What happens when you put the league’s two biggest offensive gamebreakers in a restricted division ripe with poor defensive teams?
We have found out this season. One of the perks of the North Division – the seven-team Canadian grouping brought forth by COVID-19 border restrictions – is we have been able to watch Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Toronto’s Auston Matthews filleting poor defences on a nightly basis. The beauty of a compressed, every-other-night sort of schedule means the league’s two biggest box office draws are always front and centre.
Something about this season has felt unique, though. In Edmonton, McDavid – and his running mate, former Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl – have handled the lion’s share of the scoring burden for the Oilers.
The splits are quite incredible. As a starting point, consider that McDavid has been on the ice for a whopping 65 per cent of the team’s goals despite playing just 37 per cent of the minutes. That is an extraordinary differential, though it may say just as much about the team’s depth as it does about McDavid’s dominance.
Then turn to Toronto. Auston Matthews has 32 goals in 40 games. It’s almost an injustice that we can’t see how this season could play out over an 82-game stretch – his current prorated pace (65 goals per 82 games) is almost impossible to fathom, and would put him in Alexander Ovechkin 2007-08 territory. (Note: the 2007-09 seasons were ripe with power-play opportunities, which helped drive that total, but Ovechkin’s 43 even-strength goals alone that year were remarkable.)
The other thing that’s noticeable about McDavid and Matthews this season is the amount of daylight between them and their peers.