The NHL Western Conference Finals will show how rival Superstars combine natural ability, explosiveness and creativity to take their game to exciting levels of speed, power and output.
It’s a dream matchup for the National Hockey League and television ratings.
It’s also a nightmare for those who corral and include — or at least cut down on — the magnificence of Conor McDavid and Nathan McKinnon.
When the final series of the Western Conference opens in Denver on Tuesday, it will show how dynamic inter-makers combine natural ability, explosiveness and creativity to take their games to lofty levels of speed, power, and output.
The Vancouver Canucks know everything about him.
For every night they kept McDavid in control, there was another where the Edmonton Oilers captain left him with another multi-point reminder. On January 14, 2021, there was a 5–2 road loss in which McDavid scored a hat-trick, four points, nine shots and a dozen attempts.
Alex Burroughs once said this about McDavid:
“It’s like a new trend of guys who are able to open their hips up and accelerate and you don’t even know which way they’re headed,” the former Canucks winger told Postmedia. “It’s a fun way to skate, but it’s definitely effective and you didn’t see it 10 years ago. It’s a killer combo.”
It was the same story with Colorado Avalanche bulls like McKinnon.
When he moves forward and overtakes prone defenders, the release is as effective as getting himself into shooting position. On February 26, 2018, he had two goals, one assist, nine shots and 19 attempts in a 3–1 win over the Canucks.
At the time, Daniel Sedin had this to say about McKinnon, whom he praised for having the best heavy and accurate shots at speed:
“He does it all, from steady tempo to top speed – I wish I had that,” the former Canucks winger told Postmedia.
McDavid’s teammates were in awe before their first game in the 2015–16 season.
He had another gear and a way to make everything go faster. He gained extra time as his first three powerful moves startled defenders and his uncanny ability to go wide and wait for something to develop – as opposed to jamming the puck through the skates – gave him a multi-pronged made danger.
Fast forward to a career-high and league-leading 123 points (44–79) this season and lauded worldwide as the best player in the game. At age 25, he would have his say to bring the Oilers back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since a seven-game loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.
“I’d love the opportunity for him to skate, so I can get a better idea,” trainer Kathy McIlwain, who works with Bo Horvat in the off-season, said Monday from London, Ont. “He is special. A lot of people have talent with the puck and some are good skaters, but for McDavid and McKinnon the ability to do it at high speed and avoid contact is incredible.
“They are quick thinkers and excellent with their feet.”
For McDavid, the relentless energy it takes to fuel explosiveness and elusiveness is jaw-dropping.
“Some guys have great acceleration pop like (former Canuck) Jared McCann with whom I work,” McIlvain said. “He is a good skater, but he is not as good in the lateral way. Bo is an excellent and smooth skater with a low base, strong body position and good balance.
“Connor has momentum and is able to change speed and direction and that’s a big deal. He’s very unpredictable with the puck. It’s crazy. Some people start on their toes and some use their full blades.” It depends on where the strength is coming from in the body or the legs.”
McILwain also works with Boone Jenner, Colton White, Lawson Krause, Drew Doughty and Corey Perry, and the common thing is that players don’t take much time.
McKinnon, 26, is in that category and keeps working on his craft. Despite missing 22 games this season with upper and lower body injuries, a concussion and a facial fracture, he scored 88 points (32–56) in 65 games.
“My department is why McKinnon gets so many shots,” McElwain said of his teaching philosophy. “He’s confident and trusts his edge and holds his own. It’s working to have space to take all those shots and getting creative with as many different variations as he can.
“It’s up to the person to know when to use them.”
back on the ice ‘soon’
Horvat’s timeline for resuming off-season skating after suffering a hairline fracture — this happened on April 14 when the Canucks captain was hit over the right foot by a point from Arizona Coyotes defenseman Anton Strallman — may come close. .
The duration of treatment is usually four to six weeks and Monday was a sign that Horvat was drawing to a close.
“Everyone is a little different,” McIlvain said. “I was just touching base with him and he said ‘soon.’ Bo is different. He’s just responsible, looks after himself and I believe what he says. And he’s a worker.”
longer , The Canucks on Monday announced improvements to their player development program with the addition of the former Canucks and Detroit Red Wings winger. Mikel Samuelson and former longtime NHL defenseman mike komisarek to the club. Samuelsson and Komisarek will work with prospects throughout the organization, joining Canucks veterans Daniel And henrik sedinaAs the twins take on a new role in player development with the club after spending a year in the hockey operations department.
, Canucks have until Wednesday to sign 2018 draft substitute Tony Utunen before his rights expire. It seems impossible. The fifth-round pick projects only as a third-pair, left-shot defenseman in the NHL. He had 11 points (4–7) in 59 games this season with the Pelicans of the Finnish SM-Liga.
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