The Islanders and their fans must have been happy to read what John Tavares told some national hockey reporters at last weekend’s All-Star Game, that the Isles’ captain looks forward to discussing a long-term extension with the club when player and team can begin talking contract July 1.
It’s not out of step with what Tavares has long said about being an Islander. It’s also just the latest opportunity for Ta vares on an international stage to be asked about not being an Islander, or essentially why he would want to stay with the team when his contract runs out after next season.
Not too many other superstars have to field those kinds of questions at the podium on All-Star Weekend. Or when they see the packed house of To ronto-based media, as Tavares might on Monday before the Islanders host the Maple Leafs on Monday night. For sure he’ll get those questions when the Islanders make their only trip to Toronto next week.
“It is what it is. Some days for sure you just want to focus on playing — that’s all you can control,” Tavares said. “A lot of stuff that’s going on, people saying or writing their opinion, you know how you feel about the situation and what’s going on. When the opportunity gets there and the time comes for that process to take place, that’s when I’ll start focusing on getting that done.
“Some of that media you don’t see very often, so perhaps they’re waiting to ask you something. And obviously up in Canada and Toronto, there’s always those connections. It’s a talking point. [Steven] Stam kos just went through a similar thing and people want to relate it to that because that just happened last year. So it is what it is. I try to worry about playing, enjoying being an Islander, enjoying the All-Star Game and that celebration.”
With Tavares posting nine goals and seven assists in his last 11 games, one thing that hasn’t been discussed much is how his newish role as a penalty-killer has affected his overall game.
He joined the PK squad Dec. 20 in Boston, with then-coach Jack Capuano taking assistant Greg Cronin’s advice to add Tavares and his faceoff skills to the unit.
Since then, the Isles’ penalty kill has allowed only five goals in 42 opportunities (88.1 percent), and Tavares has been on the ice for only one power-play goal against. He said the PK work has helped with his game.
“It does definitely keep you involved,” he said. “You have to be aware, your shift length, make sure you’re staying fresh throughout the game. PK takes a lot of effort, a lot of focus. That’s the positive and negative side of it. You don’t want to be out of energy late in games. But it creates good habits through the systems we play. A good stick, being aware in your own zone. It allows you to pick up on teams’ tendencies as well.”
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