John Tavares helps Toronto Maple Leafs with big playoff performance
As captain of the Leafs, the spotlight shines brightly on John Tavares and at times, his contract has made him a target for criticism.
There is no denying that Tavares has been a productive player for the Leafs but he was brought in to take this team to the next level. Considering Tavares was knocked out of the playoffs in Game 1 against the Canadiens, you can’t put last season failures on him.
What he did was take his role of captain seriously and made sure the team got the chance to face their most recent shortcoming.
"“Johnny’s our leader,” Wayne Simmonds told reporters during training camp. “He’s the ultimate professional. He had a bunch of guys up to his cottage. We went up there, trained, got a chance to spend time with one another. His mind is in the right place. “We had great dialogue with one another. We kept it real. We had to address what happened last year head-on, and we’re not hiding from it. It’s for us to learn from and get better and mature as a team.”"
Some are skeptical that Tavares can improve his game as a 31-year-old but you get the sense that he wants to put the end of last season in the rearview mirror. It would go a long way if he can step up with Auston Matthews out of the lineup.
He might not put up 47 goals like he did in his first season in Toronto but it feels like William Nylander has taken his game to another level which might help Tavares get close to that.
Where the Leafs will see Tavares at his best is in the post-season as he and Nylander will benefit from teams focusing on Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews and capitalize on those opportunities. He hasn’t been able to put up big numbers in the post-season yet but considering Nylander was the Leafs best player against Montreal, the outlook looks promising.