If the New York Islanders are to finally win a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time since 1993 and snap the NHL’s longest current drought, John Tavares will likely have something to do with it.
Tavares has been the face of the Islanders franchise since he was taken with the No.1 pick at the 2009 NHL Draft and the 22-year-old is emerging as one of the game’s elite scorers.
The Capitals see Tavares and the Islanders for the first of three meetings this season Saturday afternoon on Long Island [1p.m., CSN].
“I think that he’s obviously one of the deadliest guys in the slot in the League,” said Capitals defenseman John Carlson who was teammates with Tavares in 2009 with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights.
Tavares had a breakout season last year and finished seventh in league scoring with career-highs across the board of 31 goals, 50 assists and 81 points.
Now in his fourth NHL season, Tavares has continued to impress in 2013. The Toronto native has 14 goals and 27 points in 24 games to rank in the top-ten in both offensive categories (through Friday).
Tavares recently scored seven goals during a five-game goal scoring streak and was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week on Feb. 18. He is also tied with Alex Ovechkin for second in the NHL with 93 shots on goal.
“He’s got a great shot and I think that the sneakiest thing about him is his stick,” said Carlson.
“I think we’ve got to be careful around the net and in the corners because he’s really good at picking pucks off and picking pucks out of people’s feet and those little things. And he likes to find his area so we got to take away his space.”
Tavares (14) has combined with Matt Moulson (11) and Michael Grabner (10) to score nearly half of New York’s 71 goals this season.
“I think that they’re a good team,” said Capitals coach Adam Oates, who also warned of a possible “sleepy” atmosphere at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY.
“They’ve had their moments where they haven’t [played well] but I think that they’re a good hockey club and they have some very good players and a great power play. They have a couple of really fast guys- Grabner gets a breakaway a game right?”