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Dude’s preposterous. He’s a cheat code. Not human. An android. All sentiments that have been thrust Connor McDavid’s way since basically Day 1 of his NHL inception — and all very, very valid.
At just 22, the former No. 1 pick has already banged out two scoring titles and three 100-plus-point campaigns, with a fourth being all but a guarantee had he not lost half his rookie season to injury. Add a Hart Trophy, a pair of Ted Lindsay Awards, insane assist numbers and a bucket full of jaw-dropping clips already tethered to his highlight reel, and there’s truly very little McDavid can do on a game-to-game basis that should surprise us.
Yet, here we are. Peeling our jaws off this dirty old floor again.
This absurd goal highlighted McDavid’s THIRD career five-point game and summed up everything that makes No. 97 the best player in the world in one tidy, visually stunning package.
First off, thoughts and prayers to Justin Braun who lost his soul among other things on this play. It’s always seemed absolutely terrifying to have to watch a flip pass go high into the sky while hearing McDavid’s skate blades chopping their way towards you. Something Braun confirmed post game.
“You know he’s out there. You know he’s coming,” Braun said to reporters after a contest in which he — and the Flyers — fell victim to the wrath of our hockey-playing robot overlord.
As for the goal itself, all of the abilities that put McDavid in a class of his own were mashed together into one tidy synopsis of his absurdity.
The read. As soon as Kris Russell even thought about flipping that puck, McDavid was well on his way to the expected landing spot before anyone in the rink even knew what was happening.
That footwork. The initial burst McDavid generates as soon as that puck was flipped in the air is astonishing. His flawless, fast, short and choppy (yet incredibly smooth) stride at the beginning of the rush allows him to accelerate to a level that’s essentially impossible to match, especially by a pivoting defender like Braun here.
The burst. After leaving the zone at close to top speed, McDavid closes the gap on Braun insanely quick, extending the length of his stride while drafting Braun’s right hip, allowing him to to gain inside position at top speed as he enters Philly’s zone.
Anticipation. The way McDavid keeps his eyes laser-focused on where he expects the pucks to land, plots his route, and puts his stick and shoulders in position to out-duel Braun for the puck when it lands (while moving at maximum speed, no less) is, just, my lord.
The quick stick. Connor leaned on his stick, lifted Braun’s, and jacked that biscuit before the Flyers blueliner even knew the puck was in his vicinity.
The finish. Once he did gain possession in the low slot, No. 97 got the puck off his blade ridiculously quick before picking his spot and finishing. His skating, reads and playmaking ability are obviously what stand out, but McDavid’s ability to finish in tight and off the rush doesn’t get praised quite enough.
Something tells me we’ll have a lot more of these McDavid specials to try and make sense of over the next decade or so. We know it’s coming, yet it’ll surprise us every time.
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