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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Chasing 100

If Wayne Gretzky says Connor McDavid can reach 100 points in a 56-game season, that’s good enough for me — especially when the Great One said so before McDavid bumped his total by four to 81 with three goals and an assist in a 6-1 blitzing of the Winnipeg Jets Monday. It was yet another supernova performance.

Who’s to argue with No. 99 about piling up points? As he told Mark Spector of Sportsnet this week: “It wouldn’t surprise me if he gets more than 100 points — just to show people he’s capable of doing it.” Likewise, who is willing to bet against a red-hot McDavid, who goes into the rematch in Winnipeg Wednesday having torched the Jets for 19 points in eight games? Not me.

The 100-point buzz was even louder post-game after the Oilers vaulted ahead of the Jets in North Division standings with the win, improving their head-to-head record to 6-2-0, including five straight wins. No surprise, though, that McDavid downplayed his pursuit of the century mark to talk about the importance of a win that improves the Oilers to 28-16-2 for 58 points and has them locked into a post-season showdown with Winnipeg.

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“Not a ton,” said McDavid when asked what his pursuit of 100 points means with 10 games to play. “We want to play good team hockey coming down the stretch. I think that’s the most important thing.” The Jets and coach Paul Maurice, you can bet, will spend considerably more time thinking about what they can do to get a handle on McDavid when the playoffs begin than he will about his fourth 100-point season. Right now, they don’t have any answers.

FRONT-ROW SEAT

Mar 8, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) carries the puck around Ottawa Senators defensemen Erik Gudbranson (44) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Whether McDavid likes it or not, much of the focus in the final 10 games will be on his push for 100 points. Is the 19 points he needs do-able? Well, McDavid has put up 18 in his last 10 games to push his season PPG mark to 1.76. His career mark sits at 1.385. That leaves him behind only Gretzky (1.921), Mario Lemieux (1.883), Mike Bossy (1.497) and Bobby Orr (1.393).

“What he’s doing is once in a generation, and what he’s doing today is a lot tougher than I did,” Gretzky said in his interview with Spector. “Although I’m proud of what I accomplished, all the things we did, these players today are coached differently, the equipment is better, they’re coached different. It’s tougher to play. I’m the first guy to tell you that.”

You can look that up. In terms of career PPG, McDavid, Sidney Crosby (seventh at 1.278) and Evgeni Malkin (15th at 1.175) are the only current NHL players in the top-25. Alex Ovechkin is 26th at 1.105. We’re a long way removed from the days when The Great One and the Oilers filled the net for fun — when goaltenders were overwhelmed instead of over-sized.

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“There are a handful of players over the history of the game who are able to do that. Certainly, Connor is in that group,” coach Dave Tippett said. “His game . . . I’ve been around a long time, and there are very few people who can dominate a game like he can. And he does it in a lot of different aspects of the game.

“His speed is unbelievable, but his hands and his thinking are at another level also. He’s a driver on our team. (Leon) Draisaitl is a big part of that also, but Connor, this year, has been just superb.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Apr 19, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates a third period goal against /the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

We know McDavid is going to win his third Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion. It seems inconceivable at this point he won’t claim another Hart Memorial Trophy as MVP. We know the Oilers are locked into a first-round playoff date with the Jets, with home-ice advantage the only question. What we don’t know is if he can hit 100 points. That’s the storyline now, even if it’s a given McDavid will do everything he can to turn the spotlight on the team, as he did last night.

In McDavid, we’re seeing a generational talent perform at the height of his powers – just as Gretzky did in his heyday during the Stanley Cup parades marking the glory days of the Oilers. Enjoy every minute of it, folks, because it doesn’t come along very often.

Previously by Robin Brownlee