Knee Jerk Reaction: Leafs lose but John Tavares gets his milestone

Photo credit:Thomas Salus-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
6 months ago
It’s hard to be romantic about hockey most nights, but tonight was an exception. John Tavares returning to his stomping grounds with grudge holding fans booing him on every puck touch, with the GM who couldn’t re-sign him watching down from the press box, and probably more importantly with his dad in the building, John Tavares picked up the two points necessary t0 hit 1,000 points, but unfortunately the Leafs couldn’t pick up the win as they fall 4-3 to the Islanders in overtime. The Leafs are probably happy to have that point, and they will be celebrating their captain’s milestone, a mark that he is only the 98th player in NHL history to reach.
Tavares’ 999th point brought the Leafs within one goal as he deflected a Conor Timmins shot. A fitting point for the captain to have in his milestone game.
And in the mayhem of the final moments of the third period, John Tavares was were he has always been, right in the thick of it in front of the net, and he bounced the puck over to Morgan Rielly to send the game into overtime and himself into NHL history.
Tavares being able to come back to Long Island for this was probably incredibly special to him and for most Leafs fans a satisfying moment as the Islanders fans will be leaving their building with the win but also a very sour taste in their mouths.
I’m sure the Leafs will give Tavares a bit more of a fitting celebration when the team returns to Toronto later this week and while they play Columbus at home on Thursday, a pregame acknowledgement on Saturday night with Kyle Dubas in the building would also be fitting since he played a huge part in getting to this moment.
As for the loss, well… if you are going to lose I guess a late game comeback and picking up an overtime point is the way to do it.

Other thoughts:

  • At some point the Maple Leafs need to take a look at the number of long shifts they are taking. A big part of this may stem from the Leafs lacklustre blueline and improvements could be as simple as adding a stronger puck mover like Timothy Liljegren back into the mix but there was a number of times the Leafs looked in desperate need of a whistle. I wonder if this shift length issue is closely tied to Toronto’s Too Many Men on the Ice issue as they are frantic for those changes and relying on tired bodies getting to the bench faster than they are capable of.
  • I was all set to complain about Conor Timmins in this post before he set up John Tavares for his 999th point. While I certainly can appreciate what he brings offensively, I still think with a healthier blueline his time in lineup becomes situational at best. The depth role seems better filled by Benoit as a shutdown defender, Lagesson as a solid third pairing two-way option, but Timmins makes sense for when Toronto can cheat and sneak some extra offence into the lineup or run an 11F/7D setup.
  • Samsonov wasn’t wrong to feel bad about the first goal but had a solid enough night. Unfortunately, he was the second-best Ilya S. in net tonight.
  • A petition to have William Nylander lead a Leafs practice where he teaches everyone how to enter the offensive zone.
The Leafs are immediately back at it tomorrow when they cross the East River into Manhattan to take on the Rangers. A tough back-to-back that will likely feature the first start of the year for Martin Jones.
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