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Connor McDavid What In The Actual Hell

EDMONTON, CANADA - JUNE 02: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates his first-period goal against the Dallas Stars in Game Six of the Western Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on June 2, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Connor McDavid is the fastest hockey player. I do not mean just in the sense of the fastest skater, though he is that, nor do I mean his acceleration through traffic, though that is responsible for the highlight that'll play first in his career reel. McDavid is quickest in processing and executing, too: he sees plays unfolding before they do, and before anyone else can. But none of it would matter without those hands. His horsepower, his preternatural vision—they would make him merely a great player if he didn't also have the hands to make his stick and thus the puck do what he wants, at a speed that confounds the human eye. I have watched McDavid's game-opening goal in Edmonton's eventual conference-winning Game 6 probably two dozen times, many of them in slow motion, and I still cannot count the dangles in the dangle.

Fifty years ago McDavid might've been burned at the stake for practicing witchcraft. Sam Steel is picking up pieces of his anklebones. Miro Heiskanen still can't find his pants. Jake Oettinger is wondering how on Earth a top-shelf backhand opportunity developed from nothing. Imagine being in the building for this! The highest praise that could be paid the absurdity of this goal is that the Edmonton crowd's first reaction was not a cheer, but a gasp. Listen to it: It's the sound of fans who have seen nine seasons of McDavid and can still be bewildered by his skill.

"There's one player in the world that can make things like that happen," Leon Draisaitl said. Stuart Skinner's takeaway? "Connor McDavid doing Connor McDavid things." I could paste some more teammate reaction quotes, but they're not much more eloquent than my or your own wordless yelping; McDavid reduces even fellow pros to starstruck spectators. Let's yelp some more. Here's another angle.

If ever a goal should be worth more than one point, this was it—and it sort of was. Later in the first period, 97's close-quarters wizardry still fresh in their heads, the Stars double-teamed him even on an Oilers power play, which left Zach Hyman with a comical amount of space. McDavid found him, he finished, and that was all the scoring Edmonton would need. The second goal probably doesn't happen without the first, without the threat of McDavid being as imposing as McDavid himself.

McDavid's puck prestidigitation gives him a signature moment in his first trip to the Cup Final, where there will be all sorts of annoying but understandable questions about legacies. That all of Edmonton's previous playoff failures were in spite of McDavid's play doesn't really matter in these discussions, nor will his going 3-7-10 in this series to help vanquish a superior Stars team. The Greatest Player Of His Generation must be photographed holding the Stanley Cup, if he is not to be remembered foremost as The Greatest Player Never To Win A Cup. I don't like it—one player can only do so much, even this one player—but I get it, and I can't fully resist it either.

Ah, but that's all for next week. You know what? Fuck it, another angle:

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