The NHL Playoffs are a time for the stars to shine. After an all important split in Pittsburgh, the Islanders will be hoping that John Tavares can do just that as they head home for the first playoff game on Long Island in six years.
Tavares has had a tough go against the Penguins in his career. After an impressive rookie season, where he scored 4 goals (including his first in the NHL) and collected 7 points in 6 games against the Penguins, Tavares' production against Pitt hit a wall.
In 11 games against the Penguins spanning the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, Tavares failed to register a point in 10 of them. The lack of production carried over into this season.
The play of his line was relatively good during the seven games against the Penguins this season. Tavares had an average Corsi of 4.71 in games against Pittsburgh and an average Fenwick of 2.57. The numbers as a whole are actually better than they look, as both were substantially affected by one dreadful game earlier in the season.
But positive play on the ice did not translate to positive play on the scoreboard. Tavares had only 1 goal and 2 assists in 7 games this season against the Penguins. The 0.43 point per game average was well below the 1.05 average he had against the rest of the league in 2013.
The lack of points is more alarming when you realize just how much power play time Tavares has had against the Penguins this season. Since scoring 40 seconds into the Islanders first power play of the season against Pittsburgh, Tavares has gone 36:55 of power play ice time without registering another goal.
In that time, Tavares, the regular season team leader in power play points with 31, has only 2 assists, one of those coming in the team's Game 2 victory.
In order to beat the Penguins at home, the Islanders will need Tavares to turn these trends around. They only need to look to Game 2 to have hope that he will do just that.
In his first 6 games against the Penguins in 2013, Tavares averaged a measly 1.67 shots per game, a far cry from his season's average of 3.38. But in Game 2, Tavares almost equaled his season's total in shots against the Pens, putting 6 shots on goal in the Isles victory.
Tavares also upped his game in the face-off circle. The Isles center had been poor against the Penguins in the face-off circle over the 2013 season, with a low 40.5% win percentage. But in Game 2 Tavares won 14 of 23 face-offs, well above not only his previous efforts against Pittsburgh, but his season percentage as well.
The Islanders will benefit greatly from a continued step up in Tavares' play, but will need him to produce on the score sheet if they want to beat Pittsburgh.
To beat the best teams, you need to get the best from your star player. Islanders fans have seen Tavares put this team on his back and take over hockey games.
As Game 3 draws near, it's time for Tavares to do it once again.
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