There is no automatic berth for the NHL’s All-Star team, but Islanders captain John Tavares essentially earned a return trip when he scored a record-tying four goals in last season’s game in Columbus, Ohio.
Tavares was a bona fide candidate for the Hart Trophy as he finished the season with 38 goals and 48 assists for a career- high 86 points, one behind Hart winner Jamie Benn of the Stars.
Tavares, giving an honest evaluation of himself, knows Wednesday’s selection was not nearly as clear cut. He was named the Islanders’ lone representative for All-Star weekend Jan. 30-31 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Certainly there could a have been a few guys from our team that could be going instead of me,’’ Tavares said after a 90-minute practice at IceWorks. He mentioned Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Nick Leddy. “Our goalies have really had outstanding seasons. I’m really the beneficiary of many guys, so I think my game hasn’t been as consistent as I would have liked this season.’’
Tavares has 15 goals and 14 assists. His missed three games because of illness. “It’s been up and down, no question about it,’’ he said. “I got off to a really good start and then, certainly, I got sick. I played OK when I first came back but then seemed to have a little bit of a lull. Since then, I played some really good games and maybe just haven’t been consistent, just capitalizing on my chances as I would have liked.
“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.’’
Tavares knows he has to be productive on the power play.
“Obviously we haven’t scored as many goals at times,’’ he said. “But we’ve had some great goaltending, we’ve played some good defensive hockey. Now we have to build that on out and be more consistent with the puck, create opportunities. Improving our power play is certainly one of those. And a lot of that falls on me, so I have to lead by example and be consistent and be counted on that way.’’