Edmonton – Conor McDavid is putting on an outstanding post-season performance and is pushing the Edmonton Oilers to even greater heights.
Take, for example, McDavid’s play in Series 2 of the second round of the Stanley Cup in Edmonton against the Calgary Flames. Oilers were trailing 3-1 after a disallowed goal and McDavid had just set a later goal for Leon Driesitl who was also called up.
Depressed? Not for MacDavid. Shortly thereafter, the Edmonton captain took over and dangled through the Calgary defense to score past Jacob Markstrom.
Edmonton bench exploded. Otters is back at work. Nor will Calgary score again as Edmonton went on to win 5-3 and even the best of a streak out of 7 with a 1-1 draw.
McDavid didn’t have much to say about his goal—”I’m just happy to contribute,” he said afterwards—but there was nothing wrong with his, or McDavid’s, impact in these playoffs.
And if McDavid doesn’t talk about his play, there are plenty of people around him willing to take the slack.
“The way this guy is playing at the moment is special,” said Oilers interim coach Jay Woodcroft. “He’s driving our team forward. Connor is the best hockey player in the world. He’s willing to pay a price to win. He’s driven to win. He’s making an impact on everyone in our organization with this desire to take his game to the next level.”
“I think he’s overstepping his bounds, right? That’s what great players do,” added striker Zach Heymann. “He has taken his game to another level, which is really difficult. But he leads our team in every aspect. He does everything. He is a big reason why we are here.”
“Here” for the Oilers are now leading their series with Calgary 2-1 after a 4-1 blast in Game 3 on Sunday. McDavid scored three points in that match, scoring two of Evander Kane’s three goals and another by Heyman. But McDavid’s dominance goes beyond the score sheet.
It can also get into your head.
“We’ve let one guy beat us up a few nights now,” Flames striker Matthew Tkachuk said after Sunday’s loss. “Just go back to the drawing board and figure out a way to stop it. Pretty much they have one player playing half the game and he’s playing some great hockey now and we have to find a way to stop that.”
Looking at the layers of McDavid’s contributions lately, it would be like stopping the freight train:
He can attack the attack zone with unparalleled ease and speed.
He can perform under pressure to keep the play alive.
He fights defensively to create the offense.
He’s been physically involved, throwing the second most hits (12) for Edmonton in this Battle of Alberta series, and the third most (33) through 10 playoffs.
The list could go on from there. McDavid has become more visible since the Oilers opened their first round series against the Los Angeles Kings, pounding the brick wall that was Jonathan Quick so he could pull Edmonton to a seven-game series win.
McDavid leads the NHL Postseason field in points (23), as he did in the regular season (123). He reached the Hart Cup final again this season. But it is not the awards that distinguish him. Which isn’t why Woodcroft is ready to put his star on ice when Edmonton protects a significant lead under duress, as he was late in Game 2.
“What I saw was a captain who, when the match was at stake, was ready to be in the shooting lane,” Woodcroft said. “When a goalkeeper gets pulled over and we kill a penalty, he was there for a reason. He put his body on the line so we could win. And that kind of self-sacrifice is what it takes to win this time around.”
McDavid Effect by the Numbers
One look at McDavid and he passed the eye test. The post-season stats tell a bigger story.
In Sunday’s Game 3, McDavid became the first player in Stanley Cup playoff history to have nine multi-point competitions during his first 10 games.
There was a pointless night in Game 4 against Los Angeles (quick close). Since then, McDavid has scored multiple points in six consecutive competitions, marking the longest such streak since Evgeni Malkin achieved the same feat in 2009 (and eventually won Conn Smythe when he lifted the Pittsburgh trophy). Only Wayne Gretzky (eight games in a row in 1983), Tony Curry (seven games in 1981) and Daryl Setler (seven games in 1977) have done better.
McDavid’s 23 points tied (with Boston’s Rick Middleton in 1983) for fourth through his first 10 playoffs, trailing only Wayne Gretzky (29 in 1983 and 25 in 1985) and Mario Lemieux (25 in 1992).
Finally, McDavid produced impressive singles, while skating alongside other top talents in Draisaitl and Kane. However, his characters are only one piece of the puzzle.
“[What] It shows that when your best players play the best hockey of their careers in the playoffs, your team really has a good chance of winning,” said Oilers goalkeeper Mike Smith.
According to Statletes, the Oilers have 34 scoring chances (11.3 per game) against the Flames when McDavid is on the ice. Without him, Edmonton created only 17 scoring opportunities (5.7 per game) and allowed 42 scoring opportunities (14.0 per game).
He also leads all skaters in the series in projected goals per 60 minutes (5.52). Draisaitl comes in second with a score of 5.18. Kane came in third with 3.82.
By the Oilers’ first 10 playoff games, Edmonton outperformed his opponents 102-47 with McDavid on the ice, for an astonishing +55 lead. By comparison, the Oilers had 62 scoring chances without McDavid on the ice, and they allowed 101 to score.
As a team, Edmonton notched 28 goals in the 5-on-5 post-season. McDavid was there for 17 (or 60.7%) of them.
With McDavid in the mix, the Oilers have given up only 169 shot attempts (16.9 per game) in these playoffs, compared to 376 (37.6 per game) when McDavid is on the bench.
It’s a stunning reflection on McDavid’s overall game and represents the sheer scale of the ways he makes Edmonton better. He was widely recognized as the best player in the NHL, but McDavid never stopped reinventing, tweaking and improving him. It is this commitment to excellence that impresses colleagues the most.
“Every year, in every important situation, he continues to take another step and take his style to another level,” said Oilers striker Ryan Nugent Hopkins. “I think this playoff was physically hitting the players, using his body to protect the disc and the shell. We see that as a group, and he’s obviously making plays at every opportunity. [that are] Available and creates something from nothing in many situations. But for our group, when it’s your leader and he does it [other stuff]You want to follow that and you want to follow suit.”
“Driven to be the best in the world”
When McDavid touches the disc in Game 3, a roar explodes at Rogers Place. The chants of “MVP” regularly prevailed among the thousands who wore T-shirts bearing his name.
When McDavid placed an open ice punch on Flame Blight Tkachuk in the first period, cheers escalated. When Speed McDavid made an interfering call against Trevor Lewis of Calgary, a rattling rang out in the ear.
This is the power of MacDavid. No words are necessary.
“Do I think what Connor is doing is special?” Woodcroft asked. “You don’t need me to tell you that.”
McDavid won’t offer insight into his superiority either. All his conversations are done on ice.
In this regard, what can be said? McDavid is more than just a game changer. It’s a chain breaker. This game has opened wide for Edmonton as it heads toward Game 4 on Tuesday (9:30 ET, ESPN) with a chance of putting Calgary on the brink of elimination.
Which will be just another day in the McDavid office.
“Every aspect of Connor as a professional hockey player is going into business,” Woodcroft said. “He’s driven to be the best in the world. He’s driven to find marginal gains on a daily basis. During tough times or bad times in games, what you see is someone who still maintains his character. In his play, you see a rise or a willingness to do a little bit more. And I think that’s That kind of effort and drive is contagious. And I think it resonates with our players.”
With two more wins over Edmonton’s regional rivals, he’ll do so on an even bigger stage.