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The Day After: There’s Connor McDavid, then there’s everyone else

It’s time to give Connor McDavid the respect he deserves.

There’s no longer a debate about who the best player in the NHL is — it’s Connor McDavid. Last night against the Arizona Coyotes, he scored two goals and added an assist en route to a 5-1 Oilers victory on the road and cemented himself atop the league as he continued his hot start.

Yeah sure, it was the Arizona Coyotes, a team that completely dismantled their roster in the offseason, but it’s not like McDavid, who notched his 200th career goal, doesn’t do this against every team the Oilers face.

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Dating back to last season, McDavid now has 48 points in his last 20 games — a pace of 196 points over an 82-game season. Right now, he currently leads the league in goals, too, with six in four games and in points with 11.

Yeah sure, there are multiple other players that have scored five goals this year, but with all due respect, Anze Kopitar, Tyler Bertuzzi and Kyle Connor won’t be able to keep even a relatively close pace compared to McDavid. Connor’s on a level that nobody in the league can touch.

There’s a legitimate chance that we not only see Connor McDavid score well over 50 goals this year, but he might even challenge for upwards of 180 points. I’d like to say he can keep up the 225 point pace he’s currently on after last night’s win, but even that is a little crazy.

The Oilers have had a fairly light schedule to start the year, all things considering. Calgary, Vancouver, Anaheim and Arizona are all likely to be on the outside looking in when it comes the playoffs. The truth of the matter, however, is that the Oilers — for some wild reason — have struggled to beat lesser teams like these in the past. The easy ones were never easy, but Edmonton always gave the tough teams a run for their money.

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So for McDavid to score 11 points against these teams is about exactly what he should be doing, but even still, I don’t see him slowing down anytime soon. In his last season pre-pandemic, McDavid had scored 97 points in 64 games — a 124-point pace in the 2019-20 season. His point total was bested by only teammate Leon Draisaitl, who scored 110 points in 71 games and won the Hart Trophy.

He’s hot to start the year and who knows what will stop him.

Backhanders…

    • Warren Foegele got the Oilers on the board with the first goal of the game. A tremendous effort by him to drive wide, fight through contact and somehow get a shot off while crashing into the boards. He’s been everything as advertised as a bottom-six player for the Oilers this season and has formed a nice third line alongside Derek Ryan and Zack Kassian.
    • Speaking of being exactly as advertised, Zach Hyman has looked tremendous in his early days in Edmonton. He scored twice last night — one short-handed tally and one on the powerplay. He’s another new-to-the-team player that has fit right in without much effort.
    • One player who looks out of place, though? Tyson Barrie. The Coyotes scored just one goal on Edmonton and they were able to do so in thanks to some awful defensive zone work from Barrie. He couldn’t complete a short pass to Darnell Nurse coughing the puck up at the Oilers blueline, then got caught standing around reaching. Dave Tippett has dropped him down the depth chart in a few other games this year, but let him work through things last night. I wonder how long the leash is for Barrie and what we see happen with the defensive pairings.
    • As I tweeted about, the underlying numbers for most of the Oilers defenceman — Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci included — have been good. The sample size is small, of course, so let’s not overreact either way to them.
    • It sounds like Mikko Koskinen will get the start against Vegas tonight. He faced 28 shots last night and didn’t appear to have a tough time in doing so at all.

What they’re saying…

Two second-period goals 2 minutes and 22 seconds apart, and two third-period goals on successive power plays were the difference for the Edmonton Oilers in their 5-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes Thursday night at Gila River Arena.

The Coyotes’ goal was one to remember for defenseman Dysin Mayo, whose wrist shot from long range just 85 seconds into the third period was his first career NHL goal in his first career NHL game.

The Coyotes, winless in their first four games of the season at 0-3-1, trailed 1-0 after one period and 3-0 after two. Karel Vejmelka, in his second start in goal and third appearance of the season, stopped 26 of 31 shots.

In the second period, Hyman scored a shorthanded goal with the Coyotes on the power play. Moments later, McDavid skated around Arizona’s Johann Larsson and fired from close range between Vejmelka’s legs for the 24-year-old Edmonton captain’s 200th of his career.

“Their shorthanded goal was a big swing. Our power play was confident, we’ve played well on our power play so far this year, and instead of getting back into the game, you give them a bigger lead,” (Coyotes head coach André) Tourigny said. “I liked the way our guys responded in the third. We came two shots away from tying it and unfortunately when our penalty killing was called upon, we couldn’t get it done.” – José M. Romero
Arizona Republic


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]