The Wraparound: Makar is winning his matchup with McDavid so far

Cale Makar Connor McDavid
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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.

• The Rangers made a big statement and took a 2-0 series lead against the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.

• Canadiens goalie Carey Price is the winner of the 2021-22 Masterton Trophy

• Bruins blueliners need offseason surgeries, including Charlie McAvoy

• Free Agents? Trades? The Blues are facing some tough offseason questions

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar has only played three full seasons in the NHL and has already proven to be one of the league’s best players.

He has already won the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year, has been a two-time finalist for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defender (and finished in the top-10 all three years of his career), and is averaging more than a point-per-game in both the regular season and playoffs as a defenseman. His numbers are off the charts and he already looks like he is on track for a special career as one of the league’s elite.

For all of his individual accomplishments and stats, including a dominant performance earlier this postseason in the First Round against the Nashville Predators, he might be in the middle of his most impressive performance to date through the first two games of the Western Conference Finals.

In those two games he has mostly gone head-to-head with Edmonton Oilers megastar Connor McDavid and, along with his defense partner Devon Toews, helped slow down the league’s best offensive force.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

While McDavid did have three points in the Oilers’ 8-6 Game 1 loss, he was completely shut out — along with the rest of the Oilers — in Colorado’s 4-0 Game 2 win.

When you dig deeper into the head-to-head numbers you can see how much of an impact the Makar matchup has had.

In the first two games Makar has played 24 minutes against McDavid during 5-on-5 play — the most minutes against any Edmonton player — and Colorado has completely dominated those minutes.

In those 24 minutes Colorado has….

  • A 44-27 total shot attempt advantage.
  • A 2.3-1.2 expected goals advantage.
  • A 26-14 scoring chance advantage.
  • A 10-8 high-danger scoring chance advantage.
  • A 2-1 goals advantage.

The numbers are fantastic, and plays like this are what have helped him and the Avalanche get there.

The list of defenders in the NHL that can match McDavid there at full flight and make that defensive play is a remarkably short list. Makar almost made it look easy.

[Conn Smythe watch: McDavid, Shesterkin lead after two rounds]

At some point in this series McDavid is probably going to go off and have himself a night that steals the Oilers a game. He has done it all season and all postseason, and no matter how good an opposing defense — or defenseman — is he is going to find a way to make an impact. The greats always do. It is a huge reason why the Oilers are where they are right now in these playoffs. But through the first two games Makar has been getting the better of that matchup and it has the Avalanche just two wins away from their first Stanley Cup Final experience since the 2000-2001 season. McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon are the headlining players in this series, and for good reason. They are among the NHL’s best players, probably no worse than top-five in both cases. But Makar is right there with them in that elite of the elite category.

[Data in this post via Natural Stat Trick]

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Western Conference Final

EDMONTON OILERS v. COLORADO AVALANCHE (COL leads 2-0)
Game 1 – Avalanche 8, Oilers 6
Game 2 – Avalanche 4, Oilers 0
Game 3 – June 4: Avalanche at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 4 – June 6: Avalanche at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 5 – June 8: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 6 – June 10: Avalanche at Oilers, TBD (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 7 – June 12: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)

* If necessary