Do it, Connor – do it.
With six games left on the schedule, Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers have already clinched a playoff spot and based on the standings in the North, they will almost assuredly finish second to Toronto, giving the Oilers home ice in the first round and a favorable match-up against either Winnipeg or Montreal.
Edmonton’s next three games are against Vancouver, a team in utter disarray with nothing to play for. Then the Oilers get two against the porous Habs, followed by one final match against the Canucks.
McDavid is nine points away from 100 in a shortened 56-game season and based on the fact he just hung four points on the Canucks Monday night, hitting that century mark feels less like a challenge and more of a foregone conclusion for the world’s most talented hockey player.
Now Edmonton could easily sit McDavid for a couple games down the stretch – no sense opening up your captain and best player to injury with the playoffs about to start, after all – but I think McDavid should go for 100.
Actually, I’ll be more forceful here: McDavid needs to go for 100.
Hockey has always been a humble sport, with even the greatest players in the game deflecting praise towards their team, shunning the individual spotlight as much as possible. That’s all fine and dandy, but it probably drives NHL marketing folks up the wall and it doesn’t help grow the sport in a pop culture sense.
But I feel there’s a more practical, psychological reason for McDavid to get to 100 points as quickly as possible in the coming week-and-a-half: it would serve notice that his killer instinct is here.
Like many of his elite forebearers, McDavid usually lets his play on the ice do the talking (though he has spoken a bit more passionately this season, particularly on the Colby Cave anniversary) and that’s fine. But if he rings up multi-point games in order to get to 100 points, it sends a message that he will not be satisfied with ‘good enough.’ This is a young man who wants to win a Stanley Cup and I believe he could put a lot of Fear into the rest of the league if goes full-on Dr. Manhattan now.
Again, let’s take it back to psychology: Right now, there is a basic strategy to stopping McDavid, or at least minimizing his impact; stay in front of him, don’t let him burn you with his speed. Toronto did this during a three-game mini-series early this year and even going back to junior, the Oshawa Generals did it when they upset McDavid’s Erie Otters in the playoffs during his draft year.
So it’s been done, but it is by no means easy. And in the playoffs, you have to do it four times before he torches you four times. Now how much harder does it get to believe you can slow McDavid down if he hangs four points on you in the opening game of a series? If McDavid lances the Canucks for nine points in the next three games, essentially just because he can, then what hope does your team have when you’re standing between him and the Cup?
McDavid is in his prime right now. He has gone nuclear and though he’s going to be one of the best players in the league for at least another decade (and likely longer), his apex may be now and next year. Goaltenders spook shooters all the time, particularly in the post-season, so why can’t McDavid have the same impact on the opposition?
There were games this year where it looked like McDavid might break Darryl Sitter’s record of 10 points in one game, but his shifts dramatically decreased in the second half of such games, which the Oilers were way ahead in. It was actually nice that coach Dave Tippett didn’t want to embarrass Edmonton’s opponents on those nights. But no one gets embarrassed if McDavid hits 100 points over the course of a 56-game season. They might be terrified at what they just witnessed – but that’s a good thing if you’re an Oilers fan.
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