This is the quantum leap that John Tavares made between Games 4 and 5.
Incredible, really, to see the Toronto Maple Leafs captain skating at the Scotiabank Arena on Thursday morning, barely a week since he lost the same record.
Images of Tavares’ 18-minute skill session spread like good news.
Given the heartbreaking scene of Game 1, in which the star’s center face collided with Corey Perry’s knee at high speed, the sight of Tavares with blades at his feet and a puck on his staff was a pleasant surprise for the hockey world.
“I think that’s the kind of reaction from us. We’re obviously very happy to see him, and he’s in a good mood, ”said teammate Justin Holl. “He looks healthy. Obviously, he has a few things he needs to work on before he’s ready to go and in playing form, but it’s really an encouraging sign to see him here.
“It’s just good for our team and good for us emotionally and mentally.”
Morgan Rielly added: “It’s huge to find him at the rink here today, to have the chance to talk to him and spend time with him…. We are lucky to find him so soon.
John Tavares was back on the ice in Toronto just a week after a frightening collision in the first game against the Canadiens. pic.twitter.com/LG1HLPQfZJ
– Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 27, 2021
Tavares suffered a concussion and a knee injury last Thursday. A two week schedule was given for the knee.
Coach Sheldon Keefe hasn’t had any official update on a comeback, but said “progress has been very good on both fronts.”
With the Leafs fortunate enough to knock out the Montreal Canadiens at home and advance to the second round for the first time in 17 years, Tavares played in the club’s Game 5 morning encounter. (Keefe wasn’t sure Tavares will watch the game in person.)
“Really, since the morning after his injury, the tendency is this. He communicates, talks to guys a lot, so it’s not completely new in that sense, ”Keefe said. “Sure, having it in person is a nice boost for the guys.
“We are expecting our best game of the series. “
Despite the frightening nature of last week’s injury – a rush to St. Michael’s Hospital was needed to rule out damage to the skull, neck and spine – Tavares reached out to his fellow Leafs within hours, helped allay their worries and redirect their attention.
Unable to travel with them to Montreal for back-to-back wins Monday and Tuesday, Tavares appeared on FaceTime to virtually celebrate with the boys:
“Yeah, that was awesome,” Holl said, his face lighting up. “You go up to a high level every time you win a game. Then you come into the locker room, you see it on FaceTime, it feels good. It feels good just in the sense that we are doing the right things to bring it closer to the game. ”
One-Timers: Toronto’s other injured top-six forward Nick Foligno (day to day) also skated Thursday morning. He “is making good progress”, according to Keefe, but will remain absent for a third consecutive game…. Rasmus Sandin returns to the lineup after being struck out in Game 4, replacing Travis Dermott on the third duo…. Erik Gustafsson gets the tap in place of Brett Kulak on the Habs blue line, as coach Dominique Ducharme is hoping he can trigger their ineffective power play. This marks a fifth consecutive healthy scratch for Alexander Romanov.
Maple Leafs Game 5 projected lines: