Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
Former New York Islanders 1st overall draft pick John Tavares has taken a huge step in development in each of his first three seasons in the NHL. Picked with the hope of one day leading the New York Islanders into regular contention, the franchise has been expecting him to also lead the way in the scoring department, something he’s done in each of his three seasons with the team, going from 54 to 67 to 81 points over this period of time.
His role with Team Canada has also grown over time going from some glorious moments with the WJC team to growing responsibility with Team Canada’s World Championship entries. Centering Carolina’s Jeff Skinner and Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle, Tavares finished up the tournament with four goals, nine points and a plus four rating in eight games, once again convincingly displaying his talents on the international stage.
But once again, the tournament ended prematurely this afternoon with a surprising loss to Slovakia in the quarterfinals despite heading into the third period with a 3-2 lead. John was kind enough to share some thoughts on what was clearly a shocking loss and terrible disappointment.
Hockey’s Future: Late in the game, Ryan Getzlaf took a penalty for a knee-on-knee check and Slovakia scored what ended up being the game-winner on the ensuing power play. You’ve been to three World Championships in a row, but it’s got to be an adjustment to the international rules each and every time. What do you have to say about the call that led to Slovakia’s game-winning goal?
John Tavares: It’s disappointing. It can obviously at times be inconsistent and different to what we’re used to back home, but that’s part of coming over here. That’s one of the reasons this tournament is so difficult. You get to these sudden death games and some calls can really define a few moments or a game itself. With that call there at the end, I don’t think we agreed with the 5 minute major. I thought Getz lined him up for a bodycheck and the Slovakian player tried to sidestep it to get out of the way.
But you know, it’s a fast game and the refs are trying to make the right call. You could maybe understand a two minute penalty there, but for us we didn’t totally agree with it. You just can’t worry about those things. It’s such a short tournament and the games are so quick, you have to put those things behind you. There’s so much at stake, you just have to put that stuff behind you real quick and move forward.
HF: And after what was such a promising tournament…
JT: Yes, we had had a really good tournament thus far and then today we got off to a tough start. Then we turned it on. It’s just kind of surreal trying to figure out what went on there.
HF: Things were going so well. It looked like you guys were going to take it. Would you say that that penalty was the turning point or was it perhaps the third goal they scored on the counterattack?
JT: Obviously the goal gave them that momentum, but they managed to stay in the hockey game the whole time. But like I said, we also needed to put that behind us right away and look forward and concentrate on the task at hand. We thought we were playing well and that we were controlling most of the hockey game. We were getting most of the chances and just had to stick to what we were doing. Then we unfortunately got that tough call, which put them on the man advantage and you know, they were quite empowered and got a few breaks. I have to give them credit. They did a good job. They capitalized on a lot of opportunities.
HF: Speaking of opportunities, this Team Canada features a lot of players who are pretty known for their playmaking skills. Exactly that element seemed to be missing today. Why do you think it was so difficult to create quality chances?
JT: They were really sitting back. They were clogging up the ice. When they saw us creating opportunities, they were getting their bodies and sticks in the way. Sometimes you just see guys in front of you and you try to make the right play and get the puck to the net. The ice wasn’t the greatest, so you just try to keep things simple, especially in a game like this. Don’t want to be too fancy. You saw how some of their goals went in. They just threw pucks to the net. These are things we tried to do and we didn’t want to get too complicated, but we just didn’t get the breaks and didn’t finish off enough chances.
HF: This was a tough loss and of course it’s something that’s going to occupy your mind for a while now. Still, what are you going to do now this summer to get away from this loss and start getting ready for your next NHL season, where you’ll be looking to improve your game for a fourth year running?
JT: Oh, that’s such a tough call right now. I’ll probably take some time off and regroup a bit. I’ll get some rest and get away from the game a bit. You know, it’s been such a long season – for many of us here – and we’re just going to have to get over this thing first. This is really all that’s on your mind right now. Obviously, you’ve got to get back to getting healthy after such a long season and then concentrate on optimally preparing for the next season. Right now, this is just going to stick in my mind. It’s really not feeling that good. You try to make your country proud and you wear this jersey with such pride. It’s just so disappointing.