Maybe it’s a familiarity that goes back at least five years, when Tavares, the emerging hockey phenom, was playing lacrosse and hockey with Moulson’s younger brother Chris in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga – a connection that led to a friendship between their parents and to summers of long training sessions together for Tavares and Moulson.
“We never were on the same team, but we skated a lot together,” Moulson said Tuesday. “But he said he always had good chemistry playing with my brother. Maybe it’s in the blood.”
Or maybe, with the latest manifestation of their telepathic anticipation – Moulson’s Gretzky-like, from-behind-the-goal feed for Tavares’ snap goal against Edmonton on Monday – it’s just a matter of Tavares “yelling pretty loud,” Moulson said. “I think he would’ve killed me it I didn’t give him the puck.”
Whatever. This partnership is working out well. While top draft pick Tavares, only 19, is living up to his pre-NHL reputation, with five goals and six assists in 14 games, the 26-year-old Moulson (six goals, five assists) has raised a lot of eyebrows by equaling Tavares’ team-leading point total.
“He’s fit in well,” coach Scott Gordon said of Moulson, who spent most of the past three seasons with the Los Angeles Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate. “I knew he could score in the AHL. When he came to camp, we were hopeful, but it doesn’t happen too often” that a potential hockey vagabond has an NHL breakthrough.
Gordon still was fiddling with line possibilities in training camp when Moulson demanded attention with his scoring touch, and the coach liked the idea of pairing Moulson’s instinct for being around the net with Tavares’ playmaking ability. The third piece of the No. 1 line then became the relentless Kyle Okposo (three goals, seven assists so far), who is “strong on the puck, has a bigger body, adds an element of speed to create more room for the guys who can score,” Gordon said.
Moulson had called Tavares when Moulson was in talks with the Islanders during the summer. “He said, ‘Well, sign. Hurry up and sign,’ ” Moulson said. “We were hoping to get a chance to play together. But I didn’t ask too many questions” about where he might fit in.
“That last exhibition,” Gordon said, “I told [Moulson], ‘You made our team. But, every day’s your last day here.’ ”
So, maybe it’s the urgency. Every last day has been good.
Well, I don’t want to say I told you so…