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Here comes Connor McDavid

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Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
6 months ago
There’s a chicken-and-egg relationship that’s proven tried and true across the spectrum of team sports forever – confident players tend to be successful players and successful players tend to be confident players. Confidence will ebb and flow, as do results.
That holds true even when you’re talking about the best player on the planet in any given sport. We got a first-hand look at that with the Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid to start this season as the Oilers staggered to a 2-9-1 start and McDavid struggled by his standards after missing two games with an injury.
The questions and consternation flowed non-stop as the losses mounted. What’s wrong with the Oilers? Fire this guy. Trade that guy. Two wins in a dozen games will trigger those prone to panic. Likewise, what’s wrong with McDavid? Connor didn’t look right, and while 13 points in 14 games is fine for mere mortals, McDavid has set the bar considerably higher.
Jump ahead to today in the wake of the Oilers taking it to the Anaheim Ducks 8-2 at Rogers Place Sunday on the heels of a 5-0 waltz over the Washington Capitals. The 7-12-1 Oilers still have plenty of work to do a quarter of the way into the schedule, but they’re feeling considerably better about themselves as the Vegas Golden Knights come calling Tuesday.
So is McDavid, who had four points against the Caps and five against the Ducks. McDavid is pushing the pace and dancing on his skates again. He’s tallied almost as many points in his last four games, with 12, as in his first 14 games. Less stagger and more swagger.

WHAT IT TAKES

Jan 25, 2022; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) and forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrate McDavid’s game winning goal against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. Oilers won 3-2 in Overtime.
Even for a player as elite as McDavid, who is coming off a 153-point season and is a multiple Art Ross Trophy and Hart Memorial Trophy winner as MVP, confidence – swagger if you prefer that term – matters. When you get embarrassed 8-1 in your season-opener and win just once in your first seven games after all the talk about Cup or bust, confidence wanes.
“Confidence is obviously a big part of it,” McDavid said of the bump provided by these last two games. “I think our whole team is playing better and I think that’s why you’re seeing guys start to have success.
“It’s not just a light switch that one guy or two guys can just turn on. It takes a whole group, and I thought our group’s been playing better of late and you’re starting to see guys have a little bit of success.”
The Oilers were down 2-1 in the first six minutes on two goals by Max Jones with Stuart Skinner fighting the puck. Skinner sorted himself and slammed the door shut, setting the stage for McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman to go work. This two-game turn could make for a good tilt against Vegas – despite the standings right now.
“It’s a big game,” said McDavid, who has vaulted into the top-15 in league scoring with 7-18-25, just three points back of Draisaitl. “It’s a measuring game for us to see where we’re at against one of the league’s best, if not the league’s best, and something that we should be looking forward to.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

While I had some fun last week even before this latest offensive onslaught by McDavid, predicting he’ll win the Art Ross Trophy again – I believe that – there’ll be more bumps in the road along the way. Vegas is more capable than most teams of providing some of that, so let’s not get carried away.
That said, confidence grows as wins come and wins tend to come as confidence grows, as I said off the top. Vegas is the class of the conference and will provide yet another test of that, so we’ll give that old truism another spin Tuesday.

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