The Islanders put in, perhaps their worst effort of the season in Saturday’s 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. Their second straight sub par performance. Head coach Jack Capuano gave his usual “sunshine and rainbows” post-game news conference.
“I think the top guys that are here are playing pretty good hockey to be honest with you, the experienced guys,”
One of the top guys who Capuano mentioned is playing pretty well is captain John Tavares, who has 5 goals in his last 20 games. In fact, Tavares is having his worst statistical season through 39 games (15 goals, 14 assists, 29 points). Tavares was a Hart Trophy finalist as he finished last season with 38 goals and 48 assists for a career-high 86 points. He lost the Art Ross Trophy by one point to the Stars Jamie Benn on the last day of the season.
Tavares missed 3 games a month into the season with the flu. The aftereffects of the illness may have affected his play. He went scoreless in his first two games back but had a little hot streak (5 goals, 4 assists) in his next 7 games. The team has been inconsistent as its captain.
“I think my game hasn’t been as consistent as I would have liked this season.’’
The first line has certainly been a factor in the Isles struggles. Tavares has played with 7 different forwards in the first half of the season. Anders Lee, who started the season with Ryan Strome on JT’s wing is now back with Tavares alongside Josh Bailey. Besides the few months in the 2013-14 season when Thomas Vanek played with Tavares, he has never had an top-notch forward. The line of Tavares, Vanek and Kyle Okposo was one of, if not the league’s best for Vanek’s time with the Isles. Vanek rejected a contract offer from the team and was traded at the 2014 trade deadline. Tavares has never and will never use the lack of first-line talent as an excuse. He will always put it on himself.
Employee of the Month
What is a bit troubling is that John Tavares has 1 goal in four games this month. January traditionally has been his best month of his 7-year career.
Last four Januarys
2014-15: 8 goals, 8 assists, 16 points
2013-14: 7 goals, 13 assists, 20 points
2012-13: 7 goals, 4 assists, 11 points (January was the first month of the season due to the lockout)
2011-12: 9 goals, 13 assists, 22 points
The Islanders have 6 games left in January. Tavares and the team have to get their act together. New York has 49 points and sits 3 points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning as of January 11th, who currently on the outside looking in. But he has always played his best hockey in the second half of the year.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of hockey left and you don’t try to overanalyze too much. Just put your nose to the grindstone and just work as hard as you can.’’
Noel Fogelman is a 5-time Emmy Winner and started his career working on the Buffalo Sabres Pre and postgame shows for the Empire Sports Network. He then went to Bristol, CT to work at ESPN on NHL2Night and its coverage of the Stanley Cup. Follow me on Twiter @thefirstnoel19