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G73 Game Notes: Connor McDavid and the Art Ross Trophy race

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Photo credit:© James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
16 days ago
Three players. Eighteen days. Twenty-seven combined games. Who will emerge and win the 2024 Art Ross Trophy?
— Nathan MacKinnon enters April with 127 points and eight games remaining. Nikita Kucherov has 126 points and nine games to play, while Connor McDavid has 125 points and 10 games to try and win the Art Ross Trophy. We can have fun projecting what we think will happen, but it would only be a guess. I wouldn’t count out any of them. The only thing I know for certain is that if there is a tie, MacKinnon will win as he enters the month with 47 goals, followed by Kucherov at 42 and McDavid with 29. Most goals are the first tiebreaker.
—  Elmer Lach was in inaugural winner of the Art Ross trophy in 1948. In the 75 years the trophy has been awarded, it’s gone to a tiebreaker three times. Bobby Hull and Andy Bathgate each had 84 points in 70 games in 1962, but Hull won the Art Ross with 50 goals. Bathgate had 28. Rookie Wayne Gretzky and Marcel Dionne each had 137 points in 1980, but Dionne won the Art Ross with 53 goals to Gretzky’s 51. In the 48-game 1995 season, Jaromir Jagr and Eric Lindros each finished with 70 points, but Jagr won the scoring title with 32 goals to Lindros’ 29.
— There have also been three seasons where the three highest point leaders finished within three points of each other.
In 1955 Montreal Canadien teammates Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion (75), Maurice “The Rocket” Richard (74) and Jean Beliveau (73) were separated by two points after their 70-game season. Richard led the scoring race after 67 games with 74 points, while Geoffrion had 72 and Beliveau 71. However, Richard was suspended for the final three regular season games and the playoff after he punched referee Cliff Thompson twice in the face on March 13th. This led to the infamous Richard Riots.
— In 2010, Henrik Sedin won the scoring title with 112 points while Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin each had 109. Ovechkin missed 10 games that year, otherwise he likely would have won. On April 1st, Sedin had 105 points, while Crosby had 94. Crosby scored 15 points in his final five games and finished three points shy of Sedin who had eight points in six games in April.
— In 2015 Jamie Benn won the scoring race with 87 points. John Tavares had 86 and Sidney Crosby had 84, but I suspect most forget what happened in the final two weeks. On the morning of April 1st Crosby led with 79 points, followed by Tavares and Ovechkin with 77, Jakub Voracek had 76 and Benn was fifth with 74. Benn and Tavares had five games remaining, while Crosby, Ovechkin and Voracek had six. Crosby produced five points in his final six games, Ovechkin and Voracek each scored had four in their six games. Tavares got hot and scored nine points in his five games, while Benn went crazy and scored 13 points in his final give games including scoring a hat trick and one assist in his final game to win the scoring title. He produced 5-5-10 in the final week of the season to win the scoring race. One of the greatest, if not greatest final week comebacks in Art Ross history.
— Benn’s final week is the perfect example of how unpredictable this April scoring race could be. All three are capable of scoring 10 or more points in a week. It should be great theatre.
— I’ve seen many outlining McDavid’s stats since Knoblauch took over. McDavid only had 10 points in his first 11 games through November 12th. He’s produced 115 points since then. But Nathan MacKinnon has been equally impressive. MacKinnon had 15 points in his first 13 games through November 12th. He had a five point-lead on McDavid. Today he is two points up on McDavid. MacKinnon has 112 points since November 12th. McDavid’s surge has really come since the All-star break where he has 58 points to MacKinnon’s 43. And no one should count out Nikita Kucherov, who has been consistent all season. He has 103 points in the same span. Kucherov had the best start, McDavid and MacKinnon have been very close since, and now whoever has the best finish will win the Art Ross.
— MacKinnon is looking to become the 32nd player to win the Art Ross. Kucherov is vying to become the 16th player to win it twice. If McDavid wins, he ties Mario Lemieux and Gordie Howe for second-most scoring titles with six. Wayne Gretzky leads with 10.
— While McDavid is in a battle for the Art Ross Trophy, he and his teammates still have a slim chance of catching the Vancouver Canucks for first in the Pacific Division. Vancouver has 100 points with eight games left, while the Oilers have 94 points with 10 games to play. They meet in Edmonton on April 13th. Vancouver owns the tiebreaker as they currently have five more regulation wins than the Oilers. Edmonton will need to be at least 7-2-1 this month to have any hope of catching Vancouver, and even then, Vancouver would only have to go 4-3-1 and they’d still stay ahead.
— Jordan Binnington leads all starting goalies in Sv% at .923 in 2024. He’s tied for eighth at GAA at 2.46 and he’s averaged the most shots/game of any starting goalie over that time. The Oilers should generate many chances tonight but finishing them won’t be easy.
— The Oilers and Carolina are tied for best P% in the NHL in 2024. They are both 27-8-3. The Blues have the 12th best record at 21-14-3. The Blues biggest issue is they’ve struggled to score. They are 24th in GF/GP at 2.76, but they are 10th in GA/GP at 2.79. Their lack of offence is why they won’t make the playoffs. The Oilers are fifth in GF/GP at 3.66 and fourth in GA/GP at 2.50.
— Two weeks ago, Adam Henrique spoke to me about the challenges of coming to the Oilers. “They play a much more attacking and transition style than I did in Anaheim,” he said. “It will take some time to adjust, as I find I’m hesitating a bit right now, but once I get comfortable and used to it, it will be good.” Prior to games v. LA and ANA, many people were worrying about Henrique. He is a very smart player. He is very responsible defensively and I thought he was playing well despite not scoring a lot. With goals in his last two games, it looks like he is finding more comfort in reacting to the how the Oilers play. He is more of a proven finisher than Ryan McLeod, so having Henrique on Draisaitl’s wing will likely lead to a few more goals, and it allows McLeod to use his speed on the third line.
— Leon Draisaitl is two points shy of becoming only the 20th player in NHL history with five 100-point seasons. Here are the 20 players with five or more seasons with 100+ points.
Draisaitl has the stars beside his name because he hasn’t officially done it yet, but it will happen this week at some point. This pretty much punches his ticket to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The only players on this list not yet in the HHOF are those who aren’t eligible yet in Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby, McDavid and Draisaitl. Draisaitl has a very good chance in the future to become only the seventh player in NHL history with seven seasons of 100+ points.

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