The most important piece of business for the Islanders was taken care of Saturday night when they punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Now they look ahead to which seed they might get and who they might face when the first round starts next week.
But even though there are just three games remaining in the NHL regular season entering their Monday night matchup against John Tavares and the Maple Leafs, the Isles can finish anywhere from first in the Metropolitan Division to the last wild-card spot.
Let's take a look at all the playoff scenarios as the Islanders, who currently occupy the No. 2 spot in the Metro, prepare for the final week of the season:
Metropolitan Division champions
The Islanders currently sit three points behind the Capitals for the division lead. The Isles' penultimate game is Thursday at Florida, and it just so happens that on Saturday they meet the Caps in Washington on the final day of the regular season. The division crown could very well be on the line.
It could also be over by Monday night. Should the Capitals win at Florida and the Isles fall to Toronto at the Coliseum, Washington clinches the division.
There also remains a very remote possibility of tiebreakers going all the way to goal differential. Should the Isles take overtime or shootout losses in their next two games, and the Capitals earn only one point over their next two games, the Caps would be up by two points heading into the finale and have a 43-42 edge in regulation/overtime wins (ROW.) An Islanders regulation victory in the finale would tie the two teams in ROW, and it would tie the teams with four points apiece head-to-head this season. The next tiebreaker would be goal differential, where the Capitals currently own an edge of four. (This all assumes the Penguins don't work their way up into the mix, which is also possible.)
What happens if the Isles and Capitals also end up tied in goal differential in that scenario? Well, last year when a similar possibility existed between the Flyers and Panthers with a playoff spot on the line, and the league announced a tiebreaking game would be played if all the tiebreakers were even. That, however, was to determine the final spot in the playoffs. It's unclear if such a game would be played for two teams already in the postseason.
If your head is spinning, just know that the odds of that scenario happening are slim.
Should the Islanders win the division, they'd secure home-ice advantage for the first two rounds - remember, first round games will be played at Nassau Coliseum, and any additional games will be played at Barclays Center - and could play a few different opponents.
The Lightning are guaranteed to play whichever team finishes in the second wild-card spot by virtue of being the top team in the conference (they've already secured the Presidents' Trophy). So the Metro division winner will play the first wild-card team.
The Islanders, in this scenario, could face the Penguins, Blue Jackets, Hurricanes or Canadiens. As things stand entering Monday, the Penguins are third in the division at 97 points, two points behind the Islanders, and finish up with two games against Detroit and one against the Rangers. Columbus sits at 94 points and plays the Bruins, Rangers and Senators. Carolina has 93 points and plays the Maple Leafs, Devils and Flyers. Montreal, one point behind Carolina for that final playoff spot, has the most daunting schedule left of the contenders as it has to play the Lightning, Capitals and Maple Leafs.
Exhausted yet? Take a deep breath, there's more.
No. 2 seed in Metropolitan Division
The Islanders can easily end up remaining where they are right now as the second team in the Metro, which would mean home-ice advantage in the first round and a matchup with the No. 3 team in the division. That could be Pittsburgh, Columbus - which after making several huge trade-deadline moves is finally getting it together with five straight wins - or Carolina.
Here's how the Islanders fared against each of those teams during the regular season:
Against Pittsburgh: 2-1-1, including a shootout win at home and a shootout loss at home. Islanders goal differential over the four games: -1.
Against Columbus: 3-1, including wins in the first three meetings before a shutout loss in Columbus last Tuesday. Islanders goal differential over the four games: +2.
Against Carolina: 3-1, including an overtime win in the first game of the season. Islanders goal differential over the four games: +4.
Pittsburgh has the pedigree and in theory would be the team the Islanders would want to avoid the most here, but with home-ice the Isles will have a shot to advance against any of these teams.
No. 3 seed in Metropolitan Division
The Penguins could leapfrog the Isles over these last three games, especially considering their easy schedule. Or the Penguins can lose out and Columbus can win out and jump the Islanders.
An extremely unlikely scenario does remain possible in which Carolina wins out and jumps to second place with the Isles, Penguins and Blue Jackets all slipping up over the final three games. But the Islanders only need to grab one point over their final three games to ensure they finish ahead of the Hurricanes, who can max out at 99 points.
If the Islanders finish third in the division, they're most likely going to play the Penguins in the first round and would start the series in Pittsburgh, which would host a possible Game 7.
First wild-card spot
If the Islanders finish fourth in the Metro, they'll end up with the first wild-card spot and will play the Metro division champions. That would most likely be the Capitals in this situation, but it could also be Pittsburgh.
The Penguins and either the Blue Jackets or Hurricanes would have to jump the Isles for this to happen. That probably won't happen, but it's in the realm of possibilities, particularly if the Blue Jackets stay hot; during their five-game winning streak they're outscoring opponents 24-4.
In this playoff position, the Islanders would be on the Metro side of the bracket for the first two rounds no matter who wins, so if they were to beat the division champs, they'd play the winner of the No. 2 vs. No. 3 Metro matchup.
Second wild-card spot
Once again, the chances of this happening are extremely remote. But as of Monday afternoon the possibility exists that the Penguins, Blue Jackets and Hurricanes could all jump the Islanders should the Isles lose all of their remaining games in regulation and Carolina wins all of its remaining games. Carolina would own the ROW tiebreaker over the Islanders in that case.
This, of course, would be the worst-case scenario as the Islanders would be thrust into a first-round matchup against the powerhouse that is the Lightning, which has home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Though for what it's worth, the Islanders held their own against Tampa Bay during the regular season. They lost 4-2 in Tampa, won 5-1 at home and then lost in a shootout 1-0 at home.
However, this possibility may not even exist before you go to sleep Monday night, and even if it still does, odds are it's not happening.
The most likely scenario would seem to be a first-round matchup with the Penguins. The question is whether the Islanders would have home-ice advantage. All will be known by late Saturday night, at the latest. Until then, intrigue abounds.