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Off the Top of My Head

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
7 months ago
It shouldn’t be any real surprise @Connor McDavid carried a 15-game points streak and six-game goal streak into play against the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Place last night — streaks that came to an end as the Edmonton Oilers dropped a 2-1 decision in a shootout.
Win or lose, playoff push or not, McDavid has made a habit of heating up down the stretch and this season has been no different as he closes in on the career-high for points he set in 2018-19 with 41-75-116 in 78 games. McDavid had 13-16-29 during this latest points streak and sits atop the scoring race with 42-66-108.
Barring injury or a decision by coach Jay Woodcroft to keep him out of games – not a chance that’s happening – McDavid should blow by that 116. What we won’t see this season is the gaudy 1.88 PPG McDavid put up with 33-72-105 in 56 games last season. He went into last night at 1.52 PPG and with a career mark of 1.43 PPG.
While it looks like there’s a fourth Art Ross Trophy in the cards for McDavid, the Hart Memorial Trophy debate continues. I no longer have a vote, but I’ve got McDavid, who has won it twice, Leon Draisaitl, the recipient in 2019-20, Jonathan Huberdeau, Auston Matthews and Roman Josi in my mix. How about you?

CONFIDENCE GROWS

In any case, the focus is getting the playoff pecking order and match-ups set with the Avalanche and Florida Panthers looking like the class of each conference. As far as the Oilers are concerned, a top three seed in the Pacific Division provides a far more favorable first-round match-up than a wildcard.
“Our players have put the work in to feel confident,” Woodcroft said, asked about confidence built during a six-game winning streak that ended last night. “That confidence is the feeling you earn through hard work. Our focus and attention is trying to improve a little bit each day.”
McDavid was a little bit unlucky not to get on the scoresheet in this one. He had five shots on goal, including a point-blank chance in overtime. He set up Darnell Nurse for a clean-cut chance that Nurse fired off the crossbar. McDavid could have picked up an assist or two on feeds to Jesse Puljujarvi alone. No matter.
“He was excellent tonight,” Woodcroft said of McDavid. “I thought a lot of the defensive plays he made in our own end were top-notch. He was a threat every time he was on the ice. He found a way to help our team get an important point.”

DAD IN THE MONEY

Apr 7, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (75) reacts against the LA Kings in the first period at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Bouchard had plenty to be happy about after Thursday’s 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings as he recorded his first three-point game in the 92nd game of his NHL career with a goal and a couple of assists. “Obviously, it’s a great feeling getting that, but more importantly we got the win,” said Bouchard. “That’s all that really matters right now.”
“He’s gaining a lot of confidence, not that he ever lacked confidence with the puck,” Woodcroft said. “But I think he’s doing a lot of really good things defensively. I think there’s a chemistry between him and Duncan Keith.
“Some of those plays he made were big-league plays. He moved the puck well and obviously got a shot through from the point in the third period there, and that’s what he does. Quite pleased for him personally and pleased for our team.”
Bouchard, 22, will make a lot of money in the NHL before he’s done playing, but hitting 10 goals against the Kings provides a tidy little bump now – a bonus of $212,000 – on top of his $1.596 AAV. Bouchard’s agent is none other than Dave Gagner – Sam’s dad — at Wasserman Hockey.

SPEED DEMON

Mar 12, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (41) tries to hold up Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan McLeod (71) during the third period at Rogers Place.
I can’t think of anybody with the Oilers right now, outside of McDavid — for my money the best skater the NHL has ever seen – who is quicker on his skates than Ryan McLeod. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I just don’t see it.
Frankly, I can’t think of a lot of players with better wheels than McLeod around the league once you get past the usual suspects like Nathan MacKinnon, Dylan Larkin, Matt Barzal, Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes. I’m sure there’s a handful of other guys out there in roughly the same class as McLeod, but not many. He’s a silky-smooth blur.
I’m not talking about timed events at skills competitions with guys doing laps. I’m talking in-game action and players who catch my eye with quickness or top-end speed. They just glide past those in hot pursuit of them. It seems like McLeod does that at some point at least once a game.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

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