As the regular season continues to wind down, the New York Islanders face the last three games on their schedule against three tough opponents. Knowing playoffs aren’t possible this season has each player eyeing a different kind of conclusion.
"We have to become more aware (of our goals) at this time of year,” Islanders sophomore John Tavares
said. “We’re not going to make playoffs. You work hard all summer, all season and you’d like to achieve your goals.”
Tavares continued, “So we’ll see, but you just try to focus on playing the right way in the right system and being successful. If we keep doing those things, opportunities are likely to continue. We have to stop thinking about it too much.”
|John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders skates against the New Jersey Devils during the game at the Prudential Center on March 30, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images) |
Thus, they’ll continue playing for each other, but they’ve also got to play for themselves and for their stat sheets, hoping to hit those milestones. Perhaps the largest milestones left to be reached belong to Tavares and his linemate PA Parenteau
Tavares really wants to have his first 30-goal season, but he’s also going to do what he can to help Parenteau score his 20th because he remembers what it was like to reach that mark last season and knows how special of a memory it truly is.
“If I have a great chance to shoot, I’m obviously going to take that shot, but (Parenteau) has worked hard this year and he’s really proven himself at this level,” Tavares said. “He’s a great player and he’s been able to contribute on a consistent basis.”
Tavares continued, “Reaching that 20-goal milestone was a big deal to me, it was a great moment. So he’s one away and I’m two away, so if I can help him get his, it will improve my chances of getting 30.”
Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said he’s not surprised Tavares has reached this point in his career.
“When you talk about some of the guys that have come a long way since I got here, (you have to talk about Johnny),” Capuano said. “He’s probably the one guy that takes a lot of pride in his defensive zone (coverage). His plus/minus has come way down, he’s been on the ice for a lot of empty net goals late in the game, but it just shows what kind of guy he is and he cares about his team and his linemates.”
The third player on their line, Matt Moulson
, has already reached the 30-goal mark for his second straight season and all three players have produced over 50 points this season. It would be even more remarkable if they were able to each hit their own milestones.
“That would be pretty sick as a line to reach a milestone like that,” Parenteau said about a possible 80-plus goal combination. “We all have over 50 points too, which is pretty good. It’s not only about points. We need to get those wins too and if we do get wins, we’re going to be proud of them.”
Tavares and Parenteau know that time is running short, but they also know reaching their milestone is entirely possible. While milestones weigh heavy in their minds. their plan is to just go out and play the same game they’ve played all season.
Therefore, when they step on that ice-covered stage Wednesday night at TD Garden, that’s exactly what these two players will do.
|PA Parenteau #15 of the New York Islanders skates during an NHL hockey game against the Atlanta Thrashers at the Nassau Coliseum on March 24, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images) |
“We just have to make sure we’re ready to go,” Tavares said. “Hopefully these few days off here gave us a good rest and have prepared us for a great finish to the season.”
The Boston Bruins are a tough team to face, already having clinched the Northeast Division with 99 points thus far.
“They’re getting ready for the post season,” Tavares said about the Bruins. “You always want to go in (to playoffs) strong even if you’ve already clinched a playoff spot. It’s a tough place to play in. They play really well at home. They just play a really good team game.”
After the New York Rangers dealt a 5-3 loss to the Bruins on Monday night, the hometown team is guaranteed to come out angry and looking for their next win.
“The Rangers have played extremely hard, they’ve sacrificed their bodies in the two games that I’ve watched,” Capuano said. “For the Bruins to have that letdown, knowing the way their coaching staff is, they’ll be ready to play for sure.”
Capuano continued, “They’re deep. Their defense is solid. They have transitional guys on the blue line that like to join (the play). They have great goaltending and their four lines are as deep as anybody in the league. So there is a reason why they clinched the title in the division.”
“Again, down the stretch against Pittsburgh and Philly, we can’t look past this game,” Capuano said. “This is a good test for some of the younger kids before the season ends.”
So while the Islanders young team looks to earn their next win, Tavares and Parenteau, among some of their other teammates, not only look to the future, but look to reach their milestones.
“It would be great, but it would just mean we have more to strive for next season and beyond that,” Tavares said. “So we should be happy with our progress, but we have to want more for next season.”