When it comes to team sports, it’s not often head-to-head marquee matchups between two of the league’s premier players live up to the hype…especially in today’s NHL. However, that has not been the case when it comes to showdowns between the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins. For the second time this season, Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby delivered on all the hoopla and the Richmond Hill native took his game to another level during yesterday’s thrilling 3-2 shootout loss.
Best game played all-season @RogersPlace
Oilers pulled themselves off the mat!
Crushed PITT in the circle 34-11 (76%).
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) March 11, 2017
From a point production standpoint, it was nothing overly special….a power play goal and shootout marker. Considering we are talking about a 20-year old who leads the league in multi-point efforts with 22 and scoring with 75 points, the Oilers – Pens box score suggests it was nothing more than an average night for No. 97. In most situations, the numbers tend to tell much of the story but not on this night. What we witnessed at Rogers Place was a young man elevating his game and it was breathtaking to watch.
McDavid was up for the challenge of facing his boyhood hockey idol during the two sides initial meeting back in early November. On that night, he came flying out of the gate and gave Pittsburgh fits from start to finish. The kid had a hand in all three of the Oilers goals and was by far and away the best player on the ice in what turned out to be a 4-3 comeback win for the Pens. It was an impressive performance and one the young phenom was certainly looking forward to.
Strong hunch that's most exciting game played in EDM since '06 playoffs. McDavid tremendous in both PIT games. Terrific theatre in OT/SO.
— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) March 11, 2017
“Tonight is going to be cool for me to play against Crosby, against someone I grew up idolizing and someone I have followed along his career,” said McDavid. “I’m definitely excited about that.” Those comments came pre-game in Pittsburgh back in November and summed everything up quite nicely. The respect level for Crosby was and still is through the roof but when it comes time to go out on that ice, all bets are off. It was that special something, which led to us circling March 10th on our calendar in anticipation of the encore presentation.
McDavid Too Much for Pens
As good as McDavid was in Pittsburgh, last night was an entirely different ball game. Despite dazzling hockey fans abroad over the first 111 games of his career, No. 112 was different from all the rest. For the first time since becoming a professional, he looked to be almost toying with the opposition…just as he did during his days with the Erie Otters. To watch one of the best teams in NHL look absolutely helpless in trying to find ways to “legally” defend him was staggering to watch.
If not for a Herculean effort from netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, he would have lit the Penguins up as if he was still in the OHL. It was both spectacular and rather surprising to watch unfold. While we got the feeling of a “boy vs men” scenario during stretches of the two teams previous tilt, it was the case from the drop of the puck on Friday evening. McDavid had a career-high nine shots on goal and logged an absurd 26:53 of ice-time. Every time he stepped onto the ice, it was must see stuff and was it ever fun to watch.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 11, 2017
His third-period power play marker carried the Oilers into the extra session and after watching Crosby beat Cam Talbot with ease in the shootout, the 2015 first-overall pick instantly replied with a snipe of his own to keep Edmonton alive in skills completion portion of the night. In the end, the result wasn’t the one the home side or their fans wanted but in the grand scheme of things, treating hockey fans to what was likely the most entertaining game played to this point in the 2016-17 NHL campaign was far more important.
If this is the kind of performance Connor McDavid can deliver in game No.67 on the Edmonton Oilers schedule, albeit one that holds special personal meaning to the player, what should we expect come playoff time? Could there be another level for this kid to reach at the age of 20? It is rather hard to fathom but betting against him doing just that would not appear to be the smartest of things to do.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.