A Night at the John Tavares Show

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\ Getting into town yesterday provided me with a pretty cool opportunity \0x2013 I went with Mike Vogel, former play-by-play man Ron Weber and longtime stats guru Carter Myers to Oshawa for my first Major Junior game. And a game in Oshawa isn’t just any old OHL contest, but a chance to see hockey’s Next Great Hope, John Tavares. The kid who broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for most goals by a 16-year old with 72 is five days too young for the 2008 draft, so where he will play next season (Oshawa? Europe? Not in the AHL apparently) will be an intriguing storyline this summer.\

\ Oshawa was playing Peterborough for the second straight night, and there was some, uh, unfinished business from the night before. There was a fight at the drop of the first puck, one 40 seconds later and yet another in the second period. For being teenagers, these things were great theater. They drop the gloves, roll up the sleeves, drop the helmets, dance a little and then go at it. The entire game was pretty chippy (more on that in a second).\

\ Oshawa exacted revenge from the night before with a 4-1 win. Tavares had a goal and an assist, but was given the boot with about 17 minutes left for an open ice knee. The guy he hit, Kenzie Sheppard, was on the ice for a long time, but then came back pretty quickly and he was showered with boos every time he came over the boards or touched the puck the rest of the game.\

\ Tavares was really good, but it wasn’t one of those wow nights. He\0x2019s strong, incredibly smart, makes nifty passes and will get dirty, but he certainly didn’t appear to have that extra gear that Ovechkin and Crosby have. Besides the major penalty and game misconduct for kneeing, he also took an unnecessary shot at a guy earlier in the game. Still, he’s only 17.\

\ The other stars of the night were the goaltenders for each team. Peterborough’s Trevor Cann (a 2007 second-round pick of Colorado) had to turn away several point-blank chances in part because his team just couldn’t match up with Oshawa’s forwards. Oshawa\0x2019s Jakub Kovar stopped 41 of 42, and the Philadelphia Flyers property really made sure the Petes never got back in it after his team went up 3-1. Tavares’ power play sidekick, Brett MacLean had two goals and an assist. He was a second-rounder in June for the Phoenix Coyotes and is another guy with a pretty bright future.\

\ The whole experience, from the intimate arena with a pretty boisterous crowd to the often up-tempo and extremely passionate action to the car ride over listening to some great stories from guys who have forgotten more about hockey than I know, was pretty fantastic. I know today is going to be a special day, and I’m pretty sure I will remember yesterday as one too.\

\ — Corey Masisak

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