Islanders vs. Maple Leafs Man of the Match: Or, why John Tavares is lethal

Catch me if you- LOL I know, you can't... - USA TODAY Sports

Breaking-but-not-quite-new news out of Boston continues to be sad. (And appropriately, tonight's Bruins game is postponed.) We need a pick-me-up diversion. Like selecting last night's Man of the Match.

Remember when John Tavares didn't often beat NHL goalies in one-on-one shot situations? Yeah, that's not a worry anymore.

Remember when his skating wasn't that good, and we wondered if it would stop him from being a full star? Scratch that one off.

And remember when it was even fair to wonder if he might ultimately end up as a wing? No more:

Tavares takes particular delight in the fact that people are no longer critical of his skating, even though he feels he still has room for improvement.

"I have worked very hard on my skating," he said, "but I think I can still be so much better in that area. It is just starting for me. I realized I had to get better, and now I'm just trying to expand off it. It is rewarding to see my hard work pay off, though."

Last night was another John #$%ing Tavares Game. All his linemates -- and his defensemen -- helped, to be sure. But Tavares shined in his hometown once again.

I particularly like how these days on 2-on-1's, he takes the space given to him while the defenseman plays the pass, creating essentially a 1-on-1 with the goalie that he is now quite good at converting. I'm thinking of this goal from last night:


...but I could be thinking of this one against too:


...or any number of other goals this year scored from between those two spots. And why is he getting more opportunities to shoot from such an enticing angle? Because otherwise he'll make an optimally timed and delivered pass like this one against the Jets:


Basically, Tavares is -- as he's always been -- such an incredible passer that the defensemen have to guard that threat. But now he knows how to take what he's given in the shooting lane on a 2-on-1, so the result is what we see here.

Obviously, he gets my vote (and many others) for Man of the Match last night. But this category is the chance for you to vote and call out kudos for the player (or combo of players) of your choice.

Have at it. And be well.

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