The New York Islanders captain has returned to his ship.
John Tavares hit the ice at Islanders Iceworks Friday, the latest returning player to take part in a series of informal skates ahead of training camp.
Tavares, the team’s leading scorer, took drills and scrimmaged for about an hour Friday. He then worked on one-timers – a staple of his post-practice routine during the season – before greeting the media.
“It’s great to be back,” Tavares said. “We’re less than a week away from officially hitting the ice, so it’s an exciting time, especially wanting to build on last season.”
Tavares finished as the NHL’s second-leading scorer last season, hitting a career-high 86 points (38 goals, 48 assists), while being named an MVP finalist for the second time in three seasons. The Islanders also had the franchise’s best regular season since 1983-84, netting 47 wins and 101 points.
The stellar season was cut short, as the Islanders lost their first round playoff series in seven games to the Washington Capitals. Tavares doesn’t take losing lightly – he said it took him months to get over – but after analyzing what happened last spring, he’s focused and positive heading into camp.
“We’re disappointed, but it’s past us now,” Tavares said. “Getting out of the first round is a motivating factor and we believe we had a team that could go all the way and we’re lucky we have basically the same group coming back. We’re looking forward to it, the continuity is great.”
Tavares also touched on the importance of home ice in the playoffs, lamenting that his team fell one point shy of securing a Game 7 at home. It’s a lesson learned the hard way, but nevertheless, a lesson learned.
“It goes to show how crucial that point was for a Game 7 last year and you look at the opportunities we could have earned one more point throughout the season,” he said. “It’s something to build on, but at the same time we have to understand how hard it is to get there and get past that, the sacrifice and commitment that’s needed from everybody. It started with the summer and with the group, it starts day one of training camp.”
The 24-year-old was all business in his media scrum, picking up his routine right where he left off in April. He sat down in full gear, put on his Islanders hat and rattled off seven minutes of questions, speaking to the NHL’s new 3-on-3 overtime and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.
He’s in favor of both, saying he prefers the games to end in that format, even if it may be more taxing on star players, who will likely assume most of that ice time. He added that there will be no complaints from him, and that as a fan of the game, he thinks it will be an exciting addition. As for the World Cup, he said “we don’t see enough best-on-best international hockey” and said it would be pretty special to get that opportunity near his hometown.
For now, he’s resettling back on Long Island. He said it’s important to use this week as a final tune-up, but also to get a last bit of rest before training camp starts on Sept. 17.
For the Islanders, it’s once again time to follow Tavares’ lead. The captain is back.