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Things coming together for Islanders

Things coming together for Islanders
things-coming-together-for-islanders


Over the past few seasons, many in the hockey http://www.officialavalancheonline.com/Red+Joe+Sakic+Jersey world wondered just why John Tavares had signed a six-year deal a few seasons back with a team that seemingly kept shooting itself in the foot Now you know why: The New York Islanders are rocking the Nassau Coliseum in their final season before moving to Brooklyn next season, contending for first place in the NHL standings and showing signs through their youthful core that they intend to do so for many more years at their new address. There's so much more work ahead before they fully convince everyone, but Tavares appears to have been rewarded for his decision to remain loyal to the team that took him first overall in the 2009 NHL draft. "They drafted me, invested a lot in me as far as being part of turning things around," Tavares told ESPN.com on Sunday in a phone interview. "And I thought it would be something pretty special to be part of bringing the Islanders back to competing for the playoffs and hopefully competing for Stanley Cups every year. We know the history of the team; for many years there have been tough times. "Really, I just want to be part of something special. There's still a long way to go, but certainly being here every day, I knew what the organization wanted to accomplish and how much they care. I really enjoy playing here." These are heady days in the place some people once mockingly called Fantasy Island. All those high draft picks are producing results on the ice this season to the tune of a 17-7-0 record. What a send-off. Those battered Islanders fans, who have witnessed just two playoff berths since the 2004-05 lockout, are rocking the Coliseum these days, their patience and loyalty finally rewarded. "We have a tremendous fan base," Tavares said. "From the outside Lanny McDonald Red Jersey I know it doesn't always seem that way, but this season being at the Coliseum and seeing the crowds we've had, the support we've had has been absolutely tremendous. It's a playoff atmosphere really every night. We have a great group. All those tough years we've had, we're starting to see some dividends with the young players, some still in junior and the minors. "With the depth we have, we have time to develop these guys, and they'll have an impact in the future. It really sets us up for the long haul. That's why I know there's some good things coming." Youngsters such as Brock Nelson (20 points) and Ryan Strome (17 points) have blossomed this season, but the really telling numbers are in the ice time. Every regular is in double digits for average ice time per game. This is a team with roles for everyone. "They've got a lot of balance in their lines," said a rival Eastern Conference team executive. "They're not just a one-line team. Obviously, Tavares is the key, but now he's got a lot of balance around him right through four lines. This is the first time [GM] Garth [Snow] has had the opportunity to spend more money and he used it well. He added [Nikolay] Kulemin and [Mikhail] Grabovski, picked up the two defensemen, he fixed his goaltending. "They play with a lot of speed and create a lot of opportunities. They're a legitimate, contending team." A legitimate, contending team? How many years have Islanders fans yearned to hear those words associated with their team? "We've been playing well, it's just nice playing good hockey, getting good results, feeding off it and just getting off the right foot," Tavares said. "It's a long year, but it's important you start off well. It's tough to come from behind later on in the season and trying to make up ground. Since I've been here, we've had some tough starts to the season, so it's definitely nice, and we just want to keep it going." Snow set the tone this past spring when he surprised many by deciding to keep his first-round pick in 2014 rather than give it to the Buffalo Sabres as part of the ill-fated Thomas Vanek trade. Instead, he flipped the Islanders' 2015 first-rounder to Buffalo. "I remember people talking about us not scoring many goals, the games were really close. But in that locker room, you would never have sensed any kind of panic, any kind of change in our approach and our game. We understood how good we were and how tough we were making it on teams defensively and how hard we were making it on them in terms of creating opportunities. You could see the confidence, the poise and the composure no matter what. That's something I really noticed over there, just how composed everyone stayed and confident they were, a lot of those guys have gone through a lot of playoff runs and Stanley Cups, that was really beneficial to me." In turn, it's benefited the Islanders, a club playing with http://www.officialavalancheonline.com/Red+Nathan+Mackinnon+Jersey more confidence this season. "We understand the talent we have," Tavares said. "Whether we're playing well or not, we understand the game we need to play. Everyone is poised and composed and sticking with it." Pinch yourself, Islanders fans, this is all really happening.

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