NHL.com writer Mike Morreale correctly picked just about every first-round playoff series, but he missed on Islanders/Panthers, which New York won in six games.
To be fair, though, five of the six games were decided by one goal and three went to overtime, so that series was about as close as it gets. And frankly, Morreale would have been correct if not for the otherworldly play of John Tavares, who had nine points in the first round.
“John Tavares is a player possessed in these playoffs,” Morreale said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “He’s just been unbelievable, man. Besides Joe Thornton of the Sharks, those two guys have really been my MVPs in the playoffs so far in the first round.”
Tavares had five goals and four assists in the first round. New York dropped Game 4 at home, 2-1, but won the final two games of the series by the same score – both in overtime. Tavares led the way in Game 6, scoring both Islander goals and leading the franchise to its first playoff series victory since 1993.
“Tavares has just taken that team on his shoulders and said, ‘Look, I’m going to take you. We haven’t won a playoff series in 23 years. We’re going to win one now,’” Morreale said. “Sure enough, I was at that Game 6 at Barclays. That place was electric. I was really impressed. That was my first big playoff game there. Credit the fans and the towel-waving and everything else that was going on – I mean, they really showed up and supported their team. And it was Tavares that scored that late last-minute goal that crushed the Panthers totally.”
New York trailed 1-0 with less than a minute to play in regulation, but Tavares tied the game with a nifty goal. Then he won it in double overtime.
“(The Panthers) had that game,” Morreale said. “They were bringing it back to Florida (for Game 7). They were looking at a possible Florida series in the second round, but Tavares said, ‘No way, boys. Follow me. Follow my lead. We’re going to win this game.’ And they did.”
Tavares doesn’t plan on slowing down, either. He had a goal and an assist in Game 1 of New York’s second-round series with Tampa Bay, leading the Islanders to a 5-3 win Wednesday. Game 2 is Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.