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Connor McDavid, Oilers gained plenty despite Game 7 elimination

Edmonton considers series against Ducks learning experience

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- The Edmonton Oilers named Connor McDavid captain Oct. 5, one week before his second NHL season.

Just as the Oilers grew by leaps and bounds this season, surging to 103 points, second place in the Pacific Division and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 11 years, McDavid, 20, has embraced his leadership role and blossomed in it.

It was on display after the most disappointing game of the season, a 2-1 loss against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round here on Wednesday.

McDavid held court in the center of the Oilers locker room, surrounded by reporters. He expressed the appropriate disappointment and dissected the meaning of all that happened during his season as captain.

After leading the NHL with 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists) and 30 multipoint games in 82 regular-season games, and being named a Hart Trophy finalist, he had nine points (five goals, four assists) in 13 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The decline in production and learning experiences he encountered in the postseason, against the San Jose Sharks in the first round and then against the Ducks, were not topics for Wednesday, McDavid said.

It was all about the Oilers.

"I'm just going to talk about our team," he said. "We battled hard, up and down the lineup. That's a good team over there. I don't think many people gave us much of a chance this series to even take it seven [games], and quite honestly we might not have, even should have been, at [Game 7]."

McDavid had five points (three goals, two assists) in the second round but didn't have a point in Games 6 and 7.

Oilers coach Todd McLellan cut off a question about McDavid's play by declaring full support for his center.

Video: EDM@ANA, Gm5: McDavid bats in PPG out of mid-air

"Connor McDavid's play … I thought he was tremendous," McLellan said Wednesday. "I thought he did everything he possibly could and played 25, 26 minutes tonight (actually 24:45).

"He was our leader. He did many, many things that you guys don't see. There's a little glimpse of it I think after the comeback here in Anaheim where he took care of the team. There's a lot done for a 20-year-old captain that nobody sees. His play speaks for itself. We wouldn't be at this spot without him and the rest of the team. We learned that we can't just win with one individual. I thought he was tremendous."

The incident McLellan may have been referring to was a moment after the Ducks scored three times in the final 3:16 of the third period of Game 5 to tie it and then won 4-3 in double overtime.

As the stunned Oilers left ice in Anaheim, center Leon Draisaitl sat by himself on the bench, observing the Ducks celebration. After a moment, McDavid tapped Draisaitl on the shoulder and nodded to him that that was enough.

Each departed and rallied to play a stronger Game 6, which the Oilers won 7-1 at home.

Like McDavid, McLellan emphasized the play of the Oilers, not McDavid, on Wednesday.

"He had to fight through a lot of stuff," McLellan said. "He learned a lot throughout the playoffs. It wasn't just him. Leon had to fight through that. There were other guys who had to learn to play through injuries, to deal with ups and downs, officiating, all that type of stuff. So it wasn't just Connor going to school. It was the organization."

Woven into the narrative about the progress of a young team with little playoff experience was also an understanding of what had happened to them.

"Our opponent played significantly better [in Game 7 than Game 6]," McLellan said. "They didn't give up much. They checked. They were well prepared. I think that team has a chance to go on and win. So we can beat our team up a little bit, but we have to give the other team credit.

"I'm not going to sit here and poke holes in our group. I'm going to give them credit because they deserve it."

The series against the Ducks had momentum swings within each game. Though the Oilers were eliminated, the exposure to that is something McDavid says will matter in the future.

"We won't have to answer that experience question anymore, which is nice," he said.

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