‘Connor things’: McDavid’s epic performance drags Oilers, Panthers back to Alberta

Connor McDavid had another four-point night and Stuart Skinner stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced as the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Florida Panthers 5-3 in Game 5 to stave off elimination once again in the Stanley Cup Final.

SUNRISE, Fla. — “Connor doing Connor things.”

That is friend, teammate, and beneficiary of so many “Connor things” Zach Hyman trying to normalize the extraordinary, attempting to frame Connor McDavid‘s jaw-dropping tour de force performance in these, the most critical games of his highlight-reel life, into a ho-hum Tuesday.

“That’s what makes him special. He’s able to elevate his game at the most important time,” Hyman said, following the Edmonton Oilers‘ 5-3 Game 5 win of a Stanley Cup Final that refuses to die already.

“The biggest reason why we’ve come so far. We’re not here without him. He continues to drive the bus.”

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McDavid is wheeling the bus, relocating the travelling circus and dragging this sucker back to Alberta, as per his singular mission.

And he is doing it in spectacular, record-snapping fashion, while Amazon cameras hound him off the ice and Cats swarm him on it.

“Really excited,” McDavid said, twice, after he and his resilient batch of believers forced a Game 6 and another night of crowd-surfing in the Moss Pit. “But I’ve been excited about all these games. Right from Game 1 way back two months ago. The playoffs are the most fun time of the year.”

Thirty-four: That is how many playoff points McDavid had amassed when the Panthers led this series 3-0.

Thirty-four: That is how many crumpled-up Conn Smythe ballots you’ll never see, the ones cast by the trophy’s 17 voters in the two games in which McDavid & Co. have been dodging handshakes like it’s 2020 all over again.

Because although it’s mandatory that the Conn Smythe be voted upon in any game the Stanley Cup is present, it is also now mandatory that the electorate reevaluate their choices.

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With his unprecedented back-to-back four-point nights in the Final, McDavid has set a new playoff assists record (34, hey!) and stands alone in fourth place for the most playoff points in any single postseason (42). 

The only two players with more are already chiselled into the hockey’s Mount Rushmore: Mario and Wayne. 

Two names. Two more games?

“I seem to be getting this question a lot, which is a good thing. Any time I’m compared or in the same realm as those two, it’s always a good thing,” McDavid said, evenly and through the thickest beard of his life. 

“But I love playing in the playoffs. I love playing with this group, and it’s not possible without everybody. It’s been a fun ride. It’s going to go one more day. That’s all we’ve earned here is another day to play. We’ll be ready to go in Edmonton.”

Big, if true. 

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Because an engaged McDavid is placing pucks on platters for net-crashers Hyman and Corey Perry. He is picking up the slack for a conspicuously mediocre series by running mates Leon Draisaitl (who may be ailing) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (one point, minus-5). And, despite still trailing the Final 3-2, he is stuffing Sergei Bobrovsky and Aleksander Barkov into his Conn Smythe rear view.

Florida coach Paul Maurice came this close to surviving all four rounds before a big gun caught his club in the crosshairs.

“I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the other three rounds that we’ve played, because we’re talking about Kucherov and Pastrnak. Brilliant players,” Maurice said, turning his attention to a clear and present danger.

“You said big guns. It’s a slightly bigger calibre, more of a magnum calibre, for all you hunters will appreciate. This is a different calibre. So, the idea of shutting down isn’t realistic.”

Case in point: McDavid weaving through a clutter of Cats on a solo rush and no-looking a tap-in for Perry’s first of these playoffs. That would stand as the winner.

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“I didn’t even yell for it. He just saw me go to the net,” Perry said. “That’s why he’s the best player in the world. He knows when to turn it on. He had a heck of a game, and that’s why he leads us. He leads by example.”

McDavid also scored a cheeky but purposeful goal of his own, sniping short-side on Bobrovsky from a dead angle, as Hyman drove the far post as a decoy.

“I don’t want to give away too much; there’s still hockey to be played,” McDavid said. “But coming in on that side of the goal, I’ve gone short side lots. I would say most people know that I look there.”

Most people know McDavid is good at hockey, too.

This certainly isn’t the first piece pumping his tires and won’t be the last.

But even when you see No. 97 winding up, even when you know the tendencies, sometimes you must stop, gasp, and appreciate what you’re witnessing.

Hey, even your new Conn Smythe favourite is enjoying the ride.

“Special with this group. Special with our city, our fans. They make it so fun to go on these runs,” McDavid said, two wins from more history.

“I’m really excited to see the energy that they bring on Friday night.”

Fox’s Fast Five

• The path for the Oilers was always to turn special teams into a major factor.

Not only has Edmonton broken through with three power-play markers in the past two games, but its penalty kill is humming on another level.

The Oil’s PK has more goals this series (two) than Florida’s power play (one). Edmonton’s kill is on an incredible 44-for-45 run, with a plus-2 goal differential over that span.

“I mean, that’s an excellent question, truly,” Maurice said, when asked about allowing the shorties. “We’ll fix it. That’s how I feel about it. We can fix it.”

• This was Matthew Tkachuk‘s best performance of the series by an Everglade mile: one goal, one assist, six hits, four shots, and arguably the world’s greatest empty-net save in 20:20 played. More noticeable than in the previous four games combined.

“Amazing. He was fantastic. He scored a huge goal, and then that line was on fire,” Maurice said. “Last thing you want is him with the puck on his stick in the slot.”

• Evan Bouchard’s three-assist night gives him 26. He passed his own D coach, Paul Coffey, for most assists in a single postseason by a defenceman.

• If you wanted to buy your way into Amerant Bank Arena for a chance to witness history, a single secondary-market ticket would run you anywhere from $937.31 for the cheapest nose-bleeder to $13,072.19 (U.S.) for a prime view 12 rows up from ice level.

• We spotted a Golden Bear, but no silver Cup…

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