Well, that sure went nicely.
It’s too bad Islanders fans had to wait until this late in the season to get a chance to properly “thank” John Tavares for the way he went about abandoning the ship he never, ever, ever thought about leaving until like that last moment when everything changed, because that was a loooong time to wait to kind of turn the page.
Then again, maybe it worked out perfectly that this game came at a time when the games are getting increasingly important, because this team has real playoff aspirations.
So while the fans were going to whip up a cathartic playoff-like atmosphere to express what it was like to walk in their shoes, the players — several of whom are Tavares friends, feeling conflicted about the jeering to come — could channel that atmosphere (welcome to the Coliseum, Robin Lehner!) while focusing on playing Trotz Hockey.
The result: magnificent. Balanced scoring. Great D gaps. Scared and wilting Leafs. Solid goaltending. And Tavares — centering the most dangerous Leafs line last night by far — kept off the scoresheet. Definitely some foul language and rebukes at times...thank goodness all 30 other teams have no fans who behave this way, amirite?
Aside: Amid all the drama of the last week, and oblivious outsiders opining on the situation and telling us how to feel without actually bothering to attempt to understand why most Isles fans are pissed, I chuckled to myself at the theater of it all. Because I do think Tavares is a little misunderstood here and some fans are overly harsh; but similarly, I think he completely misunderstands the effect of all his cumulative steps toward departure, and continues to be tone deaf about it.
So I wondered if Pat Brisson and his agency had maybe put a fraction of their energy into preparing Tavares on how to handle his exit, if things would be a little less vitriolic. Like, those 70-page binders per team or whatever they put together to entice him to consider five other teams during that end-of-June made-for-TSN circus? ...If Brisson had maybe even prepared a one-page leaflet on “How to Handle Dumping the Fanbase You Just Spent Three Years Professing Devotion To.” “Step 1: MAYBE WAIT A DAY BEFORE POSTING A CHILDHOOD PIC THAT MAKES IT SEEM THIS WAS YOUR PLAN ALL ALONG.” “Step 2: TRY TO POST YOUR THANK YOU ON SOMETHING MORE THAN A COUPLE NOTEPAD SCREENSHOTS.”
I don’t know, I know that’s not the area of expertise where agents’ commissions are made, but it might’ve helped. (Then again: Think of all the Leafs fan preaching we’d have missed out on!)
About last night:
- Wait...we don’t need you! We don’t need you! It’s a new day! and other pleasing takeaways from a game that just got better and better. [LHH]
- “Some plastic snakes were hurled onto the ice during warmups ... ‘We Don’t Need You’ chants — fans held signs saying the same — as well as less-wholesome screaming. ... Tavares’ nameplate replaced by, among others, “Traitor” and “Pajama Boy.” Outside, some Tavares’ jerseys were burned in garbage bins. Another fan ran over a Tavares jersey with an SUV.” [Newsday gamer]
- They gave it to him all night. [Newsday] So many chants. [Post]
- The fans did not let up. [Mark Herrmann Newsday column]
- That was catharsis for decades, not just one player. [Post/Brooks]
- More recaps: Isles | NHL | Post | NYI Skinny | Sportsnet “The scene here Thursday was unlike any I’ve witnessed during a NHL regular-season game” | Islanders Insight | PPP (awww...)
- Tavares got a taste of the team he (almost) never had while he was here. Barzal: “But that’s the fun of sport, the passion. As a player, if I was getting that treatment, I’d laugh about it.” [Athletic]
- Johnny Boychuk dodged what could have been a terrible, even tragic situation. (He thanks everyone for their concerns, see below.) [Newsday]
- Leafs report card: They were mostly very bad. (But not 91’s line, which is fitting.) [Athletic]
- Forget Tavares (don’t worry, I will), it’s a great time to be an Isles fan. [THN]
- Now don’t you go overboard with the booing, ya’ hear. [Post]
- Tavares was ready for the return and the reception. (His team later proved they were not.) [NBC]
- Ahead of the Tavares return (and aftermath), this was a surprisingly diverse and informed set of opinions. [ESPN]
Not only, but also:
- The appointment of an Amazon HQ skeptic does not threaten the Belmont arena plan. [Newsday]
- Does anyone in Brooklyn care if the Islanders leave? [Brooklyn Eagle]
- In which Brooks implies that he’s (just now, in February 2019) dropping some MAJOR SCOOP (surprised it wasn’t labeled POST EXCLUSIVE) that in June 2018 Tavares ALMOST re-signed, but his agent convinced him to ponder all these other teams. [Post]
They React (and Chant)
Tavares post-game: Funereal. “Nobody’s walked in my shoes...” etc. I know it’s too much to ask because it’s not him, not how his circuitboard is wired, but he could totally alleviate some of the morose aura by sharing a laugh, maybe even acknowledging the theater of it all. (I know it wouldn’t happen after a loss, but perhaps during the pre-game scrum? Maybe?)
Barry Trotz: Playoff atmosphere, no cheat in their game, and good to have the Islanders back (after some rough recent games)
"As I said to the guys after the game... it was good to have the Islanders back."— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 1, 2019
Barry Trotz weighs in on tonight's victory: pic.twitter.com/XCv2356OAD
These Two Chants Though
Well done, well done. Funny and celebratory!
Ruthless Islanders fans chant “It’s your bedtime” and “Where’s your jammies?” during the third period of Tavares' return to Long Island pic.twitter.com/GWqYdf66Il— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) March 1, 2019
Thank you for all positive thoughts. I was extremely scared and I am very lucky to have someone watching over me tonight. A lot of thoughts go through your mind when you feel the blade touch your neck. The place was rocking tonight and we will see you tomorrow!— Johnny Boychuk (@joboych) March 1, 2019
Underrated Tweet (If I do say so myself...)
You could’ve joined him, dude.
Last night’s NHL scores include a Columbus OT win over Philly, and a bunch of other games (Boston trounced the Lightning in the Battle of Points Streaks).
- 31 Thoughts: Lots about the Senators, and also how Vegas won the Stone sweepstakes. [Sportsnet]
- Talking the Blue Jackets, and how they can afford(?) to go all in like they just did. [PDOcast]
- Brian Burke says the Oilers GM job is a “five-Aspirin headache” but that Connor McDavid will still draw really good candidates. [Edmonton Journal]