Break down the Islanders’ best NHL playoff chances

It’s still not such a small matter, but with six games left in the regular season, it looks like the Islanders will check off the top box on their preseason goals list and make the playoffs.

The next thing they’ll worry about is who they’ll face in the first round.

The Post breaks down four potential opponents based on the most attractive matchups:

1. Demons

The math doesn’t favor the Devils’ chances of jumping into first place in metro Carolina, but if they do, the Islanders should feel comfortable about their chances of winning a potential series.

As good as New Jersey has been this season, the Isles would enter a series against the Devils with a huge advantage in net, and confident in their ability to wear down a team that lacks playoff experience and may lack physicality. .

Earlier this week, we saw the Islanders’ physical edge make the difference in a 5-1 victory, with three of New York’s goals coming in the final five minutes.

That’s not to discount the Devils, who are building something special in Newark and their prowess in the forward positions should leave the Islanders a handful to contend with.

Ilya Sorokin tackles Jack Hughes in the Islanders’ win over the Devils this season. The Devils could be the best possible playoff game for Lane Lambert’s crew, but it’s unlikely to happen.Paul J. Bereswill

Jack Hughes is a talent that can change a playoff series, and the entire league will see what he does in his first postseason action.

But, especially compared to Carolina or Boston, this would be a winnable game for the Islanders.

2. Rangers

It’s not likely, but it’s still in play for the Rangers to jump two spots in the standings, win the Metro and set up New York’s first playoff berth since 1994.

The stories here would be unbearable.

Ilya Sorokin faces off against his friend and compatriot Igor Shesterkin. Trade deadline acquisitions Bo Horvat and Patrick Kane go head-to-head.

He waived Artemi Panarin in free agency against the team and Mathew Barzal in the playoffs at The Garden if he can return from a suspected knee injury in time to play.

As for the Isles’ chances, they would go in as underdogs, but not without a fighting chance.

They beat Rangers twice in three games this season, although the last game was just before Christmas so they could basically knock that out.

Still, the Islanders have a knack for giving the Rangers issues, and Sorokin looks set to save his best for Madison Square Garden.

Noah Dobson takes down Jimmy Vesey in an Islanders-Rangers game this season.Noah Dobson takes down Jimmy Vesey in an Islanders-Rangers game this season.NHLI via Getty Images

This would be must-see TV.

3. Hurricanes

The current Metropolitan Division leaders are the most likely opposition for the Islanders in Round 1, and will be at least slightly more winnable than the Bruins.

This does not mean, however, that the Isles would have it easy for the ‘Canes, who have easily played the Isles in two of the three matches between the teams this year.

Sunday’s game in Raleigh, N.C., will serve as a preview of a potential matchup, as well as the first time we’ve seen these teams face off since Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov went down with an ACL tear.

Ryan Pulock is battling Islanders' Sebastian Aho for the record earlier this season.Ryan Pulock is battling Islanders’ Sebastian Aho for the record earlier this season.Getty Images

The injury to their third-leading scorer gives Carolina an air of vulnerability, but the ‘Canes have reached at least the second round in three of the last four seasons, and Rod Brind’Amour is one of the best coaches in the league.

Unlike the Islanders, Carolina at its best can play a straightforward style of defense that stifles opponents.

The Hurricanes’ 2.59 goals allowed per game is second in the league behind Boston, and they have produced no Vezina-class goaltenders.

Sorokin could be a great draw for the Islanders here, but it would take something unexpected to pull off the upset.

4. Bruins

This is the team everyone wants to avoid, and the biggest reason the Isles need to hold onto the top wild card spot over the Penguins and potentially the Panthers.

Jake DeBrusk of the Bruins celebrates after scoring a goal against the Islanders earlier in the season.Jake DeBrusk of the Bruins celebrates after scoring a goal against the Islanders earlier in the season.NHLI via Getty Images

The Atlantic Division leaders amassed an absurd 57-12-5 record heading into Thursday’s slate of games, and are poised to break their streak of 62 wins in a season.

The 1976-77 Canadiens were the fastest team in league history to reach 100 points and are on pace to tie the all-time most.

Unsurprisingly, the Islanders beat the Islanders in all three of the two teams’ meetings, including a 6-2 rout at TD Garden in the last outing.

The Isles would be vital if they were to face Boston and rightfully so.

That’s no less a reflection on the Bruins, who have looked untouchable all year. Figuring out how to match up David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron in a playoff series would be a monumental task for Lane Lambert, and Linus Ullmark may be the only goaltender in the league to play against Sorokin this year.

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