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  • “Don’t let him touch the puck.” Bruins plan to ‘contain’ Connor McDavid

    Tim Rosenthal March 8, 2023

    Very few teams, if any, have found an answer to stopping the otherworldly Connor McDavid.

    On most nights, limiting the damage done by McDavid is a remarkable accomplishment in and of itself. The league-leading Boston Bruins discovered that firsthand during their trip to Edmonton last week.

    McDavid’s speed got the better of the Bruins en route to another two-goal outing. Between his skating and crafty playmaking, Boston’s top-ranked defensive unit didn’t fare too poorly, especially in shorthanded situations.

    The Bruins’ depth scoring shined in that 3-2 win last Monday, with Tomas Nosek, Nick Foligno and Pavel Zacha lighting the lamp. They held the Oilers to 24 shots on net — including five from McDavid — and stymied their league-leading power play during their lone shorthanded situation.

    They’ll likely return to that formula on Thursday when McDavid and the Oilers make their only visit to TD Garden. But there’s one strategy that Jim Montgomery might try to implement.

    “Don’t let him touch the puck,” Montgomery joked to the assembled media at Warrior Ice Arena following Wednesday’s practice.

    If only it were that easy.

    “What can we say?” Montgomery added. “I thought we played a really good game last time. He still had two goals, and he still made three passes for one timers.”

    McDavid failed to register a single point in just six games this season. He’s embarked on four point streaks of 10 or more games, including his current 11-game run dating back to Feb. 15.

    Even with David Pastrnak and Linus Ullmark posting career seasons, McDavid remains the runaway Hart Trophy favorite.

    McDavid and his 124 points are nearly 30 ahead of teammate Leon Draisiatl (96), the league’s second-leading scorer. The 2015 top overall pick surpassed his previous career high of 123 points from last season. He’s on pace to up his incredible point total to 156 on 68 goals and 88 assists.

    He’s provided dazzling moments for the highlight reels throughout his career. But now, he’s playing on a different stratosphere.

    The Bruins will once again have their hands full against McDavid. With the benefit of last change, they’ll likely deploy the top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk in an attempt to hinder McDavid’s production.

    “You don’t know if you can stop him. You just try to slow him down any way you can,” the Edmonton native DeBrusk said. “There’s different ways to try to do it. Honestly, it’s puck management. If we have the puck and he doesn’t, things are better for us. It comes down to being as simple as that, and just being in the right spots and being aware of his speed. That’s the biggest thing; That’s why he’s so good.”

    McDavid stands above the rest of his peers. Between McDavid and Draisailtl, Edmonton also possesses one of the league’s top 1-2 punches down the middle.

    With 78 points and a year removed from a conference finals appearance, the Oilers sit in the top wild-card spot in a tightly-contested Western Conference playoff picture. Their defensive and goaltending concerns, however, prevented Edmonton from making that next step so far this season.

    But as long as No. 97 touches the ice, they’ll always have a chance to come away with two points on any given night. Heck, he’s drawing comparisons to some of the all-time greats, including Wayne Gretzky and even a hardwood legend formerly of Chicago Bulls fame.

    “He’s kind of like Michael Jordan, right? You can’t stop him. You can only hope to contain him,” Montgomery said. “We held him to two points. It’s slightly above his average. Hopefully, we can hold him to one.”

    The Bruins haven’t encountered many issues holding bonafide superstars off the scoresheet. But McDavid has even made the best defensive setups look unorganized with his incredible talent.

    Come 7:30 Thursday, the passionate Garden faithful will witness the best player and his nearly two-point per game against the best team — that became even deeper at the trade deadline — and their quest for history for the second time this season.

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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