On Halloween, Islanders head coach Jack Capuano did not hand out treats to the media and the fans when he said that captain John Tavares would not play before the Isles matinee game against the New Jersey Devils. Cappy would keep the captain’s reason for being out of the line-up a secret until after the hockey game. So when Devils forward Mike Cammalleri beat Isles net-minder Jaroslav Halak five-hole in the shout-out to give the Devils the victory, the attention shifted away from the ice and towards the head coach as fans and the media looked for answers regarding Tavares’s health.
It was later stated that John Tavares was not injured, but was under the weather.
That was five days ago; yet the superstar center seems to still be fighting off whatever illness have come over him. He’s missed the past three games (including the Halloween matinee against the Devils) and the team’s lack of scoring is a direct result of the captain’s absence.
In the three games he’s missed so far, the Islanders haven’t scored more than two goals in any of them. In the ten games he’s played this season, the team has scored three or more goals in every game except for one, where they scored two; and according to Arthur Staple, he may be out of the line-up for quite some time.
The Islanders are 1-1-1 without their captain; but with reports surfacing that Tavares could be recovering for a little while longer, who will step up in his absence and keep this offense in gear? If you asked me this question five days ago, I would have said someone like Ryan Strome or Brock Nelson; but I would’ve been wrong.
Fran Nielsen has really shined in Tavares’s absence and continues to prove why he is one of the most criminally underrated centers in this league. Through 13 games, the 31-year-old has five goals and four assists (nine points) which puts him tied for second on the team in points. His ability to play during any situation makes him extremely versatile and worthy of his position on both the power-play and penalty-kill.
The Great Dane’s impressive play in all three zones is the reason he, and his line-mates Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey are finding success early in the season.
It’s nice to see someone step up due to Tavares’s absence, but no one can replace what John Tavares means to this team; and until he becomes healthy and back in the line-up, no one will.
With that said, Islanders fans everywhere hope you get well soon John. We can’t wait to see our captain back and ready for action.