Over the past few seasons the New York Islanders seemed to be lacking something. We all know their best player is their current captain John Tavares. During his time in the NHL, he has been getting hacked, whacked, beaten up and everything else in between. Still he somehow manages to be able to put up great offensive numbers. With all the times he has been getting hit and beaten on, nobody has really stepped up to help him out. Nobody has really shown me that they are willing to step up and help protect their superstar forward.
That was until last night.
During the third period of the Islanders’ shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres, Tavares got involved in a scuffle at the side of the net with Sabres captain Steve Ott. Ott had been chipping away at Tavares for part of the night anyway. During this altercation, Ott started to almost tackle Tavares to the ice, pulling off his helmet in the process. This didn’t sit too well with Matt Moulson, and more so Kyle Okposo, who both went after Ott, thus setting off a skirmish.
What Okposo and Moulson did, in helping out Tavares, spoke volumes to me. It showed me that, hey if you go after our best player and linemate we won’t wait, we will take that fight right back to you. That was sending a major message that the Islanders won’t be intimidated and sure won’t let something like that slide by. It says to me that if somebody goes after the team’s best player, or any player on the team for that matter, then you will have to answer for it immediately.
Okposo showed a glimpse of that toughness and willingness to throw down during the playoff series last year against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Heading into this year, I wasn’t so sure if that would carry over or not. Turns out it did. The Islanders showed that they will step up to protect each other. This was a big-time statement that the Islanders won’t be pushed around by anybody.
It may be a small sample size to look at, but it speaks volumes nonetheless.