Usually, by the time the end of January rolls around our entire crew, and most of the team and staff, are ready for a break.
The All-Star break in years past has been pretty lengthy for the Islanders too. But this year with the addition of the bye week, the team only had four days without a game. That is everyone, but John Tavares.
Tavares participated in his fourth consecutive All-Star weekend. This year he was part of the winning Metropolitan team, picking up two goals in the Metro’s win over the Atlantic. He also had an assist and some good defensive play in the championship game against the Pacific. I have to say the second year of the 3-on-3 tournament was exciting. Even my friends who don’t watch hockey on a nightly basis were texting me about the action.
Once again, the captain represented the Islanders with class and told reporters in LA what he’s already relayed in several different ways to the media here in New York for months: he’s open to signing an extension with the Isles.
This weekend he said, “I mean, I’ve always stated how much I enjoy playing on Long Island, and the organization, how well they’ve supported me. Obviously, we’ve had some new ownership come in. They’ve brought some real good commitment and have shown their vision for the future. I’m excited about where the Islanders are heading and, hopefully, we can work something out.”
Tavares is excited about where the Isles are heading, and he’s not alone. While it was nice to take a mental break from work and hockey for the weekend, I didn’t really want to take a break. The Isles were playing so well the last two weeks, I was hoping they could just keep riding the wave.
The team and Tavares struggled out the gate in January. But, man oh man, it’s been a different feel at Barclays Center this homestand. The team is 5-0-1 since their shutout in Boston and Tavares looks the best I’ve seen him all season. After going pointless in the Isles first three games of January, Tavares picked up a hat trick in Florida and has scored eight goals in eight games with 13 points total over that span.
Okay, so the captain is jamming. That’s not enough. The Islanders need more than one superstar to win games consistently. They’ve had team effort wins lately and that needs to continue for them to tackle the tough road schedule ahead.
What we have seen from the Islanders the last two weeks is a renewed passion for the game and for playing together.
It’s exactly what Doug Weight called for in his first meeting with the players as interim head coach. Weight was not going to put up with third period collapses, something that was a struggle earlier this season. He had no problem benching Ryan Strome for a shift or two after a mistake. Strome has responded and so have his teammates.
I can feel a confidence building with the Isles. They look like they’re having fun out on the ice. I know the fans are having fun in the stands because winning IS fun.
In years past, I was excited to take a break at this point in the season. We needed a reset for February, which is usually a crazy stretch of games. But this year is different. I can’t wait for the Isles to get back into action Tuesday against the Capitals. I can’t wait to see how the team builds on this point streak and continues to push upwards in the standings.
I know it’s a long season, but I have a feeling the Isles are just getting into the best part of their season.
Like Tavares, I too am excited about the team’s future. If they keep playing like they have of late, the playoffs are within reach. Once you’re in, anything can happen.