Rarely do I single out one player as a game-changer in most Islanders wins. Saturday's (1/15) 5-3 win over Buffalo was a team effort, but the 'man of the match' (to borrow a phrase from English football) was clearly John Tavares.
It is rewarding to watch a metamorphosis take place. Though I have never witnessed it firsthand in nature, I feel that I am seeing something akin to the process whenever I watch John Tavares on the ice of late.
Since draft day, we fans have always sensed that J.T. had an innate talent for scoring. His Ontario Hockey League stats told us as much. Now, midway through his second season with the Islanders, he is transforming 'potential' into ability, and it is a treat to watch. As it must similarly be for the scientist in the field to observe a larva mature into an adult.
The suddenly accelerated development of Tavares was on display again against the Sabres. Tavares, who had already recorded 16 points over his previous 14 games (including 7 goals), netted a natural hat trick. While the feat is hard to perform on any night, Tavares bested one of the league's finest and highly honored goalies, Ryan Miller. In a span of 5 minutes and 46 seconds.
"He's one of the best in the league -- one of the best in the world," said the young forward of Miller following the game.
Tavares, who failed in a chance to bank at least one more goal against Miller, had no complaints with accepting the three goals and the win. "I've worked on a lot of things, [gotten] better in a lot of areas, and it's nice to get rewarded and have the team get rewarded."
The last part of that statement is telling, because though the results may not have shown up from the outset, this team has been just that, a team, since Opening Night. Tavares, while accepting the personal recognition that comes with a hat trick, mentioned his linemates first when discussing the game's events.
Linemate Matt Moulson earned the game's second star with three assists, while P.A. Parenteau had two and nearly set up Tavares early on with a 2-on-0 breakaway.
Blake Comeau scored his 13th goal of the year following Tavares' trick, while goaltender Rick DiPietro stopped 40 of Buffalo's 43 shots on goal.
Thomas Vanek, Tyler Ennis, and Jochen Hecht had the goals for Buffalo, the first two men scoring on power plays.
News and Notes:
- J.T.'s hat trick was his second of the year (and career), the first coming on 10/23 against Florida. He now has 18 points and 15 assists in 2010-2011.
- With the win, the Isles improved to 14-22-7, the identical record that Edmonton holds. The two clubs are tied for 28th in the league, with only New Jersey situated below them in the league standings.
- The Islanders take on the aforementioned Devils at home on Monday (1/17). The game will begin at 1 PM due to holiday scheduling.