Whicker: Ducks survive a Goliath named McDavid and beat Edmonton Oilers
By Mark Whicker
ANAHEIM — The NHL’s speeding bullet got one assist in his 21:06 of ice time Friday night. No goals.
That qualifies as a mere flesh wound from Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, and the Ducks survived it in a 3-2 victory at Honda Center.
They held down the 21-year-old and also dodged Leon Draisaitl, who sometimes plays on McDavid’s line and almost always toys with the Ducks. This time Draisaitl didn’t score a point.
Of course, the Oilers have taken a U-turn on destiny road. As they took the Ducks to seven games in the Western semifinals last year, they were considered the inevitable princes of the conference, but the line of succession has been severed this year. They are 23-26-4 and in danger of not making the postseason.
Complementary players have receded, goaltender Cam Talbot hasn’t been as good, and too much of the burden has landed on McDavid and Draisaitl. McDavid, who became the youngest Hart Trophy winner in league history last year, is tied for fourth in the league in points, and presents more sensory overload than any other player. He sets such a different standard for speed that his name probably should be MachDavid.
“If you’re puck-watching, and you start doing crossovers, he’s going to get away,” said defenseman Hampus Lindholm who, with Josh Manson, got a lot of time against McDavid’s line. “You’ve got to keep both feet on the ground, look him in the chest and then obviously you need some help from the forwards to keep him from picking up speed.”
Generally the Ducks have played Ryan Kesler’s line against McDavid. That means Andrew Cogliano, with his own notable speed, can try to cut off McDavid before he accelerates. But there will be times when McDavid comes barreling through the neutral zone, and defensemen have no choice but to retreat.