EDMONTON — There are only so many things you can write or say about Connor McDavid, and having covered him since the day Bill Daly flipped the placard, we can attest that there is only one way to spell the all the words that another McDavid five-point night brings to mind.
Awesome, dominant, lightning fast, other worldly… We would asked one of our copy editors — a distant relative of Gordie Howe we have nicknamed “Mr. Copy” — if the term ‘smoke show’ is hyphenated?
So here we are again after a 7-1 Saturday night win, trying to describe another one of those legendary McDavid nights witnessed by an entire country of hockey experts who still — six seasons and 506 points into McDavid’s career — aren’t sure they can believe what they’re seeing.
“It’s the same for us in the room,” said linemate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, whose two goals thrust him into the Top 10 in NHL goal scoring with nine. “Even though you see it on a daily basis, you almost forget how impressive he is when he has a night like this. He’s on a different level.
At one point, in the midst of a natural hat trick that shifted this game from a 3-1 tilt into a 6-1 rout — from 17:11 of Period 1 to 8:12 of Period 2 — McDavid stole a puck from Flames defenceman Noah Hanifin near the boards at centre ice. He flew into the Calgary zone down his off wing, looking to his left at linemate Nugent-Hopkins, while fighting off a check and trying to get open for the two-on-one.
The highlight is viral and its incredible: McDavid fixed his gaze on Nugent-Hopkins while stickhandling the puck mercilessly, then without even glancing at the puck or Jacob Markstrom’s net, rifled a shot through the goalie’s legs.
How does he do that?
“I don’t know. I don’t want to give away too many of my secrets,” he smiled. “Two-on-ones haven’t been my friend this year. I’ve made a couple of mistakes on those. I’m just looking to make it a little bit easier and just shoot it at the net. Five-hole is a good shot, I think.”
Markstrom never even twitched, the poor soul.
Chanceless. It’s another word we’ve overused in describing the various Markstroms over the years, the Flames goalie who was mercy-pulled after McDavid’s fifth point in a 5-1 game that wasn’t even half over.
The win marked a two-game sweep of a home-and-home between these two foes, and was a vignette of two Alberta teams going in different directions. The Oilers have won nine of their past 11 while Calgary has dropped four of their past five, with road games in Toronto on tap for Tuesday and Thursday.
Dave Tippett’s team is finding some “rhythm” and getting some goaltending, holding Calgary to just one goal on back-to-back nights. Meanwhile Darnell Nurse played an incredible 33:38 with an early injury to defenceman Slater Koekkoek. This after playing 30:01 in Calgary on Friday.
“Especially (impressive) on a back-to-back. But Koekkoek played 14 seconds in the game,” said the head coach. “Nursey is an unbelievable athlete. He was getting some work on his legs today and I said, ‘Just make sure you have another 30 minutes in those legs.’ And he did.”
Nurse is having a breakout season, and effectively policed young Matthew Tkachuk, who is always quiet when the big Oilers D-man is on the ice. But it was McDavid who made all the noise Saturday, with his second career natural hat trick — both against the Flames.
Arizona training partner Auston Matthews went out in the early Hockey Night in Canada game and danced through the Montreal Canadiens for four points. It’s like McDavid glanced at the TV after warmups and said, “Four, eh...?"
Did he known what Matthews had done?
“We watch a little hockey in the lounge, before our warmup,” he dodged. “We see a little bit of their game, but no. I didn’t.”
Meanwhile, we can already hear the drums beating for the three games the Toronto Maple Leafs play here in Edmonton — this coming Saturday, Monday and Wednesday.
Edmonton sits in second place in the North behind Toronto, with road games in Vancouver on Tuesday and Thursday.
Then it’s a best-of-three against the Leafs. Appointment television indeed.