Is the NHL now rigging games for Connor McDavid?

After last night’s Oilers win, it sure seems that way

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Connor McDavid is going to the Western Conference Finals.
Connor McDavid is going to the Western Conference Finals.
Image: Getty Images

OK, obviously not. But maybe?

That has always been the perception about the truly transcendent from us plebes. Tom Brady gets every pass interference and roughing the passer call. Michael Jordan could draw a foul by just looking at the lane. Greg Maddux’s strike zone was the size of a rhino’s ass. It seems no official/ref/umpire could resist the charms of that particular game’s best, and would get seduced like the rest of us.

Hockey has resisted this forever, and in fact made their playoffs an atmosphere that was even harder for the game’s biggest stars to shine as the refs always had their whistles in their lower intestine come the spring. That’s changed this time around, and not only for McDavid but MacKinnon, Stamkos, Kucherov, Gaudreau (not enough though) amongst others who have gotten to take over playoff games if not entire series. It’s made for a far more watchable playoff bracket.

But this call is going to keep Flames fans up at night for a while, assuming one can sleep in a city that constantly smells of horseshit.


This is one of those cases where if a ref watches something in slow motion long enough, and sees enough replays, you can label it whatever you want. At game speed, this never looked like a kick. In slow motion, if you want to, you can see Coleman lift his skate off the ice while he’s being shoved into the crease. This puck was going in anyway, and the point of the rule is to keep skaters from exposing and flinging their skates near a goalie when he’s trying to freeze the puck. Mike Smith was nowhere near this. It’s too miserly.

However, the Flames put themselves here. Jakob Markstrom had a complete meltdown, letting in nine goals over expected for the whole series according to Natural Stat Trick. And that’s the big takeaway for the Flames, who weren’t terrible in the five games but simply didn’t get any saves, much less the big save that can turn games and series around.

There will be cold stares at Calgary’s top line, especially if Johnny Gaudreau fucks off to Philadelphia in free agency to waste his time for the next seven years and officially consigns this season as the Flames’ best chance to do something serious in the playoffs. The Flames’ top line had six points combined in the four games since Game 1’s kindergarten recess football game.


Sometimes though your top line doesn’t score, and you have to find a way. You can’t find that way when your goalie is waving everything through like a traffic cop. Also, the last two games, maybe it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to toss Chris Tanev out there when…


This is the thing about playoff hockey, as the media loves to glorify players suiting up when they clearly shouldn’t be, even if they can’t really do anything. And players are terrified of giving into their injuries, and you wonder why the league and sport has a problem with speaking up about anything.

In the end, the headlines will be and should be about McDavid, who netted the OT winner, his 12th point in five games. McDavid may make a case for being the first player ever to win the Conn Smythe without actually appearing in the Final, if that should come to pass. Calgary’s system is based on their defensemen remaining high up the ice even when losing the puck, trying to engineer turnovers before the red line. It works because the Flames’ forwards are so fast they can make up for any D-man that gets beat.


But no one’s as fast as McDavid, who either beat those D-men high up the ice clean or pushed them back to have all the space he needed in the neutral zone. Even when McDavid wasn’t on the ice, and with Tanev’s injury, the Calgary blue line was so scarred they were still backing up and providing the Oilers space.

The Oilers aren’t particularly good, and Smith was only less bad than his counterpart. But none of it matters because McDavid, with some help from Leon Draisaitl, can’t be stopped. And if it happens to cast the officials under a spell while he’s at it, well, it only makes him one of the truly historic.