He briefly touched on it during the usual postgame session with reporters, just one of the many things John Tavares quietly handles every day.
Plenty of fans and even folks in the hockey world had been wondering: What’s up with JT?
He came into Sunday’s game against the Devils on his second four-game pointless streak of the season. For comparison’s sake, he had only eight streaks of four or more games without a point in the first six seasons of his NHL career, and four of those were in his rookie season of 2009-10.
But more than just not scoring much — his first-period goal Sunday gave him three goals and no assists in his last nine games — Tavares didn’t look very much in command on the ice at times.
He gave a small hint after Sunday’s 4-0 win that things might be starting to turn around.
“Physically I felt really good out there,” Tavares said. “I don’t know whether it was the [three] days off before Saturday’s game, but I felt a lot better.”
Perhaps the flu that sidelined Tavares for a week in early November had a lingering effect that he hasn’t been able to shake. Tuesday night’s game against the Panthers at Barclays Center is the Islanders’ 19th in the last 40 days; not exactly extraordinary for the average NHL season, but not a lot of time to let one’s body fully recover from a week in bed.
But the weekend’s pair of victories seemed to show that Tavares is turning a corner. His line with Kyle Okposo and Brock Nelson, which had been downright brutal in Philadelphia on Tuesday, generated 20 of the Islanders’ 46 shot attempts in Columbus on Saturday night.
With Ryan Strome sidelined for the third period and overtime, Tavares played a season-high 25:27 against the Blue Jackets. There were a few too many moments of chasing the puck in the defensive zone and poor breakouts by that top line for Jack Capuano’s liking, but you could see the captain starting to become the familiar magnet to the puck he’s always been.
“It was definitely a mixed bag Saturday,” Tavares said. “We’ve had some games it’s been good and some it’s been too inconsistent.”
On Sunday, Tavares was hunting. He alertly stopped to Cory Schneider’s right to tap in Kyle Okposo’s feed for a goal in the opening period and could have had two or three more points, including one neat power-play setup for Nelson that Schneider denied.
It was a small step for an elite player who usually carries the weight of his team’s success on his shoulders and produces nonetheless. But Tavares’ slump hasn’t hurt the Islanders, who bring their 8-0-2 run into Tuesday night’s game.
“We’ve talked to them and shown them a lot of video,” Capuano said of Tavares’ line. “They know. Johnny is the last person you need to talk to in times like this.”
Notes & quotes: Strome (upper body) practiced on Monday after missing Sunday’s game. Capuano will decide on a lineup Tuesday morning.