Oilers spark memories of glory days on back of McDavid’s historic night

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid. (Codie McLachlan/CP)

EDMONTON — Zack Kassian sometimes sees himself in his 50s or 60s, his feet up, watching the hockey highlights. They’ll be showing the top plays by NHL duos. The Gretzky-to-Kurris, the Lemieux-to-Jagrs and the Trottier-to-Bossys.

Then the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will pop up on the screen, and there, at the edge of the screen, or joining in the celebration, will be Kassian. His grandkids will cheer.

“There’s not a day I take it for granted,” said the right winger on hockey’s most dynamic line. “You don’t think about it much right now, but when you sit back, I’m going to be watching them for many years when I’m done playing. It’s pretty special. Every day.”

McDavid had a career-high six points in a 6-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche Thursday, while Draisaitl chipped in with five assists. Kassian, who is as perfectly suited to that line as Dave Semenko was to Gretzky’s flank back in the day, had a goal, a huge hit on Nathan MacKinnon on the game’s first shift, and a decisive win in the ensuing scrap with poor Matt Calvert, who was punished for being first on the scene and doing his duty.

Wearing the biker’s vest emblazoned with the banner ‘The Juice’ — given to the player who brings the most juice, or momentum, in a game — Kassian had the task of putting into words an 11-point evening by the National Hockey League’s two leading scorers.

“Do you sense anything different about them on a night like this?” he is asked.

“Nothing. That’s what’s crazy. Absolutely nothing,” Kassian said. “It’s just another day at the office for them. They’re probably thinking in that second period, ‘Hey, let’s go get eight!’ Or, “I can get nine!’

“They’re wired differently. They’re the elite of the elite. Edmonton is spoiled to get to watch these two guys every night.”

Four of Edmonton’s goals came on the power play, while poor young Adam Werner will never forget his second NHL start. He wasn’t great, but great might have left this game at 4-2, so lethal was Edmonton power play, going four-for-six.

“(Expletive) happens,” he said after the game.

McDavid scored on three wrist shots, all on the power play. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wired home a pair of goals — he has 4-2-6 in his past four games — but took a back seat to the big boys again.

Draisaitl, who usually does the scoring, played set-up man, simply moving the puck to the right option all through the night with perfect, tape-to-tape accuracy. He had a five-point night and played second fiddle.

Question: How often in one’s career could that happen?

Answer: How long are you going to play with McDavid?

“I wouldn’t want to be on the other side, but sometimes there’s just nothing you can do,” Draisaitl said of his centreman. “He’s just too good. I’m not taking anything away from those guys over there (Colorado), but sometimes it’s just unstoppable.”

It’s a different time than it used to be around here, when Gretzky and Messier and Anderson and Coffey and Kurri and Fuhr were all kids, blazing through the NHL with 400 goals a year, on a jag that produced five Stanley Cups and six Hall of Fame inductions.

This team can’t be that team. None can anymore.

But I can tell you, on Thursday night, when McDavid had four points in the first period, the feeling in the building was similar. It reminded of a time when the game was long decided after 20 minutes, but what you weren’t sure of was whether you were going to see some history.

Would Gretzky score six? Would Coffey have an eight-point night?

This team isn’t that team.

But this atmosphere? It was that atmosphere.

“I have coached a long time,” said Dave Tippett, “and I don’t think I have had a six and a five in the same game.”

Oscar Klefbom goes home to Sweden each summer, where everyone he encounters wants to ask him about playing with McDavid.

“Nine out of 10 times they ask me something about that,” Klefbom said. “It’s funny, because it’s so hard to describe with words.

“I talked with (new Oiler Joakim) Nygard last year about the Oilers, and obviously he is asking about Connor. Then he comes over, and (Joel) Persson comes over, and they still say, ‘Oh… my… God! You told me he was fast and can do whatever he wants, but this is something else!’

“You’ve got to experience it until you understand how good he is,” Klefbom explains. “Those two guys…”

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