Photo: Perry Nelson/USA Today Sports
Connor McDavid was already something special at the age of six – not only talented, but also motivated and determined. His parents tried to get him into a competitive league for kids a year older, but he was turned down. So they found a solution. They put him in a home league – with nine year olds. McDavid acted up. He did it again when he joined the Ontario Hockey League at 15 and when he joined Team Canada’s World Juniors team at 16. Then, of course, came the NHL.
Which is technically as high as he can go. Thing is, McDavid is still ready to play — he just can’t. So instead he sets up seasons like this that include months like March. On the 14th, McDavid had 129 points that season, the highest single-season tally among any active NHL player. On the same day, McDavid’s teammate Leon Draisaitl was the second-highest points scorer of the year (as it has been all season), 100-29 points behind. If you only factored in McDavid’s assists, he would still be in the top 20 for the year’s total. On March 22, McDavid scored his 60th goal of the season in just 72 games (Auston Matthews scored 60 in 73 games last season).
The last player to score 60 goals faster than McDavid in a season this year was Mario Lemieux, who did it in 70 games in 1987/88. This is McDavid’s sixth season with at least 100 points, which unsurprisingly puts him in a league of his own. The only other active NHL player with six 100-point seasons is Sidney Crosby, who is currently in his 18th year; McDavid has only been in the league for eight years. Lemieux, who played 17 NHL seasons, managed to break 100 points ten times. Wayne Gretzky had 15 100-point seasons in 20 years. If McDavid keeps this up, he’ll maybe top 150 points a year, something nobody’s done since Lemieux (1995-96) and Gretzky (1990-91), well, you guessed it.
In other words, when it comes to pure scoring chances, McDavid is on par with the greatest to ever play.
But he can’t just score goals and provide assists – which others can do too. Still, what makes McDavid special is the way he does it. Often at the level of some kind of sorcery. Like then, he danced by four New York Rangers to score, and then did it two weeks later he same against Winnipeg. And he’s not just fast (what he is), what matters is his speed transitions, like when he shifts gears and ashamed Morgan Reilly of the Leafs in 2020.
And then there are the hands.
When McDavid was a kid, his Mom asked him, “What do you want from it?” – means hockey in general. McDavid had a list. Getting into the OHL at 15 was one of those, along with winning a Memorial Cup. He wanted to be the first overall NHL draft pick, win a Stanley Cup, and be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. With a Hall of Fame career in just eight seasons, all McDavid is missing is the hardware. He eluded the Memorial Cup in 2015. That leaves Lord Stanley’s Cup, the only remaining level up.
Top Cheese: Appreciation for Patrice Bergeron
Per a tweet by Boston sports radio reporter Ty Anderson, Bruins coach Jim Montgomery called in March that “there have been many times this season where he’s spoken to a player about how he’s doing mentally and asked where he’s at and that player says, ‘Patrice’s actually been with me about it spoken. so I’m already feeling better.’” Probably just one reason that Montgomery considered Patrice Bergeron is “the best captain in sport”.
Bergeron is no stranger to compliments, and for good reason: he’s been the nicest guy in the league for a long time. “In my opinion, he would be one of the best people I’ve ever played with,” said former Bruin Shawn Thornton told Sportsnet in 2018. Earlier this season, just before the Sabers clash, Bergeron asked Buffalo’s days Thompson on how his wife, who had a cancerous mass removed from her leg in 2019, is doing. “That’s just who he is,” Thompson later said. “He’s just a genuine guy who cares about other people.”
A study Approved last summer based on interviews with former professional hockey players (including many from the NHL) noticed, that Players feel pressured to keep issues like pain, concussions, addiction, and mental health to themselves. Although players are aware of the resources made available by their teams, the researchers found that “no one is willing to use them for fear” that personal details will not remain confidential. The lead researcher told CTV News that the gamers they interviewed said, “There’s been a lot of talk in the industry, but not much has changed systematically.”
In such an environment, empathy like Bergeron’s is enough.
In March, the Bruins became the first team to secure a berth in the 2023 playoffs (in just 64 games, the third-fastest since 1995-96) — but also lost to the Oilers, Red Wings and Blackhawks. It would be a mistake to read too much into these losses, but they are nonetheless notable for a team whose previous loss was on February 11th.
Carolina will be without Key forward Andrei Svechnikov through the playoffs. Svechnikov tore his cruciate ligament during a March 13 game against Las Vegas when the tip of his skate blade seemed to get caught in the ice – a potentially devastating blow to the team’s playoff hopes. Elsewhere in the East, all but three playoff spots are now locked.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Kraken sit in a (wildcard) playoff spot in the West — a significant improvement from their inaugural season when they finished bottom in the Pacific. Unlike in the east, however, all playoff spots in the west have not yet been taken since the last week of March – it will be a race to the end.
While the San Jose Sharks aren’t technically the worst team in the NHL, they’ve tanked hard enough lately to become the first team to be officially eliminated from the playoffs this season. At the same time, the Sharks’ recent form has catapulted them up the list of teams most likely to receive the first overall draft pick (ie: Connor Bedard). While Columbus still holds the top spot in this ranking with a 25% chance of making the first pick, the Sharks have moved up to second place with a 13.5% chance Tankathon.
While not really chasing Bedard, after high preseason expectations, the Ottawa Senators are poised to miss the playoffs. But they might get a new owner. Actor/businessman Ryan Reynolds recently expressed interest in buying a stake in the team. In March T-Mobile announced a $1.35 billion purchase of Ka’ena Corporation, including its subsidiary Mint Mobile – the wireless company in which Reynolds owns a majority stake. Senators winger Tim Stützle has 51 points (24 goals and 27 assists) since January 1 – an impressive pace.
clip of the month
Anaheim trailed 2-0 in Seattle and early in the second half were looking for something that could help them get back into the game. After less than a minute Trevor Zegras tried it.
Not bad. But could he do it in heels and a dress? TNT commentator Jennifer Botterill did (and broke the TV studio in the process).
Elsewhere in the league (and beyond)
San Jose, Chicago and Sunrise: The trend of players and teams refusing to wear Pride pre-match jerseys continues. San Jose goalkeeper Jacob Reimer and the Florida Panthers brothers Marc and Eric Staal All claimed that wearing Pride jerseys contradicted their beliefs – while falsely suggesting that being LGBTQ+ was a choice (one wonders when they decided to be straight!). When reporter Eric Staal pointed out that he wore a Pride jersey as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, He reportedly denied this – despite photographic evidence. Meanwhile, as an organization, the Chicago Blackhawks decided none of their players would wear Pride jerseys, apparently out of concern for Russia’s anti-LGBTQ+ “propaganda” laws, which ban the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations.” (Several other Russian-born players, including Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Bobrovsky, have worn the shirts without incident.)
Philadelphia: The flyers separate ways with their GM Chuck Fletcher in March, replacing him (temporarily for now) with former Flyer Daniel Briere, who was almost immediately embroiled in a scandal caused by his son Carson was seen He threw a woman’s wheelchair down a flight of stairs at a nightclub in Eire, Pennsylvania. Briere The Younger has been suspended from his Mercyhurst University. Daniel Briere said Carson’s actions were “inexcusable.” Carson Briere was later calculated with criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.
Minneapolis: Shout out to the Mahtomedi Zephyrs who won the Class A division of the annual statewide high school hockey tournament that ended March 10. The Zephyrs pulled off a thrilling double OT win in front of a packed house at the Xcel Energy Center, which is usually the home of the Savages (check out the mayhem below). The Class AA Championship went to the Minnetonka Skippers. Hockey continues to be alive and well in Minnesota — not to mention some excellent games hockey hair.