Connor McDavid’s Stanley Cup win outshines fellow NHL stars: ‘Somehow, he’s found another level’

EDMONTON — Spending the early part of his offseason in Europe, Sidney Crosby missed the Stanley Cup Finals because of the time difference, but that difference also prevented him from witnessing the heights of Connor McDavid on the game’s biggest stage.

As such several current and former NHL stars were contacted Athletic This week, Crosby praised McDavid’s performance, which helped his Edmonton Oilers extend their season until Friday’s Game 6 after his team fell behind 3-0 to the Florida Panthers.

“What he’s doing is unbelievable,” said Crosby, a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins who has been following the series by watching highlights. “Somehow, he’s found another level. (It’s hard to do that) in the playoffs, especially.”

Though McDavid had long earned the respect of his teammates for his unmatched speed and outstanding offensive instincts, he showed them something extra during his first foray into the Cup Final.

He led Edmonton in Games 4 and 5 victories over the Panthers and became the first player in NHL history to score eight points in a two-game span during a championship series.

Sidney Crosby on Connor McDavid’s playoff run: “What he’s doing is unbelievable.” (Justin Burl/Getty Images)

“I think the best thing I appreciate is how calm he was even after falling down 3-0,” Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon said. “He has no panic in his game, and he’s taken it to another level. Very balanced and showing amazing leadership for his team.”

“He’s a very special and fun player to watch — especially the last couple of games where he’s elevated his game and led his team to two wins,” said Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, who won the Cup with MacKinnon in 2022.

Steven Stamkos says he’s not at all surprised that McDavid recorded 42 points in the spring, putting himself close to Wayne Gretzky’s all-time record of 47 points.

He was among a group of NHL players who trained together north of Toronto last summer and spent a lot of time with each other both on and off the ice.

“He reached out to me to talk about my experiences when we won the Cup and what it took and things like that,” said Stamkos, a two-time champion with the Tampa Bay Lightning. “He wants to win and has the passion and the drive to be the best he can be to help his team win the Cup. It’s very impressive how competitive he is in every aspect. He always wants to win — in the gym, or in the scrimmage, or in the game.

“If any player can lead his team back from 0-3 down, it’s him!”

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

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

McDavid naturally gets the most praise for his incredible offensive ability — he’s scored multiple points in seven of 11 games since the start of the Western Conference Finals — but he’s also been playing over 23 minutes a night during these playoffs and has helped Edmonton control a lot of the ice during his five-on-five minutes.

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“What he’s 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’s blocking shots and doing whatever it takes to win. Watching him over the years, I’m not sure you’ve seen him do that before.” Everything We’re seeing what it takes to win a Cup, and we’re seeing that he’s learned and grown into a guy who’s ready to do that.”

Last year’s Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Marchessault was leaning toward Aleksander Barkov for the playoff MVP pick last week when the Panthers led the series 3-0. But like many, Marchessault is impressed with McDavid’s consecutive four-point outings that helped the Oilers stay alive.

“It’s very hard not to go with Conor now,” said Marchessault Athletic on the phone Wednesday night. “What he’s doing right now is unbelievable. He has a lot of points. He’s a factor at times when he’s on the ice. As much as people say, ‘Let’s beat him or catch him,’ you can’t do that. He’s too fast. He’s too nimble. You can’t touch him. He’s unbelievable.

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

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

“I wasn’t there in the second round of the NHL, but he’s the most dominant player I’ve ever seen,” Marchessault said. “The game is so fast now, and the way he reacts is unbelievable. Yeah, I think win or lose, Connor should get the win.”

(Top photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)


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