I put the word resurgence in quotes because in my opinion, New York Islanders captain John Tavares never went anywhere. Sure you can argue that he got off to a slow start this season and didn’t look like his ‘usual self’ up until around the All-Star break.
That may be true to an extent, but even early in the season when he was getting acclimated with his surgically repaired MCL, Tavares was still making everyone on the ice with him better, setting them up with great scoring opportunities. It just took a while for Tavares’ impact to be seen on the stat sheet.
Now Tavares is firing on all cylinders and he has the numbers to back it up. He scored two goals and assisted two of line mate Josh Bailey’s goals for a total of four points in Saturday night’s 6-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. By that math, the Blue Jackets would have beaten the Islanders without Tavares on the ice.
After Tavares suffered a season-ending MCL sprain playing for Team Canada in last year’s Winter Olympics, there were many questions about whether or not he would ever be the same. In 59 games last season, Tavares scored 24 goals, had 42 assists and a plus/minus rating of -6. This season, Tavares has already surpassed his numbers from last year with 26 goals, 29 assists and a plus/minus rating of +4 through 56 games.
After being named the first star of Saturday night’s game, Tavares said that he thought he was playing the best hockey of his career in a post game interview. And it couldn’t come at a better time, as the Islanders are currently playing their best hockey in over a decade. The two definitely coincide with each other. Tavares makes everyone around him better and at the same time, he gets better when you surround him with talent.
Not only is Tavares putting up the numbers we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from him. It’s also a matter of when he scores. Tavares has scored a career-high five game-winning goals this season. His two goals Saturday night buried the Blue Jackets in what was otherwise a very close game.
Call it a resurgence if you want. But Tavares has been just fine all season. He may have had trouble finding the back of the net and he may not have looked the same on the ice early on in the season. But even the best players go through slumps and it’s perfectly normal to take some time getting re-acclimated to the speed of the game after a major injury and surgery.
John Tavares is just as good as he’s ever been, if not better. He has not missed a beat since top-line forward Kyle Okposo went down with an eye injury. So you can only imagine how dominant Tavares will be when Okposo returns.