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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Day After: As if we had any doubt…

As if we had any doubt Connor McDavid was going to hit the century mark this season. The hype had been building for weeks and it all came to ahead Saturday night with the whole country watching.

Only four points back from 100 on the season, it was clear from the opening faceoff something special was brewing in Edmonton. Thirty odd seconds into the opening frame McDavid dashed down the ice on a 3-on-2, but the Oilers were unable to score.

That’s fine, because they circled back to the neutral zone to do it all again and this time with the puck on his stick, McDavid made no mistake in finding twine. Three to go.

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By the end of the night, he went on to set up Jesse Puljujarvi and Leon Draisaitl twice to reach the 100-point mark in the team’s 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

But after the game, McDavid — as he has for the last number of weeks — was ready, in part, to talk about other players.

“First and foremost it’s unbelievable Leo got to 500 tonight,” said McDavid of teammate Leon Draisaitl scoring his 500th NHL point Saturday night, before turning back to his own accomplishment. “To see their reaction, the teammates reaction, it’s really really special.”

McDavid joins some incredible company. Over the last 30 seasons, only two players have reached 100 points in a season in 53 games or fewer: Mario Lemieux three times, and Jaromir Jagr once.

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He joins more elite company in that case, too. Mike Bossy did it in 56. Pat Lafontaine and Guy Lafleur did it in 55. Marcel Dionne 53. Jaromir Jagr 52. Phil Esposito 51. Steve Yzerman 50. Jari Kurri and Bernie Nicholls 48.

So what’s it like to be in such incredible company and be able to score at such a high rate for so long?

“It’s special to be a part of that group. those are the best players of all-time,” said McDavid. “As for my game, I’ve just been focusing on trying to be prepared each and every night.

“Team success comes first and our team has been able to play some good hockey most of the season. When the team is playing well, that’s when individuals are having success. You’re seeing lots of guys on our team having very good seasons.”

McDavid’s scoring rate would pace him for 155 points over an 82-game season, a feat in and of itself that hasn’t been reached since Mario Lemieux scored 161 in 1995-96. In fact, 155 has only been reached in the NHL 14 times in history.

But for McDavid to do it in today’s era, and with the way he’s constantly hacked and slashed at, makes it even more impressive.

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“It solidifies he’s one of the top players to ever play the game. The level he’s played at this year, and just what he’s accomplished… it’s one of those years he’s taking his talent to another level,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett after the game. “This is a player that gets checked harder than any other player in the league.

“I guarantee any team that comes in here talks about how they’re going to check him and keep him off the board, and he still does what he does. It’s an amazing, amazing feat what he’s doing.”

Backhanders…

  • Two other solid milestones on the season were hit last night, too. Leon Draisaitl scored his 30th goal of the season pushing him to a 46 goal pace over a full 82-game season. Jesse Puljujarvi potted his 15th goal of the year pushing him to a 23 goal pace. Impressive numbers from the both of them.

What they’re saying…

When watching the career highlights of Wayne Gretzky, you could be fooled into thinking he scored most of his 894 goals against the Vancouver Canucks.

Gretzky scored more points (239) against the Canucks than any other team, but actually did score a few goals against some others.

Gretzky’s first National Hockey League goal was against the Canucks, and so was his 500th, and his 802nd, which beat the career record of Gordie Howe that most people thought was untouchable before The Great One came along.

Watching these highlights, you are reminded how great Gretzky was and how opposite-of-great most of those Canucks teams were that he pillaged throughout the 1980s.

No matter how hard they try, the current Canucks will never be able to forget this awful pandemic season, and now they will be reminded of it whenever Connor McDavid’s career highlights are run.

The best Edmonton Oiler since Gretzky reached an unthinkable threshold on Saturday when his one goal and three assists in a 4-3 win against against the Canucks gave him 100 points with three games to spare in this never-to-be-repeated 56-game regular season.

McDavid finished his four-game, six-day series against Vancouver with 13 points. He is doing to the Canucks what Gretzky did more than a generation ago – but with far fewer accomplices. In nine games against Vancouver this season, McDavid has eight goals and 21 points and, yes, we double-checked that because it just sounds stupid. – Iain MacIntyre, Sportsnet


Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]