The Edmonton Oilers wrapped up their season-opening four-game road trip on Tuesday night with a stunning come-from-behind 5-4 win against the Winnipeg Jets.
On the surface this looks to be an awesome and much-needed victory for the Oilers.
And it is. It is all of that because not only did it come against the team with the second best record in the NHL a season ago, but wow did they just flat out need this.
They still have not played a home game after opening the season in Sweden, they had won just one of their first three games of the season and looked relatively poor in doing so, and after two periods on Tuesday night in Winnipeg looked to be getting their doors blown off by a Jets team that had stormed out to a 4-1 lead.
In the standings, this will go in the books as a big win for the Edmonton Oilers.
But let’s be serious here about what this really was: This was all about Connor McDavid single-handedly refusing to allow his team to drop another game, putting the entire squad on his back, and driving it to a win.
That is not an exaggeration as to what happened on the ice.
This game wasn’t about the Oilers rallying. This was about McDavid being the best and most dominant player in the world and showing just how unstoppable he can be when he is at his best.
On Tuesday, he was at his best.
He finished Tuesday’s game with four points (two goals, two assists) including three in the third period as the Oilers erased the three-goal deficit.
After winning each of the past two scoring titles he has already recorded nine points (four goals, five assists) in the Oilers’ first four games.
The Edmonton Oilers have only scored 10 goals. You don’t need to be a math whiz to figure out what that means.
They have, quite literally, been a one-line team this season and given the makeup of the roster, as well as the way things went for them a season ago, there does not seem to be much hope that will change as the season goes on.
Darnell Nurse‘s overtime goal on Tuesday night was the first goal the Oilers scored this season that McDavid did not factor into the scoring on. That nine-goal stretch even set a NHL record for most consecutive goals for a player to factor in on to open a season, breaking the previous record of seven that had been set by Adam Oates.
McDavid, for the record, seemed to have no interest in it.
“You know what, it’s whatever,” McDavid said. “I’m not overly proud of it. I don’t think it’s a stat we should be proud of either. It is what it is but we found a way to get a goal there at the end so we don’t ever have to talk about it again.”
How important has McDavid been so far: When he is on the ice they are outscoring teams by a 9-4 margin. When he is not, they have been outscored 10-1. If you go back to the end of the 2017-18 season McDavid had factored into 13 consecutive Oilers goals before Nurse’s overtime winner.
And that is pretty much what the Oilers have been for the better part of McDavid’s tenure with the team.
As he goes; they go. And they will only go as far as he is able to take them. The problem with that is hockey is not really a sport that is tailored for one player to carry a team very far because the best players — unless it is a goalie — only play about a third of the game. There has to be more. A lot more. And it remains to be seen if this team has it or if the management team in charge is capable of providing it.
McDavid is going to give them a chance to win on any given night because he is capable of having games like this. He is going to be worth the price of admission every night because he can do this.
“Each and every night, and especially tonight,” said Nurse, when asked about McDavid’s ability to carry the team. “Going into the third we could have gone two different ways, and 18 seconds in his line makes a huge play. When you have a leader like hat everyone feeds off that. For him to be able to set the tone every single game? It’s incredible.”
At some point, though, they are going to have to find a way to give him some support because while this sort of thing might work on a handful of individual nights over the course of a season, it is not a long-term recipe for success because this sort of superman effort is not possible every game. Not even for Connor McDavid.
We saw how true that is for the Oilers just this past season.