Arthur Staple Arthur Staple

Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.

It might appear that John Tavares hasn't been the John Tavares of old as the Islanders have made their charge toward the playoffs.

That's an optical illusion. It was noticeable that Tavares did not have a point in Thursday's 2-1 win over the Bruins in Boston, but only because it was just the second win in 15 games this season (2-10-3) for the Islanders in which Tavares was held off the scoresheet. And he produced the shootout winner in the other victory, a 3-2 win over the Senators on Mar. 19.

But Tavares had six goals and three assists over the Isles' 8-1-1 run entering Saturday; it's the help he's been getting from the Isles' other forward lines that has made it seem like No. 91 isn't carrying the team.

"We're not going to win with just me going. We need everyone. That's what makes teams successful," Tavares said. "I've said it all along: I can't do this by myself. And we've got a great group here."

Tavares will still merit Hart Trophy consideration if the Islanders continue their roll into the postseason, up there with the still-injured Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, and the red hot Alex Ovechkin. But if he were scoring at his current rate and the Isles were not backing him up with strong offense and defense, his MVP ballots would be far fewer, strange as that may seem.

"We've had guys step up all year, that's the biggest difference," he said. "Josh [Bailey] did it in Boston, Colin McDonald in Philly, Matty Martin with the winner against Tampa -- what those guys accomplish on the ice is just as important as what I do."

Streit's leadership paying dividends

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When the Isles were scuffling through a five-game losing streak in early February, questions were raised as to whether they had enough leadership in their dressing room.

Mark Streit said at the time: "We don't need cheerleaders in here."

The captain's style has paid dividends, it seems, with the team's mix jelling solidly over the last month.

"It really is a process," said Streit, whose patient approach is echoed by the coaching staff. "Sometimes you have to lose a few in order to learn how to play and finish games the right way. It can take longer than maybe you would like, but I think we're showing what we learned."

Bridgeport on the brink

The Sound Tigers and their influx of newly signed prospects -- forward Ryan Strome (1-3-4 in six games) and defensemen Scott Mayfield and Andrey Pedan all joined the team in the past two weeks -- have only four games left to make up a four-point deficit and reach the postseason.

If they do not make it when the regular season ends a week from Sunday, several of their players could join the Isles' expanded roster for some practice time, including Brock Nelson, who leads Bridgeport with 51 points, Strome, Nino Niederreiter (team-high 27 goals) and Matt Donovan.