The Stanley Cup playoffs started on Saturday, which is weird because the NHL regular season continued on Saturday, as the Canucks handed the Oilers a 4-1 loss that was notable only because Connor McDavid picked up his league-best 72nd assist, which also wrapped up the scoring title for the presumptive MVP with 105 points.
McDavid edged teammate and last year’s Art Ross Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl by a mere 21 points, the first time teammates have finished 1-2 in scoring since… last season, when Draisaitl had 110 points and McDavid racked up 97.
We’ve known that was coming, since Brad Marchand was way back at 69 points in third place, and it’s not the biggest surprise in the world for teammates to be atop the league scoring chart. Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos did it for the Lightning in 2013, Mario Lemieux and Jaromír Jágr for the Penguins in 1996, and Wayne Gretzky with three different Oilers teammates — Jari Kurri twice, Mark Messier, and Paul Coffey — during his career.
It’s also the first time that the scoring leaders have been a quinella in back-to-back years since 2007 and 2008, when Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin flip-flopped.
What’s most stunning, and the reason that McDavid should be a unanimous MVP, is the 21-point margin, a full 20 percent better than the next guy in the league, and 36 points better than the first guy in the league who didn’t benefit from McDavid’s passes.
By finishing 21 points up on Draisaitl, McDavid bested the 20-point bulge between Jágr and Teemu Selänne in 1999, finishing with the largest scoring lead since Wayne Gretzky tallied 163 points — including 122 assists! — to Brett Hull’s 131 in 1991.
Gretzky didn’t win the MVP that year because Hull scored 86 goals. The league lead this year was less than half that — 41 for Auston Matthews.
Technically, though, the scoring race isn’t over. The Canucks and Flames still play each other three times, all while the playoffs are happening outside of Canada, for reasons that… well, it’s TV contracts, but seriously what the hell kind of sickos are going to watch those Canucks-Flames games?
And really, what if Elias Lindholm puts up 61 points for Calgary in those three games? Who’s going to look stupid then?
Still the NHL. It’s not too late to tell the Canucks and Flames to just go home. Please, tell the Canucks and Flames to just go home.
The playoff opener was pretty cool, as Craig Anderson came in to play goal for the Capitals after Vitek Vanecek got hurt, and the 39-year-old backstopped Washington to an overtime victory over the Bruins as Nic Dowd put a deflection past Tuukka Rask.
But the coolest thing of the night was Marchand, after a kid in the stands was hit by a stray puck during warmups, sending up an autographed stick before the game.
After 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, two-time MVP and 2020 Defensive Player of the Year Candace Parker made her Sky debut, and it was a successful one, with 16 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks in Chicago’s 70-56 win in Washington.
The Mystics shot 4-for-30 on three-pointers in their opener, which, well, nowhere to go but up.
Nick Castellanos managed to say everything while saying nothing at all.
The Cincinnati star was suspended earlier this year for a benches-clearing incident that Yadier Molina instigated by shoving him, and when he did talk about that, he pretty much nailed that one, too, saying, “Sucks. No way around it. I mean, that pretty much describes it the best, which it sucks.”