SIMMONS: I'm not cheering for Canada, I'm cheering for Connor McDavid

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Who could have scored a goal like that one? How many in hockey history?

Maybe Mario Lemieux? Maybe Wayne Gretzky, although it wasn’t his style? Maybe Pavel Bure?

Who else could have scored that singular ‘I’m not going to be stopped’ piece of art that Connor McDavid managed in traffic on Sunday night against the Dallas Stars.

A goal you have to watch and ‘stop it right there’ and watch some more and watch it again before you can’t completely comprehend the complexity and the degree of difficulty and the impossible speed and improbable hands that made it all possible.

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And then you watch it again — just to make certain that was what you actually saw in the first place.

That’s what Connor McDavid can do and no one else in hockey can match. He makes the impossible possible.

He had that look about him Sunday night — and that look so often throughout these Stanley Cup playoffs — that no matter what happens, no matter what the circumstances may be, he won’t or can’t be stopped when it factors most.


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Hockey is the ultimate team sport and, as the playoffs have unfolded, so many of the best players in the game have gone down, one by one.

Goodbye to Nathan MacKinnon, to Auston Matthews, to Nikita Kucherov, to David Pastrnak, to Artemi Panarin. Most of them rather quietly.

McDavid wouldn’t let it happen to his emerging Edmonton Oilers. There has been too much hurt and disappointment in the previous eight years. There has been too much difficulty.

There has not been an Oilers team of the McDavid years as deep and as well-coached as this one — and still, it took one individual score, one individual play and, right after that, another that gave Edmonton the two goals it needed to advance to the Stanley Cup final for the first time in 18 years.

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The first Canadian team with a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup since the Vancouver Canucks let one slip away in 2011.

I’m not cheering for the Oilers to win because they’re Canadian-based, I’m cheering for them to win the Cup because sport is always better when the best of its players are winning titles.

Football matters more when Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady win. Baseball would be at its best if Shohei Ohtani and Mookie Betts happened to be facing Aaron Judge and Juan Soto in a World Series. Now comes the ultimate matchup for the NHL.

The best player in hockey against the best team in hockey.

The most creative offensive centre in the game against the sport’s ultimate defensive centre.

The bash brother, forecheck-happy Panthers against the quieter, more-skilled Oilers.

McDavid has 31 points in 18 playoff games this Stanley Cup season and he hasn’t necessarily had to be consistently great every night to get there. That’s 12 more points than anyone on Florida.

McDavid could well finish the playoffs with more than 40 points in the post-season and that number by itself is breathtaking.

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Gretzky did it three times in an era during which scoring was more liberal than it is today. Lemieux has done it once. And in the entire history of hockey, through all its machinations, those are your 40-point playoff scorers.

If McDavid keeps up his pace of 1.7 points per game and the series with Florida goes six games, McDavid can reach 40 points for this playoffs.

The Mount Rushmore of hockey is changing right before our eyes: There is Gretzky, Lemieux and Bobby Orr, normally alongside Gordie Howe. That’s your typical big four.

The playoff numbers and the highlight-reel goals and the uncanny speed with which he plays would push McDavid past Howe on my personal Rushmore.

But first, there’s a Stanley Cup final to be played.

Florida, the most-penalized team in hockey, playing Edmonton, with the greatest power play in history — that bodes well for the Oilers.

But the Panthers are stronger in goal, on defence, on the forecheck and physically, meaning they won’t be an easy out. And styles make fights, so until the Panthers punch one of the Oilers in the mouth for the first time, we won’t know how the teams will react. Either of them.

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What we do know is McDavid has spent nine long seasons yearning for this stage. This is his leading role. This is his Broadway.

Hockey has been waiting, too. McDavid hasn’t had a lot of air time in the United States over the years. Playing in Canada does that to you. Playing in Edmonton, with late starts, doesn’t help the National Hockey League try and sell its greatest player.

This is a time for the game, for the sport, for McDavid in Season 9. Gretzky, surrounded by smiling superstars, won his first Cup in Edmonton in his fifth season. Lemieux won his Cups in Years 7 and 8. Orr won his first Cup in Year 4.

This isn’t a coming-out party of sorts for McDavid — he entered the league sprinting and hasn’t stopped running since. This is a team, though, that doesn’t need him to do everything.

There is the unstoppable Leon Draisaitl. There is the machine that is Zach Hyman. There is the incredible Evan Bouchard. There is the Swiss Army Knife, Ryan Nugent Hopkins. There is the sound stability that Mattias Ekholm brings on defence.

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There’s a lot of parts in this Oilers machine.

But there is only one highlight-reel McDavid.

He will be nervous and focused and inspired and intense just as he was in the final games against Dallas. That combination of emotions often brings the best out of him.

The most points scored in a final series ever was 13 by Gretzky in 1988. After that, it’s Lemieux, Howe, Yvan Cournoyer, Daniel Briere, Jacques Lemaire, all with 12.

Time to find a place on that list for McDavid and maybe a new place in hockey history.

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