Connor McDavid is the fastest player in the world with the puck on his stick and Oiler fans have become accustomed to seeing Connor get behind the defense to have a one on one chance against the goalie on a nightly basis. It has been typical throughout McDavid’s career to see him beat defensemen wide and cut in on the goalie but when was the last time you seen him do that?
I’ve noticed a change in McDavid’s games this season, instead of cutting in on the goalies he tends to hold on to the puck and go behind the net looking for other options (which he often finds) but it makes me wonder why he’s changed? Obviously as players age they loose a step and can no longer beat the D wide but it doesn’t look to me like McDavid has lost anything and he’s only 24 years old so he should have 5 or 6 more seasons before he starts to slow. Another possibility is that McDavid is running out of gas this season. He’s averaging 22:21 per game which is the 2nd highest TOI for forwards in the NHL but it isn’t much off his career average of 21:27 so I think he’s proven that he can play those minutes without getting fatigued.
My theory is that McDavid is thinking long term, perhaps the coaching staff convinced him or he came to the realization himself but if he gets injured this team is in major trouble. The last time I recall McDavid going wide around a D was on February 6th vs Calgary where he was tripped up by Giordano and sent crashing into Markstrom. It was very similar to the play that caused his horrific knee injury at the end of the 2019 season. I think after that play McDavid realized that the risk of injury was too great, and that holding on to the puck and looking for other options was a safer play.
In the 6 games after this play McDavid had 0 goals and 6pts which although is still a pt/game pace is a considerably lower than his 2pts/game pace before that Calgary game. I believe that its during this stretch that McDavid made the decision that he would need to make adjustments in his game to remove those high risk plays. Since that 6 game stretch McDavid has 12g 20a 32pts in 19 games and that includes the 3 pointless games against the Leafs. Great players find a way and that’s exactly what McDavid has done, he’s adjusted his game to remove the high risk play and is still producing points at an exceptional pace. Unreal!