You hate to focus on him every night.
But he almost forces you to.
Connor McDavid is simply the most exciting player in the NHL and right now he’s on an amazing roll.
On Saturday at Rogers Place, the Oilers captain had two goals and an assist to lead his team to a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
Oilers goalie Cam Talbot deserves a major share of the credit as well. He stopped all 12 shots in the first period before the rest of his team woke up and made several game saves in the third after the Oilers had the lead.
Like Mozart was with melodies
They got that lead because McDavid decided to take over the game.
He is the fastest skater in the NHL and may be the best stick handler. His lateral movement is breathtakingly quick. On top of all that, his hockey mind is like Mozart’s; he thinks up plays at full speed the way Wolfgang Amadeus thought up melodies. There is seemingly an endless supply.
Here’s a recap of what the Oilers captain accomplished in less than three minutes.
Halfway through the second period, with no score, two members of the Oilers’ top line, Ryan Nugget-Hopkins and Pontus Aberg, headed for the bench for a change.
McDavid chose to stay on the ice because he saw an opportunity to push the puck into the Wild zone one more time.
He dodged a defender, regained the puck and skated through that slim space between the right-hand circle and the boards. From there he veered out from the corner, drifted across the slot and tried to beat goal tender Devan Dubnyk. The Wild goalie went down and covered the bottom of the net. The puck hit somebody in front and flipped up into the air. McDavid caught it on the blade of his stick and swept it into the wide-open net.
The goal gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead and changed the entire dynamic.
Nugent-Hopkins earned himself an assist while sitting on the bench.
Two goals in less than three minutes
McDavid wasn’t done there.
About a minute later, Wild forward Michael Granlund took a holding penalty. On the power play, the Oilers controlled the puck and had several scoring chances.
At one point, McDavid and defenceman Andrej Sekera worked it back and forth near the blue line. McDavid took the final pass and stepped to the top of the right-hand circle.
In that half-second, did he see what everyone else saw later on the slow-motion replay?
The replay showed Milan Lucic and defenceman Matt Dumba locked shoulder to shoulder in front of the net. Dubnyk is six feet six inches tall but he had no chance to see through, past or over them.
McDavid’s wrist shot was perfect, just inside the far goal post on the blocker side.
Two goals in less than three minutes. He added an assist late in the game on a Nugent-Hopkins goal into the empty net.
Four points behind in NHL scoring race
In 19 games since Feb. 1, McDavid has 18 goals and 12 assists. He now has 33 goals and 51 assists on the season and his 84 points put him third in the NHL scoring race.
Most hockey players do not strut, or brag. Most don’t like to talk about themselves.
So after the game, McDavid was once again reluctant to answer questions about his latest masterpiece.
His teammates and coach had no such qualms.
Asked about McDavid performance, Leon Draisaitl deadpanned: “Yeah, he’s good. He’s pretty good.”
Pushed for a more fulsome answer, he added: “You still get amazed, of course. He does something special every night and it’s fun to be part of.”
Nugent-Hopkins played left wing with McDavid all night while Aberg played on the right side. The line looked good together.
“It’s like something clicks and he’s just, boom, he just takes a game over,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “Tonight he was a man on a mission, again, so it’s fun to watch and fun to be out there with him.”
Another question elicited this response: “We’re all hockey fans, too. So, when you see a guy of his calibre — which you don’t, basically, ever — its fun to watch and fun to be part of it.”
Coach Todd McLellan said McDavid’s performance over the last month and a half shows his talent and frustration.
“I think he’s a little bit sour and a little bit bitter about how the year has gone. He is very aggressive in practice. He’s working on his game and everybody else seems to follow. So we’re lucky to have him.”
McDavid will set a new career high with every goal he scores from here on. He likely has 40 in his sights, or even 45.
Don’t bet against him.
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