Connor McDavid putting Oilers playoff prep ahead of 100-point chase

Connor McDavid’s chase for a 100-point season amidst a truncated 56-game campaign has caught attention around the NHL. The Edmonton Oilers superstar and league’s scoring leader has 91 points and six games remaining to reach the century mark heading into Tuesday’s road clash with the Vancouver Canucks.

However, McDavid, who netted two goals and four points in Monday’s 5-3 win over the Canucks, is more focused on the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs, which his club officially qualified for in the first of four straight games against the Canucks.

“I’m trying to play the best I can and make sure my game is where it needs to be heading into playoffs,” McDavid said. “It’s a number. If I get there, great. If not, it’s not the end of the world either. The most important thing is our team is gearing up for playoffs and making sure we’re on all cylinders in game one.”

McDavid, who has collected 20 points in the last seven games, has a solid reason for looking ahead. The Oilers (31-17-2, 64 points) may have won four of five games and have an outside shot of catching the Toronto Maple Leafs for top spot in the North Division, but they remember their inglorious ousting by the Chicago Blackhawks in the play-in round of last year’s Stanley Cup tournament.

“Everyone left the bubble in a bad mood,” McDavid said. “No one felt great about where we were at, how that series went. I think it was a good moment for us to step back and learn from it, learn what it takes to win. I think everyone’s done a great job of buying in this year, believing.”

Thus, we’ve seen a more business-like focus among the youthful Oilers, even after clinching a playoff spot.

“It’s the first step, right, so we’ve given ourselves a chance at it now,” defenseman Tyson Barrie said. “It’s nice to get that ‘X’ next to your name, get that out of the way, and now we’ve got a shot to win the Stanley Cup. That’s the goal at the beginning of the year and we’ve done a good job accomplishing that. Great to get that done, but a lot of work to be done still.”

The Canucks (19-24-3, 41 points) are nearly out of chances to keep their playoff hopes alive. A five-game losing skid in which they’ve scored only nine goals has them on the verge of being eliminated.

When the Canucks returned from a nearly three-week hiatus due to a COVID-19 outbreak that affected nearly everyone, expectations were it would be tough to find a playoff spot, but they’ve fallen off a cliff.

That said, nobody can accuse the Canucks of quitting. They pushed for a comeback against the high-octane Oilers and even made it a one-goal game before a McDavid empty-netter sealed the deal.

“Our guys worked and competed,” coach Travis Green said. “It’s a tough loss and obviously their big line was a factor. We made a couple of mistakes on a couple of goals and they made us pay. We tried to push at the end.”

The Canucks have 10 games remaining and must win them all plus get help to make the playoffs. It looks like they’ll go down swinging.

“I don’t think effort is our issue. We work hard every game,” forward J.T. Miller added. “We’ve had the injury problem lately and a lot of new faces, but for me that’s no excuse. We want to win. We’re not playing bad, but we’ve got to do more against these teams that are playoff ready. These games are hard and we take a lot of pride competing in them.”