Oilers' Holland: McDavid showing 'incredible commitment' on defense
Ken Holland knows everyone's well aware of Connor McDavid's exceptional offensive abilities, but the superstar captain's improvement on the defensive end has impressed the Edmonton Oilers general manager.
"Over the last three years, you know, and certainly in this playoff, he's worked harder at every aspect of his game," Holland told NHL.com's Mike Zeisberger. "He always could obviously put points on the board. He won scoring races. So, I would say to you, he's got an incredible commitment now to defensive play."
Holland has seen ample evidence of that this postseason.
"(During his) first shift in Game 7 of the opening round against (the) Los Angeles (Kings), he runs over one of their players. He sets the tone. He's going to be really physical," the GM said. "I think there's been a few games he's led our team in hits. He's backchecking, he's playing physical. And I think when he's got the puck, he's very focused on driving to the net."
Holland believes McDavid's maturation is partly the reason for his evolution.
"I just think that he's laser-focused on being the very best that he can be every night. I think he always was, but I think part of it too is that you're different at 25 than you were at 21," the GM said.
"He's grown up. He's got experiences to fall back on, both positive and negative, that you learn from," Holland continued. "Players evolve and grow into becoming better players, and that's what he's done. He was one of the game's greatest players when he was 19 or 20. But he's got experience now, emotionally, physically, and experience-wise."
McDavid ranks 10th among NHL forwards in hits during this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs with 39 in 12 games. Only three forwards in the league have more takeaways than McDavid's 13 this postseason.
The 2021-22 Hart Trophy finalist and reigning MVP also boasts a tremendous 62.87 expected goals for percentage at five-on-five in these playoffs, according to Natural Stat Trick, proving the Oilers have dominated puck possession when he's been on the ice in those situations, as usual.
That mark also factors in his defensive impact, and it includes only 9.43 expected goals against in over 200 minutes at five-on-five, ranking third-best among forwards who've played at least 180 this postseason.
The Oilers will face the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Final, which begins Tuesday night in Denver.