Tavares looks like start of something good
Arthur StapleArthur Staple
Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school
We just may have something here in John Tavares. Something to get excited about.
Through the parade of disappointed dignitaries speaking before and even during the game - I went to a news conference and a hockey game broke out - there was the kid that 16,250 came to see.
And he did not disappoint, unlike the politicians and developers and all the others who spoke of the Islanders' gloomy future as a Long Island franchise.
Tavares brought some game to the game, his first NHL game. It also featured his first NHL assist, followed by his first NHL goal, followed by his first NHL overtime, followed by his first NHL shootout, followed by his first NHL loss.
A full day for his first night in the bigs.
"I thought we played true Islander hockey," Tavares said. He didn't mean what fans saw last season.
This was maybe the start of something good - not great, not yet, not when Tavares and his teammates couldn't hold a 3-2 lead on the defending champs in the final 10 minutes of regulation.
But this was good, a good start after a whole lot of bad on the ice a year ago and plenty more bad off the ice during the last few months.
Tavares did it all playing against Sidney Crosby, The Kid, the league's marquee player and defending Stanley Cup champion. They were matched against each other often last night, and they each had a goal and an assist, the new kid and The Kid, playing to a draw until the shootout.
The Kid got the better of the kid then. Tavares' shootout try missed everything. Crosby's zipped through Dwayne Roloson's pads, and the Penguins left with a win.
Tavares left the fans wanting more.
The crowd chanted his name during warmups. They chanted during introductions. They chanted when he took the ice for his first shift.
And they really chanted, with the passion and the frustration of a terrible 2008-09 and an uncertain future for their team, when Tavares used those soft, lightning-quick hands to grab a loose puck and flip it over Marc-Andre Fleury's shoulder 7:09 into the second.
Tavares let loose then, too. The kid - our kid, not Pittsburgh's Kid - jumped in the air. He pumped his fist. He flashed a pretty big grin as his linemates, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo, dog-piled on him.
It was one of those pure-joy moments, a 19-year-old scoring his first pro goal and letting some of that tension out. And it made everyone's night.
Like Tavares, Crosby came out of junior hockey with a ton of fanfare, to a once-proud franchise that had been reduced to begging politicians for a new arena while it was unable to regularly fill its rundown old one, needing time to get used to the pressure.
"I had a really good chance my first shift to score [against the Devils' Marty Brodeur]," Crosby said. "I remember getting stopped and it was the first time I think I wasn't really disappointed to get stopped. I went back to the bench, and thought, it could be worse. It was a fun time and I'll remember that forever."
Crosby had an assist in that first NHL game in 2005. Tavares did The Kid one better last night, and nearly two better, getting robbed on a breakaway just a few minutes after that first goal.
"Both of those breakaways . . . That's something I've got to work on," Tavares said of that chance plus the shootout miss. The kid was gassed by the end of the third, a night when he played 16:54 and had a little bit of everything.
First assist. First goal. First breakaway. First shootout. First loss.
There will be a first win, soon. The new kid isn't The Kid just yet, but we've definitely got something here.