Are There Any Playoff Heroes On The Islanders?

Many teams that make the post season have a player on their roster that elevates his style of play in order to reach a new level of performance during the most meaningful games of the year in the playoffs. These players are instrumental to each team's success in the playoffs and help carry their teams to several victories in their run for the Cup (Photo credit: chadsbug/Flickr).

Looking back to the recent past, players such as Fernando Pisani and Sean Bergenheim come to mind. Pisani, who was playing for the Edmonton Oilers during their Cup run in 2006, only had 37 points in 80 regular season games but burst onto the playoff scene with 14 goals and 18 points in 24 playoff games.

Bergenheim, who Islanders fans remember well during the early stages of the rebuild, struggled to be more than a fourth line grinder throughout his young career. But when the Tampa Bay Lightning made the playoffs in 2011, Bergenheim put up nine goals and 11 points in 16 playoff games. He continued his playoff success the following year with six points in seven playoff games for the Florida Panthers after only scoring 23 points in 62 regular season games.

There is something about playoff hockey that at times brings out the best in players who have less prolific roles during the regular season. Teams expect their superstars to be their reliable goal scorers and playmakers in the most crucial situations, but these 'diamond in the rough' playoff performers can at times be just as heroic.

The New York Islanders have yet to make the post season with this active roster since the rebuild began about five years ago, so there is no telling of which player specifically fits the playoff mold. But the hockey world might find out soon since the Isles currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference with 53 points and only three regular season games remaining, sitting on the edge of clinching their first playoff berth since 2007.

Looking ahead, a few players come to mind when looking at the team's recent success in the month of April.

Matt Martin has five points in 10 games in that span and has continued to be the dominant physical presence on the ice in every game played. While maintaining his league leading stat of 218 hits, Martin has the potential to be the gritty cog that crashes the net and bangs bodies along the wall for the Islanders in the playoffs. Isles fans will remember the benefits of having Steve Webb, one of the hardest hitters in Islanders history, during the 2002 playoff run. Martin can have the same type of success if not more so due to his stronger offensive abilities. He will definitely be someone to watch in Islanders playoff games.

Another player who might surprise opposing teams in the playoffs is Colin McDonald, who is actually second on the Islanders in hits with 110. McDonald is a player who thrives in those hard nose, grinding situations. He's a physical forward with size and has surprisingly scored seven goals and 17 points in 42 games played this season. He has been used on different lines and in many key situations and has continued to thrive as one of the Islanders most consistent depth forwards all year long. Don't be surprised if McDonald excels in games that will have harder hits and require more of the dirty work along the walls.

But if you are looking for goal scoring from a somewhat unlikely source, the Islanders might want to give Josh Bailey plenty of ice time. Lately, Bailey has played like a man possessed and has been all over the offensive zone with nifty moves and highlight reel goals. He may only have 18 points in 35 games played after a late start due to an injury suffered during the lockout, but Bailey has typically been a player that thrives late in the season - and his April stats confirm this with 10 points in the past 10 games.  He has found excellent chemistry with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo, who at times have looked as they are the Islanders top line as opposed to the second. With meaningful games on the line, Bailey has been one of Jack Capuano's go-to forwards. Don't be surprised if things stay that way if the Isles make it to the playoffs (MVerminski/Flickr).

However, first the Islanders have to officially clinch a spot in the standings. Right now they are in a great position to do so. If the Winnipeg Jets lose to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night, the Islanders could clinch with a win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.

These players mentioned above have got to remain active and consistent for the remainder of the regular season if this team is going to reveal their true character players of the playoffs.

-Rob McGowan


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