It took five NHL games, but Connor McDavid had his first
dominant appearance of his young career. The rookie that everyone has had their eyes on since he was
14 years old lived up to the lofty expectations that have been growing and
growing sometimes out of control.
Last night, Connor McDavid gave the Flames a preview of what they are
going to be trying to deal with for the next 15 years or so. While most rookies
get the “Welcome to the NHL” treatment, he gave the Flames the “Welcome to the
McDavid Era” treatment. First and foremost his speed was on display. Just as he
victimized Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester in early games, he made Dougie Hamilton
look very average when he walked around him with the puck. After that it seemed
like the Flames back-end had to do everything they could to prevent being burned again.
To that end, when McDavid scored his first goal Russell was
so afraid to step up on the 18 year old McDavid that he backed up past the
hashmarks without ever challenging the kid. Connor McDavid unleashed a shot
past the ultimately screened Hiller that would just begin the night for him on
the official scoresheet.
McDavid Goal 1
The play begins with Wideman firing a shot inexplicably into
the far corner. The Flames forwards are caught deep as a result of this. Examples like this one are why we constantly hear anallysts harp on missed point shots.
puck is found by Nail Yakupov who sees McDavid ahead of him and gets him the
At this point it’s technically a 2v2 but Pouliot is even
further ahead of the play and was forced to walk the blueline to stay onside.
It’s effectively a 1v2 now but McDavid’s speed has to be respected. He was flying around the ice all game and had walked around Hamilton earlier. His combination of skill and speed is a game changer.
He uses the defender, Russell, as a screen and it’s behind Hiller
before he knows what’s happening. I imagine we will see this goal countless times over the course of McDavid’s career.
This play actually begins with the pressure being applied
from the Taylor Hall line at the end of their shift. Hall gets an incredible
chance because of Russell’s broken stick. The Flames recover but immediately
Yakupov is pressuring the puck carrier who blindly throws it up the ice. Fayne
finds the puck and throws it up the boards (would he move it any other way?)
Granlund takes the puck in his own zone but Connor McDavid
is breathing down his neck and the Flame Center passes to Hiller who sees his
Captain Mark Giordano to his right. Hiller directs the puck behind the net
where Giordano should be able to regroup with the puck.
Instead of this being a safe place for the star Defenseman
to settle the play down, Giordano finds that McDavid has swooped behind
Granlund to take a direct path towards the puck. Had Granlund been able to
force 97 to a less direct route the danger may have been mitigated.
Giordano mishandles the puck, perhaps as a result of looking
up to see McDavid is directly in front of him. This is where the brilliance of
McDavid is on display. He does not establish control of the puck behind the
net, turn, and pass the puck.
What McDavid does is he skates to within range of the puck
and makes a blind tape-to-tape pass directly behind him to Benoit Pouliot
without ever handling the puck himself. Incredible.
Pouliot gets the puck in shooting position, but Yakupov has
set himself up in the slot on the other side of the goaltender. Pouliot finds
Yak who finishes off a stunning play by placing the puck just inside the post
where Hiller has no chance to make the save while he’s coming across from his
right to left.
McDavid Goal 2
Finally the Power Play started to look good for a whole
game. First it was while McDavid was split up from Hall and RNH but here all
three factor huge into the goal.
This play starts with a puck battle between Ryan
Nugent-Hopkins and Mark Giordano. The puck finds its way to the wall and is
contested immediately by the two players. Now, I’m not going to say that Giordano
was cheating because he was afraid of the Nuge and was already embarrassed by
his poor play earlier, but he felt like the only way to compete for the puck was
to hold onto Nuge’s stick.
Fortunately for Oiler fans, RNH is better without his stick
than Giordano is holding 2 of them. He kicks the puck to Sekera who immediately
sends the puck back down to Hall in the corner. Hall takes the puck behind the
icing line in the corner without any pressure from the Flames players.
All of the focus is on that side of the ice and nobody seems
to have noticed McDavid skate in from the bench and behind all the defenders.
He takes a path to the edge of the net where Hall finds him with a beautiful pass.
Hiller never stood a chance.
I’m just going to leave this here. Hiller’s paddle saved the goal of the year.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 18, 2015