Connor McDavid puts the Oilers on his back

Justin Cuthbert and Julian McKenzie discuss the heroic performance from Connor McDavid in Game 7 as the Oilers defeated the Los Angeles Kings.

Video Transcript

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Let's go to the Oilers. I don't know if demons need to be exercised in Oil country. But Connor McDavid stepped up and basically prevented a narrative from building, right? He put the Edmonton Oilers on his back in game seven.

And I was writing about the Leafs during this game. But I was immensely distracted, because every time I looked up at the television in the media room at Scotiabank Arena, Connor McDavid was doing something incredibly, incredibly important and amazingly well.

He scored a goal and had an assist in a 2-0 victory in game seven. Mike Smith stepped up, although he was not the busier goaltender. And the Oilers survived the LA Kings, setting up, perhaps, a battle of Alberta, but maybe a second round series versus the Dallas Stars, because game seven of that series goes tonight.

I wonder though, if the Oilers do have anything left to give. Leon Draisaitl obviously banged up. Had a high ankle sprain, I think. He skated by himself to see if he could pull through. He was laboring, clearly.

I mean, the Oilers did get through to Darnell Nurse absence, another thing. The way they played, the way McDavid played in game six to get through an elimination game in Los Angeles before their game seven victory, unbelievable.

But it seems like, if the Oilers are going to have more success, it'll be almost exclusively on the back of their captain, because he basically willed them through that first round series with the Los Angeles Kings. How do you see that series in hindsight now? And what do you think the future may hold here for the Oilers in the second round and perhaps beyond?

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Man, the fact that the Oilers were able to get out of that series, I didn't expect it to go to seven games like that. But that is a big win for Connor McDavid and his legacy. Just seeing him celebrate that goal he scored, the way he willed himself to score that goal, that is incredible.

We marvel over the skillful goals that he scores, how he's able to just weave his way through defenders and make stuff happen. How many goals in his highlight reel tape do you see him power his way through while showing off the agility and skill, but willfully getting himself to the point he needs to be to score. And then a Naill Yakupov-esque celebration, going all the way to center.


JULIAN MCKENZIE: That was the best part of that for me.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: No one does it like Naill. But Connor McDavid was pretty close.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: That was the most joy I've ever seen out of that man ever, ever. But I mean, he's playing hockey. And he gets himself one step closer to a Stanley Cup Final. Its the second round, but Connor McDavid needs more of those runs for his legacy.

And I think in terms of whether they have more to give, look, it's the playoffs. Everyone's going to be banged-up. Everyone's going to be playing through injury. Connor McDavid let everybody know at the All-Star break, he doesn't care about all those other accolades. There's one thing in mind for him. He wants to win. And if he has to put the team on his back to do it, we could be in for some very fun Edmonton Oilers games if they play against Calgary, if they play against Dallas, whoever it's going to be. But this is a different Connor McDavid.

I feel like we lost sight of how great this Connor McDavid season was. This is the best season he's ever had as a pro. Auston Matthews will very likely win the Hart Trophy, but Connor McDavid reached a different level of player this year with the stats he was able to put up, the talent he was able to display on the ice.

And the fact that he has a playoff series win under his belt, if he gets a second one and gets to the Conference Finals this year, we have to start putting the light more back on him and show that he has taken another step towards being the greatest player of our era. And that game seven win, even if it was maybe a game extra than we all would have fought against the LA Kings, that goes a long way for him.

And I'll tell you what, Leon Draisaitl needs to do everything he can to get himself healthy. Darnell Nurse, at least he's back there. Mike Smith is surprising all of us. I did not expect him to be as good as he did.

A lot of questions. I don't have to ask questions about Connor McDavid.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: No, you don't. Clearly still the best player in the world. It doesn't mean that he had the best season. I guess that's all up for debate. But Connor McDavid is a force unlike any other. And you mentioned you've never seen him happier. Honestly, that win was as big for his happiness as anything else.

We're talking about the Leafs being so broken. We would have said the same thing for McDavid. He hasn't won a post-season series since, I think, 2017. That would have been five years of futility for the best hockey player in the world, clearly, over that stretch.

I mean, it was such a massive moment for him, for that franchise to get that monkey off their back. I don't know what that'll mean. But I do know that they're going to have at least some situational experience here because the LA Kings, as much as they didn't win the division or go to the Stanley Cup Final two years ago, they play a lot like Dallas and Calgary, straight lines, lots of shots, strong defensively-- lots of shot attempts, strong defensively, good goaltending. At least it was in that series.

I mean, the Edmonton Oilers are going to kind of know what's coming to them if it is Calgary or Dallas because they play that certain way. They are really the outlier in the Pacific Division bracket, in that they are a team that attacks, while the other three teams are teams that are looking to dull things down and win 2-1 games.

If Connor McDavid is the most explosive and powerful force in the series, the Oilers have a chance. And the Dallas Stars, as much as they are built for the postseason, they don't have much firepower. And if McDavid just has those one or two glorious chances and opportunities that he manufactures for himself per game, yeah, the Oilers can do it.

They can go to the Western Conference Final. They could meet Nathan MacKinnon or the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Final. And that would be really, really fun to see Connor McDavid have some success.

That was another huge storyline. Start talking about the future of the players and these teams that are not having the success they should. I wonder what the conversation would have been if the Oilers lost that series to a team that's really just on the come-up, just beginning to be on the come-up. It would have been a bad, bad, bad result for the Oilers.

But Connor McDavid got them through it. And maybe this really just opens up a world of possibilities for them.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: You know who should be the happiest man in Edmonton right now? Ken Holland, he should be the happiest man in Edmonton right now. That man, Connor McDavid, saved his job, as far as I'm concerned, because I think now that the Oilers are in the second round, I don't think Ken Holland is going to be facing any firing line or anything like that heading into the offseason. I'd be surprised if that was the case, unless the Oilers lose in disastrous fashion to whoever they play in the second round.

But a lot of flak was coming Ken Holland's way for some of the moves that he did. And at least through one round, it worked. His team was able to get through. I don't know how it'll get through round two around three. We'll have to wait and see. But Ken Holland can at least sleep a little bit easier knowing that Connor McDavid, his best player, was able to push them through to the second round.

And again, Mike Smith deserves a lot of credit. I understand he wasn't the busiest goalie, as you said earlier, in game seven. But he did as best as he could throughout the series. He had his mistakes giving away the puck. But overall, he was solid in that for the Oilers. And they needed someone solid between the pipes.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Game seven shutout speaks for itself. And that crazy, crazy, wild goaltender of Mike Smith went for a goal at the end of that game, which I love him for. I mean, it was like 10 seconds left. It's 2-0, of course they're going to win. But I actually said it as we were watching in the press box. I'm like, Mike Smith's going to go for a goal here with like 2 minutes left. Of course, he didn't until the result was actually in-hand. But that is a goaltender that's a little unpredictable, sometimes bad and sometimes really good, like it was in game seven.

I am pleading with the Calgary Flames to win game seven tonight. As much as I respect the Dallas Stars and what they do in the postseason, they are not going to make for the best storyline. Edmonton-Calgary would guarantee a Canadian team in the Western Conference Final, which is awesome. But more important than that, the series would be spectacular, Flames and Oilers, the second round. I mean, I might just never complain about the postseason structure if we go from Leafs-Tampa to Flames-Oilers in terms of my coverage, because that's pretty damn good.

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