The stage is set for Connor McDavid to put his signature on a legendary playoff performance

Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
26 days ago
No matter what happens on Monday night in Florida, this will go down as one of the most fascinating Stanley Cup Finals ever played.
For the Oilers, there’s an opportunity to do what few have done before, rise from the ashes and win four times in a row while on the brink of elimination. For the Panthers, this is about not becoming the answer to a trivia question, an opportunity to shake the reputation of an irrelevant expansion team known for losing.
In the middle of all of this is Connor McDavid, who’s authoring a historic performance for the Oilers as he searches for the first Championship of his career. McDavid has five Art Ross Trophies, three Hart Trophies, and he’s on his way to becoming the third-fastest ever to reach 1,000 points in the NHL, but his performance in this year’s playoff run has been more meaningful than any of those feats.
One goal and eleven assists from McDavid led the Oilers to a quick five-game win over their usual first-round opponents, the L.A. Kings. The Vancouver Canucks were able to shut him down a couple of times in the second round but McDavid still buried nine points in Edmonton’s tight seven-game win. The Western Conference Final saw McDavid score 10 points in six games against the mighty Dallas Stars, highlighted by an overtime winner on the road to open the series.
The Panthers held McDavid to zero goals and three assists across their three wins to open the Stanley Cup Final but he dragged them back into the series with two huge performances in Games 4 and 5. McDavid led the way in an 8-1 win at home before scoring two goals and four points in a 5-3 win in Florida.
Put that all together and he’s got 42 points in the playoffs, nearly twice as many as the 22 points that Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk lead the Panthers with.
With the series back in Edmonton for Game 6, it was the rest of the team who came through for their captain. So often viewed as a weight that’s holding McDavid back, the Oilers flexed their depth during Friday’s 5-1 win. Warren Foegele opened the scoring on a beautiful feed from Leon Draisaitl, the suddenly invincible third line clicked for another goal, Zach Hyman buried a beauty on a breakaway, and Stuart Skinner turned aside 20 of 21 shots behind a strong defensive effort in which the Panthers were kept largely to the periphery.
It was a true team effort, one put forward by a group that wants nothing more than to help their leader reach hockey’s ultimate prize.
“Every game we go into, we know we have the best player in the world on our side,” Leon Draisaitl said after the Oilers arrived back in Florida ahead of Game 7. “But this league is really, really hard to just go through one player or two or three players. You need a whole team, and I think we’ve shown that.”
When people have been asked about McDavid during this Stanley Cup Final, everyone has offered glowing praise. He’s one who leads by example, who takes an interest in what others are doing, who pays attention to every single detail, who works harder at his craft than anybody else.
Corey Perry, a veteran of 19 seasons in the NHL, likened McDavid to Hall of Famer and four-time Stanley Cup champion Scott Niedermayer, in that he’s quiet but he’s constantly talking to everyone on the team. Kris Knoblauch, who coached McDavid in Major Junior with the Erie Otters, raved about how he’s been able to handle significant amounts of pressure since a young age. Stuart Skinner had to pause for a moment before reflecting on what McDavid means to everyone.
“I could sit here and talk about this guy for a solid amount of time,” Skinner said. “Off the ice, how hard he works. But the big thing is how he communicates with us, on a day-to-day basis in the room. He’s got so much confidence in us. For me personally, he gives me a ton of confidence in my game, whether I let in five or get a shutout, he’s always in my corner.
He always lets me win on the airplane when we play games. He’s an amazing guy. I can talk about him for a very long time.”
This is a team full of players who want to come through for the one who brought them here. Not a soul in that dressing room wants to let Connor McDavid down, not because he’s going to yell and shout at them, but because he’s made them believe that anything is possible. Everyone can see what he’s bringing and they’re doing what they can to match it.
The Edmonton Oilers are one win away from the Stanley Cup, and the stage is set for Connor McDavid to put his signature on a legendary playoff performance. An Edmonton win led by McDavid would etch his name as the driving force behind one of the most incredible stories in the history of professional sports.
Only four times in NHL history has a team come back from 3-0 down to win a playoff series, and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs were the only team to do so in the Cup Final. It’s never happened in the National Basketball Association and it’s happened once in Major League Baseball.
The 2004 American League Championship Series is baseball’s most iconic comeback, as the Boston Red Sox rallied to defeat the New York Yankees before winning their first World Series in 86 years. David Ortiz was the MVP of the series with walk-off hits in the fourth and fifth games, the marquee moments for a player who earned the reputation of being clutch enough to break a curse during his Hall of Fame career.
Basketball doesn’t have a 3-0 comeback, but the 3-1 comeback put together by the Cleveland Cavaliers against the dynasty Golden State Warriors in 2016 would be the sport’s most iconic. The Warriors set an NBA record with 73 wins during the regular season but LeBron James led the Cavs to a three-game comeback, something that hadn’t ever been done in the NBA Finals. The 2016 Championship is the first and only in the Cavs’ largely miserable 54-year history and is the most memorable of James’ career.
A win by the Oilers in Florida on Monday would cap off hockey’s iconic comeback.
It would be fitting for McDavid — the hockey prodigy of a generation who has always risen to the occasion, the leader who has brought the best out of everyone around him, the hope of fans who cheered through cold and darkness for years —  to have this story highlight his career.
It perfectly encapsulates the willpower, focus, intensity, and effort we’ve seen from McDavid over the years in Edmonton. With a player like this, truly anything is possible.

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