With 22 of the league's 30 teams out of the picture, NHL watchers can finally devote more attention to where they should have a long time ago: the magnificence of John Tavares.
His superhuman efforts against the Panthers in the first round are already old news and yet more accolades and fun tidbits keep pouring in about the Islanders captain as he takes center stage against the Lightning. This little nugget, for example, is pretty nuts considering the franchise he plays for:
In 22 career postseason games between 2013 and 2016, Tavares has 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists). He has five goals and six assists in seven games this year. Clark Gillies, for one example, had 12 points in his first 30 NHL playoff games. Denis Potvin had 14 in his first 17 playoff games. And if I had more time, I'd go game-by-game guy-by-guy but you get the point.
Pick a Hall of Famer and they haven't done as much as Tavares has in his first 20 postseason games. Yes, it's an arbitrary and probably pointless number. No, I don't care. John Tavares is great.
And if you don't want to take my word for it, how about the words of Mike Rupp and Ryan Whitney? The two former NHLers were back in The Players Tribune to give their takes on the teams in the second round and compared Tavares to a name that will make many of you want to spit onto the nearest sidewalk.
Tavares reminds me of Mark Messier. Is that a weird comparison?
No, I see what you're saying.
His skill set is so unique. He came into the league and people questioned his skating, and he turned it into a strength. Watch that overtime goal against Florida. His hands are so unbelievably strong. He makes things look easy that aren't easy.
Every single time Tavares is on the ice, he creates chances. He takes over games the way Messier used to. Guys love having him as their leader.
Also in that article, Whitney picks the Islanders to beat the Lightning, and Rupp tells a great story about Dan Bylsma giving the 2003 Devils bulletin board material for the Stanley Cup final. Bad idea, Dan.
Okay, last one (for today): In his first playoff edition of 30 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman spoke with Dawn Braid, who has been Tavares' skating coach since he was 18. In a couple of the items, Braid reiterates the stories of Tavares going from an awkward skater to a powerful one through hard work and perseverance, and also sheds some light on his nearly-as-infamous Terminator-like personality.
16. Tavares is all business. Braid said he has his summer skating schedule planned out by January.
"It will change based on how long the Islanders play, but not by much." I asked if there was a fun story about Tavares she could share. Braid was careful, not wanting to violate his privacy, but did come up with a good one.
"When I skate with people, I'm always grabbing their sticks to make a point. I guess John didn't like that, but he wouldn't say anything. Finally, one day, he came up to me with a stick and said, ‘Dawn, this is for you.' That way, I'd stop taking his."
The best part of the story? It took three years before Tavares did that.
January. The dude plans off-season training programs in JANUARY.
He's 15 years younger than me, but I want to be John Tavares when I grow up.