​​Connor McDavid’s Stanley Cup surge blowing away fellow NHL stars: ‘Somehow, he’s found another level’

EDMONTON — Spending the early part of his offseason in Europe, the time difference has kept Sidney Crosby from watching the Stanley Cup Final play out, but it hasn’t kept him from seeing the heights Connor McDavid is reaching on the game’s grandest stage.

Like a number of present and past NHL stars contacted by The Athletic this week, Crosby expressed admiration for the way McDavid has performed while helping his Edmonton Oilers extend their season to Friday’s Game 6 after falling behind 3-0 to the Florida Panthers.

“It’s incredible what he’s doing,” said Crosby, a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins who is keeping tabs on the series by watching highlights. “Somehow, he’s found another level. In the playoffs (that’s tough to do), especially.”

While McDavid has long since earned the respect of his peers for his unmatched speed and elite offensive instincts, he’s shown them something extra during his first run to the Cup Final.

He led the charge in Edmonton’s Game 4 and 5 victories over the Panthers and became the first player in NHL history with eight points in a two-game stretch during the championship series.

Sidney Crosby on Connor McDavid’s playoff run: “It’s incredible what he’s doing.” (Justin Berl / Getty Images)

“I think the coolest thing I admire is how calm he’s stayed down 3-0,” Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon said. “No panic in his game, and he’s taken it to another level. Very even keel and (showing) amazing leadership for his team.”

“He’s a very special and fun player to watch — especially the past few games, where he’s elevated his game and driven his team to two wins with their backs against the wall,” added Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, who won a Cup alongside MacKinnon in 2022.

Steven Stamkos says he isn’t the least bit surprised by a spring where McDavid has registered 42 points and put himself within striking distance of Wayne’s Gretzky’s all-time record of 47.

They were among a group of NHLers that trained together north of Toronto last summer and spent a considerable amount of time in each other’s company, on the ice and off it.

“He even approached me to have conversations about my experiences when we won the Cup and what it took and things of that nature,” said Stamkos, a two-time champion with the Tampa Bay Lighting. “He is all about winning and the passion and drive to be the best to help his team win a Cup. It’s so impressive how competitive he is in every aspect. He always wants to win — in the gym, or scrimmages, or games.

“If there is a player to will his team back from a 0-3 hole, it’s him!”

Steven Stamkos said Connor McDavid came to him seeking championship advice. (Mike Carlson / Getty Images)

The Oilers are vying to become just the second team in NHL history to accomplish that feat in the Stanley Cup Final, following the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.

McDavid naturally draws most of his praise for his incredible offensive output — he’s had multi-point outings in seven of 11 games dating back to the start of the Western Conference final — but he’s also playing more than 23 minutes per night during these playoffs and helped Edmonton tilt the ice considerably during his five-on-five minutes.



Inside Connor McDavid’s record-breaking playofs, by the numbers

“What he is doing is refusing to lose,” said former Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, who won a Stanley Cup and two Olympic gold medals during his playing career. “He is blocking shots and doing whatever it takes to win. Watching him in years past I’m not sure you would have seen him do everything it takes to win the Cup, and we are seeing that he has learned and grown into someone who is ready to do it.”

Said Jonathan Toews, the three-time champion former Chicago Blackhawks captain: “He’s out of this world. It’s really hard to comprehend what he’s doing, on top of the pressure he’s under. He just keeps reaching new levels. He’s unstoppable. I find myself cheering for him it’s so impressive.”

Last year’s Conn Smythe winner, Jonathan Marchessault, was leaning toward Aleksander Barkov last week for his playoff MVP pick when the Panthers were up 3-0 in the series. But like so many, Marchessault has been wowed by McDavid’s consecutive four-point outings to help the Oilers stay alive.

“It’s pretty hard not to go with Connor now,” Marchessault told The Athletic over the phone Wednesday night. “What he’s doing right now is just unbelievable. He has so many points. He’s a factor so many times when he’s on the ice. As much as people say, ‘Let’s hit him or get him,’ you can’t. He’s too fast. He’s too agile. You can’t touch him. He’s unbelievable.

“And he’s not doing it against San Jose in December,” Marchessault added. “He’s doing it in June with the best two teams in the Cup Final. He’s doing it every night. And now he’s giving his team a chance to come back. Obviously, they don’t have a lot of leeway left, but they’re giving themselves a chance.”

So impressed is the Vegas Golden Knights forward with what he’s seen from McDavid that he believes No. 97 has set himself apart among the all-time greats.

“I wasn’t around for the other eras of the NHL, but he has to be the most dominant player to have ever played the game,” Marchessault said. “The game is so fast now, and the way he reacts is unbelievable. Yeah, I think win or lose, Connor should be the guy to get it.”

(Top photo: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

First appeared on www.nytimes.com

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