The Toronto Maple Leafs are flying high in the Eastern Conference this season, and one of the reasons for that has been the strong performances from John Tavares.
Prior to the 2021/22 season, just the idea of having a fully healthy John Tavares on the ice would have been a positive for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the team’s captain has been putting in some of his best and most consistent performances so far.
Tavares’ shock double injury in Game One of the Leafs’ first round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens had many wondering when the star centre would be able to return to the ice, and whether or not it would take him even longer to return to the performance standard previously seen.
Fast forward to mid December and Tavares is not only back on the ice, having fully recovered, but is easily putting in performances that are far more deserving of recognition and praise.
After picking up a goal and an assist in the Leafs’ narrow 5-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks last night, Tavares took his totals to 13 goals and 31 totals points in just 28 games so far this season.
This sees him tied with Auston Matthews on the team for total points, having scored the joint-second most goals with William Nylander and the second-most assists (18) behind Morgan Rielly – with the 31-year-old registering multiple points in six of his last nine games.
Not only is he contributing offensively, but he is also leading the team in faceoff success with 59.8%. Mitch Marner technically has a higher success rate of 60%, but he has faced a grand total of five draws compared to Tavares’ 465.
His leadership on and off the ice is invaluable to the team, as seen during the Leafs’ playoff collapse against the Canadiens, with the captain providing a steady and reliable head and consistency in how he goes about his business.
Tavares’ $11 million AAV contract has regularly been mentioned as a point of contention, with his production dipping in the past two seasons (60 points in 63 and 50 in 56).
However, with more than a point-per-game pace and the Mississauga, Ontario native sitting just a couple of points outside the league’s top-five at the time of writing, there can be no question as to how important he is to the team.
The Winter Olympics are set to take place in Beijing in just a couple of months, and at this rate, Tavares would be fully deserving of being named to the roster of Team Canada – giving him a chance to excel on the international stage for the first time since the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Until that decision is made, however, the Toronto Maple Leafs will enjoy the rewards of their captain’s impressive season and continue to work towards post-season success after many years of first round troubles.