McDavid failed to register his first NHL point in his second career game, and the lack of offence meant he simply blended in with the rest of his teammates as the Oilers couldn’t find the net in a 2-0 loss to the Predators in Nashville on Saturday night.
The setback comes on the heels of Edmonton dropping its season-opener 3-1 to the St. Louis Blues on the road Thursday night, meaning all the Oilers have to show for 120 minutes of hockey this year is a single goal that came about when Blues defencemen Alex Pietrangelo bounced one into his own net while shorthanded.
Clearly, the story here goes a little beyond a rookie trying to find his sea legs.
Before Saturday’s game, McDavid talked about the biggest difference between the pre-season matches and what he saw when the puck dropped for real.
“It’s just higher pace and higher intensity,” he said.
For what it’s worth, that’s especially true playing a couple rock-solid defensive clubs like the Predators and Blues. The only goal Nashville has surrendered in two outings this year came when the Carolina Hurricanes had a sixth attacker on the ice late in the Predators’ 2-1 victory earlier in the week.
According to Oilers coach Todd McLellan, bumping up against some of the best defencemen in the world is just part of the process for McDavid.
“He got to experience (Shea) Weber and (Roman) Josi, how big and strong they are,” he said.
McDavid — who managed to win just 18 percent of his faceoffs — actually drew a holding penalty on Weber when he slipped away from the rugged blueliner in the opening frame. But that power play was just one of five the Oilers squandered on a night when they could have desperately used a boost from the man advantage instead of a buzz kill.
“Our power play sucked the life out of us,” McLellan said.
The Oilers bench boss had McDavid on the top power play unit, but it was a switch he made about halfway through the game that offered the most intrigue in terms of generating more scoring opportunities.
McDavid, who began the game on a new trio between left winger Benoit Pouliot and right winger Lauri Korpikoski, was joined by Nail Yakupov when the 2012 first overall pick moved up from the third line into Korpikoski’s spot. The two connected for a quality scoring chance in the second period when McDavid sent a crisp pass from the corner to Yakupov, who forced Pekka Rinne into one of his better saves — he made 31 overall — with a hot one-timer.
McLellan, new to the Oilers himself, thought the move showed some promise, but he doesn’t sound like a guy who will stop experimenting any time soon.
“It triggered (Yakupov), it triggered Connor a little bit,” he said. “We’re still looking for proper combinations.”
What can be said definitively is that, through two games, the newcomer who’s asserted himself best for the Oilers is standing in the crease. Though he has no wins to show for his work, goalie Cam Talbot has looked sharp, something that has not gone unnoticed by his bench boss.
“He was very good again,” McLellan said.
As for the other guy, it feels like there’s a bit of a watched-pot-never-boils phenomenon happening. Every move McDavid makes is followed so closely that two games without a point somehow feels like 10. If we all managed to look away for a little while, one wonders if he wouldn’t be all over the scoresheet when we glimpsed back.
For now, McLellan will keep tweaking his lineup while reminding people the youngest guy on the team is still just trying to find his way.
“It’ll take some time,” he said. “He’s 18 years old.”