Bruins face incredibly tough task slowing down Connor McDavid, red-hot Oilers

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Bruins face early-season litmus test vs. McDavid, red-hot Oilers originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Wayne Gretzky's name is all over the NHL record books.

He's the all-time leader in goals, assists, points and many other notable offensive categories. There's one record of Gretzky's that might come toppling down in 2021-22, and that's his 51-game point streak to begin a season.

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid is the best player in the world, and it's not up for debate. No one has the combination of raw talent, elite speed and high hockey IQ that he possesses.

In fact, no other player in all of sports is performing at a higher level than McDavid right now.

“It’s always special when nobody else is close,” Gretzky told the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson in May of this year. “You can always sit around and have bar talk about comparisons but the reality is nobody is even close to Connor. That’s what makes this so unique. His numbers (in 2020-21) are sort of mind-boggling.”

McDavid has tallied at least one point in the Oilers' first 11 games, and they are 9-2-0 as a result. It's still early, but he has a real shot to break that 51-game scoring streak to begin a season -- a Gretzky record most of us thought was untouchable.

His goal against the New York Rangers on Monday night, when he danced around four opponents and scored, was one of the most jaw-dropping hockey plays of the last 20 years.

Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, like the rest of us, was in awe of McDavid's sensational goal against the Rangers.

“Love it (as a fan),” Cassidy told reporters Tuesday. “As a coach, you’re like ‘On the one side how can you not defend the guy better? There’s four of you.’ Then as a coach on the offensive side, it’s ‘Hey that’s a pretty risky (play), use your teammates.’ But you’ve got to love it in the end, right? You just don’t see much of that anymore, those highlight-reel goals -- I shouldn’t say that -- but that type of goal seemed to be more prevalent 20 years ago when guys were able to get through there. I thought it was great.”

There's a strong chance McDavid sets the record for the most points in a single season during the salary cap era (2005-06 to present). The record is 128, set by Tampa Bay Lightning right winger Nikita Kucherov a few years ago.

 

Player

Points

Season

1

Nikita Kucherov

128

2018-19

2

Joe Thornton

125

2005-06

3

Jaromir Jagr

123

2005-06

4

Sidney Crosby

120

2006-07

5

Connor McDavid

116

2018-19

McDavid currently sits at 23 points (nine goals, 11 assists) through 11 games -- an average of 2.09 points per game. Let's say he plays 80 games -- which is his average games played in the last three uninterrupted regular seasons -- that's 167 points. It sounds crazy, but when you think about how dominant McDavid has been over the last five years, it's not farfetched at all to think he can reach 150-plus points this season.

Unstoppable

McDavid's scoring

23 pts in 11 games

Variation

Single

He has tallied 100 or more points in four of the last five campaigns. The one year he didn't was 2019-20 when injury limited him to 67 games and the regular season was cut short due to COVID-19. He still finished with 97 points. McDavid won the Art Toss Trophy with an incredible 105 points in just 56 games last season.

Sorry Bruins fans, a Jack Eichel trade in 2021 was always a long shot

Next up for McDavid are the Boston Bruins. The Oilers are in town to play the B's at TD Garden on Thursday night.

McDavid has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in seven career games versus the Bruins. He's likely to add to that total Thursday, given how poorly the Bruins have defended at times this season.

The B's penalty kill has given up a goal in four consecutive games -- not a good sign with Edmonton's league-best power play (46.9 percent) on deck. The Bruins' defense was a mess Saturday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs, another high-powered offense led by multiple superstars, beat Boston 5-2. Poor clearing attempts, losing 50-50 puck battles and being unable to clear traffic in front of the net were all issues for the Bruins. Those breakdowns can't happen against McDavid or he'll make the B's pay.

McDavid is on a roll. The Oilers are finally looking like a true contender for the first time since drafting him No. 1 overall in 2015. Everything is going right for Edmonton right now. 

Will anyone slow down McDavid? It's hard to bet against Bruins center and four-time Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron, but it'll need to be a team effort to keep the Oilers superstar off the scoresheet.

How good is the Bruins' defense? We'll find out Thursday night.