Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tavares run to stardom propelling Islanders

John Tavares' emergence to stardom has the Islanders thinking playoffs.
Maybe the turning point is when I foolishly traded John Tavares off my fantasy team. Sometimes, the best trades you make are the ones you don't. I'm paying dearly. Not that I was winning our league anyway with three teams stacked but at least I would've had a great keeper. Definitely not my finest hour.

Be that as it may, Tavares has been on a roll since the end of 2011. Hard to believe the '09 first overall pick won't turn 22 until next Fall. Here is the talented guy everyone was waiting for to explode. Perhaps even saving a proud franchise that should stay put in Long Island. Even when you read they've scheduled a preseason game versus the Devils in Brooklyn next October.

While the uncertainty surrounding the Islanders will continue, one thing is certain. JT91 is ready to lead his team into the future. With their season looking all but finished, Tavares strung together a 12-game point streak that sparked the Isles to eight wins, helping restore order. Over the memorable dozen, the Mississauga, Ontario native tallied 21 points (8-13-21) including seven multi-point games with two three-pointers in wins over Carolina and Detroit. The stretch vaulted him among the scoring leaders with five more points coming following Toronto ending the streak. He now sits tied for fifth with 53 points with his 22 goals one fewer than linemate Matt Moulson and 31 helpers trailing P.A. Parenteau (36).

Somewhat amazingly, the dangerous trio have turned into one of the most lethal scoring lines led by Tavares, whose playmaking and skill have made Moulson and Parenteau better. Exactly what you want to see from a budding star taken No.1. If Rick DiPietro is the franchise curse, then John Tavares is the franchise gift that gives Isles' fans hope that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. The names with which he now finds himself competing for the Art Ross are some of the game's best with everyone chasing the Pens' Evgeni Malkin, who entered play with 59 points. Familiar faces Claude Giroux, Steven Stamkos, The Sedins, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Pavel Datsyuk are all in the mix along with Leaf duo Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. A refreshing sight for Islander supporters.

Considering all the bad news surrounding Sidney Crosby, it's nice to see others stepping up in his place. If only Ryan Getzlaf was one of them. :P Hey. Older teammate Teemu Selanne paces the Ducks with 49 points, proving that the Finnish Flash could probably play another five years. Let's hope so. Tavares' outstanding play has the Islanders thinking playoffs again. And while it's still a long shot with the Devils dismantling the Flyers today (at last check 6-0 at Wachovia) and Toronto still nine clear also in action later, the Islanders still have to climb over three teams to make it. A pivotal match against Buffalo looms large for both Battle clubs. Each trying to gain ground. The Isles have gotten solid play from Evgeni Nabokov while Ryan Miller is finally looking like a former Vezina winner. Two huge points up for grabs. It'll probably be tight.

Can the Islanders come all the way back led by their future captain? It's a lot of weight on Tavares' shoulders. If his top line got any kind of consistent support from Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, perhaps they still have a chance. Until others pick it up including bust Josh Bailey and '10 first round pick Nino Niederreiter, they'll continue to go as far as JT91 carries them. At least for now, there's finally hope.

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