Finding a way to contain Connor McDavid should be the main focus for the Chicago Blackhawks, as they head into what could be a deciding Game 4 of their Stanely Cup Qualifiers.
Currently leading their play-in series 2-1, the Chicago Blackhawks have already earned more success than most would have predicted this post-season. That doesn’t mean Connor McDavid hasn’t been doing damage along the way.
So far, through three games in this round, McDavid has racked up five goals, two assists, and seven points, with an average ice time of 20:58 per game. Every second he’s out there could become a pivotal moment in any game.
McDavid is the type of player that should always be seen as a threat. He’s so fast, creative, and intelligent on the ice, that he’s impacting everything around him whether he’s producing or not.
Anticipating that he will get on the board while making a difference no matter who else is sharing the rink around him, the Blackhawks have to find a way to keep his scoring to a minimum.
This is an undisputed superstar and everyone knows it. Often to the point that his production is so expected, that he doesn’t get the type of praise or recognition others would for comparable results.
On any given night, McDavid’s speed is unmatched, his puck possession untouched, and the fortuitous bounces he lands undeniable. As elite-level talent often exhibits, he knows where to be, and when, to get the job done.
Stopping that type is no easy feat, as Chicago’s defenders have already been experiencing all series. They’ve had blips of success with blunders mixed in, leading to less than consistent coverage of the world’s best player.
If the Blackhawks are hoping to close this series out with a Game 4 victory and avoid a Game 5, there are some strategies they can put in place to further their efforts of containing McDavid.
Better Team Positioning
Chicago is a creative team, lead by some of the most prolific scorers and dynamic defensemen in this era of the game. They prefer a puck-moving and playmaking style, which can often result in being all over the ice at any given point of a shift.
These professionals eventually do get back to where they should be. However, McDavid is capable of pouncing on any loose puck and making it through the entire team before they even have a chance to re-structure.
Everyone through this Blackhawks roster needs to ensure systems are being enforced and positioning is top of mind, especially when Edmonton’s most dangerous player is just waiting for such a slip-up.
Pinch Less With Each Play
Expanding on their overall team positioning and style, Chicago has a defensive core that likes to get involved. More often than not, they use this as an advantage when a game-breaking type play is necessary.
However, when McDavid is being defended against, that tactic requires re-assessment. Not only does he overshadow those he competes against, but he pries on opportunities to blow by defenders with an even easier path to the net.
Chicago’s defense has to play a more static game than they’re accustomed to. They aren’t as fast as McDavid, so staying closer to their zone will at least keep them where they need to be to catch him.
Take the Penalty Instead
Although the strategy is often to avoid penalties, when faced with McDavid flying straight towards your goaltender, it may be a worthwhile approach to stop him right then and there without worrying about the repercussions.
Again, this is a special player who requires a unique set of tactics to defend against. And it may just be that sitting in the box for two minutes makes more sense than the alternative.
Of course, with the Oilers on the power play, it presents them an opportunity to score anyway. But McDavid’s chances to capitalize on a clear opportunity are so high that the Blackhawks might want to consider battling shorthanded instead.
It would be in the best interest of the Chicago Blackhawks if they finished this series off with the opportunity to do so right in front of them. They do not want to let any version of Connor McDavid, let alone an angry one, have more chances of his own.