Islanders Clinch Postseason Berth; Latest 2021 NHL Playoff Picture

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2021

New York Islanders' Andy Greene (4) celebrates with teammates Noah Dobson (8) and Mathew Barzal (13) after scoring against the New York Rangers during the second period of an NHL hockey game Friday, April 9, 2021, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

The New York Islanders clinched a berth in the 2021 NHL playoffs out of the East Division with a 3-0 defeat of the New York Rangers on Saturday.

x - New York Islanders @NYIslanders

CLINCHED. https://t.co/yG8NyC2oFE

x - New York Islanders @NYIslanders

mood https://t.co/Cm35Va0BH2

Here's a look at the current NHL playoff picture:


Central Division

*Carolina Hurricanes: 75 points (34-10-7)

*Florida Panthers: 73 points (34-14-5)

*Tampa Bay Lightning: 71 points (34-14-3)

Nashville Predators: 58 points (28-22-2)


West Division

*Vegas Golden Knights: 72 points (35-12-2)

*Colorado Avalanche: 70 points (33-12-4)

*Minnesota Wild: 68 points (32-14-4)

St. Louis Blues: 53 points (23-19-7)


North Division

*Toronto Maple Leafs: 71 points (33-13-5)

Edmonton Oilers: 60 points (29-17-2)

Winnipeg Jets: 57 points (27-20-3)

Montreal Canadiens: 55 points (23-18-9)


East Division

*Pittsburgh Penguins: 71 points (34-15-3)

*Washington Capitals: 69 points (32-14-5)

*New York Islanders: 67 points (31-15-5)

Boston Bruins: 66 points (30-14-6)


Standings via NHL.com

* = already clinched postseason berth


Expectations were high for the Isles coming into the 2020-21 season after they advanced to the Eastern Conference Final last year before falling short against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. This is their third straight postseason trip.

New York got off to a sluggish start, lowlighted by a five-game losing streak in late January.

"It's playoff mentality right now and I'm not sure we have our playoff mentality yet," head coach Barry Trotz told reporters during the skid. "And it's pissing me off."

The Islanders eventually found their footing, and a nine-game winning streak that started in late February put the club on cruise control toward the postseason.

Mathew Barzal has led the team in scoring with 41 points (15 goals and 26 assists), while the goaltending tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin has been terrific with a combined .931 save percentage.

The 2021 playoffs will be unique for a couple of different reasons, most notably the divisional format and the fact that teams haven't played opponents outside their divisions all year.

Instead of a conference-based bracket with teams seeded No. 1 through 8, each division will seed No. 1 through 4 and play two rounds to crown a divisional champion, which will advance to the NHL version of the Final Four.

Once that happens, the remaining teams will play non-divisional opponents for the first time. It's a unique challenge since there's been little reason to scout the other teams this season aside from potentially looking into players before the trade deadline.

The Islanders represent a tough matchup with their strong defensive system under Trotz, and they could have enough offensive firepower to make a serious run toward their first championship since 1983.