Tyson Barrie feels sorry for his fellow NHL defencemen for the unenviable task of trying to shutdown Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid.
“He can beat you wide, he can stickhandle through you, he’s got a good shot and he’s always looking to pass, too,” Barrie says of his captain. “I imagine it’s just a complete nightmare to try to defend.
“You’re seeing that this year with the stats he’s putting up and the way he’s driving our team. Just a special player doing special things.”
The latest special thing: McDavid’s pursuit of 100 points in this pandemic-shortened, 56-game regular season.
Through 48 games he sits at 28 goals and 84 points – good for a gaping 17-point lead over teammate Leon Draisaitl in the NHL scoring race.
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With eight games remaining, McDavid needs 16 points to reach the century mark — which seems ridiculous considering it’s at a pace of 2.0 points per game. (Wayne Gretzky averaged 1.92 points per game throughout his 20-year career.)
But the milestone is hardly out of the realm of possibility for a guy who is already averaging 1.75 points a game.
“It’s pretty amazing,” says Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “We know how special of a player he is, but to be able to do it every night is a different story. He does it at practice every day too, so we do get a taste of it, but obviously he’s having a special season and he’s a pretty spectacular player.”
Spectacular almost feels like an understatement when it comes to describing a generational talent like McDavid.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Barrie says “I know he’s not too worried about it but whether he hits it or not — what he’s done this year is respected throughout the league. It would be a nice feather in the cap.”
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McDavid’s shrugs off 100-point season talk
McDavid’s production this year is the highest among any player with more than 40 games in a season since Mario Lemieux (2.30 points per game) and his Pittsburgh teammate Jaromir Jagr (1.82 points per game) in 1995-96.
“When you’re talking about Connor McDavid, you’re talking about the best player in the world,” Barrie says. “I don’t really know how he does it, to be honest.
“The way that he’s able to push the puck ahead into positions and give himself a step and give himself some extra time, it’s pretty special to watch every night.”
WATCH | McDavid records goal, 2 assists in win over Canadiens:
Earlier this week, McDavid shrugged when asked what reaching the 100-point milestone would mean to him.
“Not a ton,” the captain replied. “We want to play good team hockey coming down the stretch. I think that’s the most important thing.”
McDavid entered Thursday’s outing against Calgary with an insane 15 points in his previous five games.
Fighting for their playoff lives, goalie Jacob Markstrom and the Flames kept McDavid off the score sheet in a 2-1 Calgary victory. But the last time Calgary blanked McDavid back on Feb. 19, he roared back two days later to collect five points against his provincial rivals.
“They’re going to be better on Saturday night – we know that,” Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk said of the next test against McDavid. “Especially their top guys.”
The Oilers (29-17-2) have established themselves this season as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders with surprising offensive depth, a resurgent defensive corps led by Darnell Nurse and veteran Mike Smith in net.
But with the regular season winding down, McDavid’s improbable pursuit for 100 points in 56 games gives hockey fans another chance to marvel over the superstar in our midst.
“His thought process and the deception included in that is incredible,” Oilers head coach Dave Tippett says. “The way he sees things on the ice, he’s just at another level.
“He’ll buy time to find people coming late or have a look and know where they are, and he’ll concentrate on something else but still know where that person is. That’s an incredible ability.”