After a dismantling of the Detroit Red Wings, the New York Islanders have proved once again that they will not struggle against the Western Conference. In 15 games against the West this season, the Isles have a 7-5-4 record to show for it, registering 17 of their 36 points in the process. It looks unimpressive at first glance, but only 15 of their 40 games have been against the Western Conference this season. The Islanders went 10-7-5 against the Western Conference during the 2010-11 season.
Why is it exactly when the Isles match up against a Western Conference team does this team tend to step its game up and look like a playoff contender?
The first thing you need to wonder is how much scouting Western Conference teams actually put into the Islanders. Let's say you were the GM of the Vancouver Canucks. How much money in scouting would you invest on checking out the New York Islanders? You will play them maybe twice a year at most, unlike teams in the division such as the San Jose Sharks or the Edmonton Oilers.
They are continuously buried at the bottom of the Eastern Conference year after year, so it is unlikely you will see them in the Stanley Cup Finals any time soon. So what reason does the Western Conference have other than to completely overlook the Islanders and see them as a team they can likely beat on skill alone?
Take a look at the Atlantic Conference. Teams like the Flyers, Rangers, Devils and Penguins know they will see the Islanders multiple times during the course of the season. The result? The Islanders are 2-7-2 against the those teams. Familiarity plays a role in this as well. The Islanders see those teams all the time.
A team like the Pittsburgh Penguins knows the tendencies of the Islanders' players and coaches and what they like to do in certain situations. The Western Conference doesn't have that luxury as they only meet with the Islanders at most twice in a season.
The next thing you could look at is the role travel has to play in this. How much exactly does travel impact a team as far as fatigue? Could it have a larger role than expected? When the Western Conference travels to play the Islanders, it does not bode well for Western Conference teams. The Islanders have dominated Western Conference opponents in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum with a 4-1-2 record.
Lastly, is the Eastern Conference just a better conference than the Western Conference overall? That can't possibly be true, can it? It could. The Eastern Conference owns five of the last nine Stanley Cup Championships. The Eastern Conference also owns more prolific goal leaders this season. Ten of the top 14 goal scorers in the NHL this season reside in the Eastern Conference, including one of the Islanders' own, Matt Moulson.
If the Islanders continue to put up numbers gaudy numbers like these against the West, maybe the Islanders should spend less focus on trying to create a new building and more focus on a move to the Western Conference.