NEW YORK — You can’t disappoint on bobblehead night.
As the New York Islanders raised their hands in victory at center ice on Monday night following their 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes at Barclays Center, center John Tavares stood in the middle of the pack knowing that it was his night to shine. His three points, including a pair of goals, dazzled the 11,841 fans in attendance — most of whom held his likeness in a rectangular box.
New addition to the work desk: John Tavares bobblehead to go with my 2013 Mets All-Star Game gnome. pic.twitter.com/EaJlm3EzvW
— Brian Mortensen (@brian_mortensen) November 17, 2015
Tavares’ play over the last week has helped the Islanders break out of their brief slump. A 6-2-1 start to the season was promising for a franchise hoping to make the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons. However, New York would win only one of their next six games (1-3-2) with a difficult three-game west coast trip on the horizon.
When the Islanders needed him the most, Tavares delivered.
Just 36 seconds into the first game, Tavares beat San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones to open the scoring in a contest New York never trailed. The 25-year-old salted the game away with an empty-net goal in the dying seconds. Although they fell short 2-1 in Los Angeles two nights later, Tavares assisted on the Islanders’ only goal. The center was held off the scoresheet the following night in Anaheim, but returned home with a bang.
Monday’s three-goal victory was due in no small part to Tavares stellar play. He earned the primary assist on Frans Nielsen’s opening power play goal that stood as the game’s only tally through two periods. Brock Nelson extended New York’s lead 1:23 into the third period before Tavares scored what ultimately became the game-winning goal, his third such goal this season, a little more than four minutes later. No. 91 salted the game away with an empty-net goal.
One week, three wins for the Islanders. Four goals, six points for Tavares. The last seven days were a microcosm of the success the Islanders can have when their captain leads the offensive charge — something he is no stranger to doing.
Tavares’ ascent into becoming one of the game’s elite has been steady and fruitful. He has improved in every season since coming into the league as the first overall pick in 2009. With nine goals and 17 points through the 16 games he’s played, Tavares is on pace to set new career highs in goals and points in 2015-16 if he keeps up his per-game pace.
While he will likely receive Hart Trophy consideration if he remains healthy and productive, the next giant leap for Tavares as a player and as a hockey star will be playoff success. The Islanders have failed to make it out of the first round in both postseason appearances with Tavares on the roster. The Ontario native has five goals and 11 points in 13 playoff games.
Playing their first season in Brooklyn provides a tremendous opportunity for Tavares to not only be the face of the team, but the face of the modern Islanders franchise.
The transition to Barclays Center for the Nassau Coliseum faithful has been challenging. Although the amenities Barclays Center can provide are world-class, commute times and a group of obstructed view seats have garnered the most attention. The best way to smooth things over with the fans of the “Old Barn” is to win and make all Islanders games a must-see event.
John Tavares is already must-see, and the team itself will be soon as they continue to progress and grow. Winning at a three-of-four clip the rest of the way is unreasonable, but if Tavares and the Islanders play anywhere near the level they displayed out west and in their return home, they will be a force to be reckoned with.