Not that we didn’t know it before, but this week Connor McDavid made it clear that he has surpassed Sidney Crosby to become the best Canadian in the hockey landscape.
This is not a blow to the venerable Penguins captain, as he has provided so much thrill in 17 years as a renowned player in the sport. It’s more of a recognition that McDavid has raised the standard of his game to a level where it is no longer debatable.
McDavid scored one goal and three assists in Edmonton’s 5-2 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday. He was on the ice every time the Oilers scored, giving him a plus-five differential for the night. Crosby had a rather calm to difficult evening: he got an assist but ended up minus four. We can say with certainty that this has never happened to him, if not rarely.
“He’s so good at making something out of nothing,” Crosby said of McDavid, who went from heir apparent to unmatched. “There’s not a lot of danger and all of a sudden he’s on a 2-1 or he has a quick break. That’s a pretty small margin of error.
McDavid skates so fast and wields the puck so deftly that he plays almost at video game speed. It challenges how much anyone can dominate the game at a time when players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever before.
McDavid prepared Zach Hyman for Edmonton’s opening goal on his first shot. He then slipped another perfect pass to the old Maple Leaf on a 2-1 for the second Oilers. He later placed a puck directly on Evan Bouchard’s stick for an easy drive in during another 2 on 1. Then he scored an empty net with just over two minutes left to leave no doubt. on the result.
On that play, McDavid preferred to pass to Hyman for what would have been his first career hat trick, but Hyman nodded at the last second because he couldn’t free himself from a defender.
“I was trying to put the puck on him,” McDavid said. “I almost felt guilty for putting him in the net. “
Earlier, Hyman had one wiped out by an offside penalty on Kailer Yamamoto.
“I don’t think too much about it,” Hyman said of his three-goal opener. He’s scored two a dozen times. “I think that will happen eventually. “
McDavid scored 15 goals and tallied 40 points in 21 games as he prepared to face the Kraken on Friday night in Seattle. As remarkable as these numbers are, it was only second in the NHL as a pointer. His teammate Leon Draisaitl scored 20 goals and 41 points.
Edmonton is 16-5 and is battling the Calgary Flames for first place atop the Pacific Division. The Oilers’ start is their best since 1984, when Wayne Gretzky helped them out of the gate at 12-0-3.
Opponents will complain that Edmonton is really just a two-man team. I don’t remember if hockey fans said the same about Crosby and Mario Lemieux at the start of Pittsburgh, or if anyone said, “Yeah, but how good would the Blackhawks be without Jonathan?” Toews or Patrick Kane? “
The difference, of course, is that the Oilers have only won a playoff series once in McDavid’s six seasons, and the franchise won its most recent Stanley Cup in 1990. Edmonton has to have a long run in it. playoffs to turn some skeptics into believers.
In this way, the Oilers are no different from the Maple Leafs. At this point, it doesn’t really matter what Toronto accomplishes in the regular season. Despite the Leafs’ record, no one is going to throw bouquets at them until they prove their worth in the playoffs. They haven’t won a playoff since 2004.
McDavid is 24 years old and is now in his prime. Draisaitl is 26 and does the same. Between them, they have 81 points in 21 games. It’s Gretzky and Messier in a more difficult time for anyone to shine so brightly.
Crosby said this week that McDavid is playing at such a high level that it’s hard to believe he can find one even higher.
“I think he did,” Crosby said. “That’s the most impressive part about it. “
The Oilers have struggled to find consistency over the past few seasons. But their list is much stronger now.
Hyman has a dozen goals and 17 points. Jesse Puljujarvi has seven goals and also has 17 points. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has only scored twice but has 20 points. Mikko Koskinen is 12-2 in the net. Edmonton beat Pittsburgh with Darnell Nurse, Duncan Keith and Cody This all injured. He’s lost his best four guys on the blue line in four games and has always gone 3-1. On Wednesday, he dressed four defensemen who had played 74 NHL games in total.
Imagine how Toronto would fare without Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, TJ Brodie and Rasmus Sandin. Probably not too well.
The Oilers were outscored by Pittsburgh 26-13 in the first two periods, but came in the final 20 minutes tied 2-2. Then they blew up the Penguins. They have scored four times on 21 shots against Tristan Jarry, who had allowed three goals on 175 shots in the previous six games.
It is no longer a team with one or two turns of the pony.
“We kind of held on for the first 40 minutes,” McDavid said. “We kind of worked our way through the game, capitalized on our chances and got some timely saves. “
There will undoubtedly be highs and lows over 82 games. But the Oilers have been more than enough so far.
McDavid and Crosby have only faced each other eight times. In those games, the Edmonton captain scored four goals and 10 assists. Crosby has scored twice and assisted on five more.
On Wednesday night, McDavid won the opening face-off against Crosby. He worked hard to improve himself in this area. He remembered the first time he lined up opposite Crosby in the faceoff circle as a rookie.
“I was all excited and ready for the face-off and he pulled him away from me before I even knew it,” McDavid said. “I never even had the chance. “
Time flies, and so does Connor McDavid.