Feb 02, 2012; Ottawa, ON, CAN; New York Islanders centre John Tavares (91) prepares to shoot on the Ottawa Senators goal in the first period at Scotiabank Place. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-US PRESSWIRE

Young Islanders Still a Ways Away

New York Islanders fans are no doubt ready for something they haven’t had since 2007: playoff hockey. But they’re going to have to wait a little longer as this young team continues to work out the growing pains.

The Islanders had a great opportunity to gain some ground this afternoon against the Florida Panthers. Earlier in the day, the ninth-place Washington Capitals lost to the New York Rangers, and the Islanders could have cut the gap between themselves and the Toronto Maple Leafs to just six points for the eight and final playoff spot.

But after a strong start, the Islanders showed they’re still a little wet behind the ears, and fell to the Panthers 4-1.

The young Islanders are still lacking in depth and on the defensive side of the puck. Their top line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau are as talented as any threesome in the NHL, while Mark Streit and Travis Hamonic have been great on the blueline all season, though Hamonic is sidelined with an injury. Evegny Nabokov has played like he did in San Jose, and has been the cornerstone of the Islanders strong play as of late.

But that’s where the buck stops. The Islanders have nine players who have played over 30 games and have registered under 10 points. They have four players who are a plus in the plus-minus column. This lack of depth prevents this team stringing any wins together because whenever their top line doesn’t have it, no one steps up and takes the lead.

Inconsistency has been the name of the game this season. Time and time again, the Islanders have been unable to win big games to help them gain ground in a very crowded Eastern Conference. Last month, the Islanders lost back-to-back games against the Leafs, a team they have to catch to make their postseason dream a reality. This month, they lost games to Buffalo and Montreal, two teams they have to collect points against. They’re 16-19-4 against their conference, and a dreadful 4-8-2 against the Atlantic Division.

The Islanders sit at 54 points, eight points out of a playoff spot through 55 games. If history is any indicator, it should take about 93 points to clinch a post-season berth. The Islanders need to post a record in the neighborhood of 20-8-0 down the stretch.

The future is still very bright for the Islanders, but fans hoping for a potential first-round matchup with the rival Rangers may have to wait it out another season.

Tags: Evgeny Nabokov Flori John Tavares Mark Streit Matt Moulson New York Islanders New York Rangers P.A. Parenteau Toronto Maple Leafs Travis Hamonic Washington Capitals

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