Stanley Cup Final matchup this year was great.
Their explanation for why was even more perfect:
â€œJohn Tavares against his former team. Torontoâ€™s media comparing Kyle Dubas to Lou Lamoriello and lamenting the Maple Leafsâ€™ choice to hand the franchise over to the former. No matter the winner, this series would spawn nuclear grade hot takes. We can only be so lucky.â€
Shoutout to NHL Networkâ€™s E.J. Hradek for having the Islanders as his top team in the Eastâ€™ power rankings. Hradek has been banging the organizationâ€™s drum for a while now.
— James Nichols (@JamesNicholsNYI) December 22, 2020