Toronto Maple Leaf's centre John Tavares has reached the milestone of 400 career goals. The landmark achievement, which came as the Maple Leafs defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2, sees Tavares join an exclusive club of legendary players.
Tavares, who hails from Mississauga, Ontario, has been the driving force for the Maple Leafs so far this season. He is the top scorer with nine goals, including five power-play goals.
Joining an exclusive club of legends
To put the achievement in context, Tavares is just the 107th player to reach the milestone of 400 career goals in the 105-year history of the NHL and the 13th active player to achieve the feat. The top NHL goalscorer of all time is Wayne Gretzky with 894 goals, followed by fellow Canadian Gordie Howe, who notched 801 goals.
The reaction of Tavares, the captain of the Maple Leafs, to achieving the remarkable goal was modest and understated as he emphasised the team effort: “Just a big win. Just that more meaningful when you do it on a night where we get two points and the group plays well, everyone contributes.”
The enduring popularity of ice hockey in Canada
As the national sport of Canada, ice hockey also plays a major role in the entertainment industry. This is demonstrated by the latest version of the popular ice hockey video game franchise NHL 23, which was released last month and is a simulation developed by EA Vancouver. The 2022 version of the game featured in the NHL Gaming World Championships 2022, which took place in Montreal and was won by Canadian pro player Justin “Regs” Reguly.
Now the popularity of the sport in Canada is underlined by another area of the entertainment industry. At long last, hockey fans are now being catered for in the iGaming sector through the slot game Ice Ice Hockey. With so many other sports such as basketball, American Football and even fishing having dedicated slots, we are finally seeing ice hockey getting the recognition it deserves. New players in Canada have the chance to play the ice hockey slot and take advantage of slots free spins with a wide range of online casinos. If the hockey-themed slots prove popular, there is every chance the range of game titles could increase over the next few years.
Turning back the years
The loss of influential veterans including centre Jason Spezza through retirement and 33-year-old injury-hit defenceman Jake Muzzin has resulted in extra responsibilities for Tavares and he has responded with a rich vein of form. Even at the age of 32, he still works on improving his strengths, and he is now reaping the rewards of his hard work over the summer.
Tavares joined the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2018 on a bumper seven-year deal worth $77 million. The move represented a fairy tale return to the team he supported when he was growing up. Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe has highlighted Tavares’ desire to work hard and his attitude which has been the driving force behind the success of the Maple Leafs this season. The coach added that his industry, focus and determination have even led to him asking for extra work.
The fighting spirit of the Maple Leafs was demonstrated by the reaction to a run of four straight defeats to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Sharks, the LA Kings and the Anaheim Ducks. The string of losses led to a reaction which saw the Tavares-led Maple Leafs win three games on the bounce, including a win over the Boston Bruins.
An emotional return
Before the game against the Vancouver Canucks on the 13th of November, fans at the Scotiabank Arena honoured former Maple Leafs defenceman Börje Salming. The 71-year-old Swede, who was nicknamed The King during his 16 seasons in Toronto, scored 148 career goals and 620 assists for the Maple Leafs.
The tribute came in the form of a video of career highlights and ended with a standing ovation. Salming, who suffers from ALS, was the first Swedish player to be inducted by the Hockey Hall of Fame. Surrounded by his family he took part in the ceremonial puck drop with fellow Swedes William Nylander of the Maple Leafs and Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Vancouver Canucks. Inspired by Salming’s fighting spirit, the Maple Leafs ran out of 3-2 winners.
Struggling for form
One player who has struggled to regain his form of last season is Michael Bunting. The 27-year-old Scarborough-born left winger celebrated his rookie season in the NHL with Arizona Coyotes in 2020 and joined the Maple Leafs as a free agent in 2021. He enjoyed success last season, scoring 23 goals with 40 assists. But so far this season, his good form has deserted him.
Taking a leaf out of Tavares’s book, Bunting is going back to basics in an attempt to tap into last year’s form. He is now under some extra pressure as he is in year two of his two-year contract. He will need to improve on his goal-scoring after notching just four goals in his first seventeen appearances this season. Although he did score a brace in the 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on the 15th of November.
Last season, the Maple Leafs finished in second place in the Atlantic Division, behind the Florida Panthers. This time around, the Maple Leafs will be hoping to go one better and if Tavares is able to keep adding goals to his tally, they will be in the mix at the end of the season.