No goals, but Connor McDavid still dazzles Montreal Canadiens

I kind of compare him to the Cristiano Ronaldo of hockey,” he said.On that, both teams might even agree; more than one Hab grumbled about the soccer-like ease with which McDavid tumbled to the ice in a game decided, FIFA-style, on penalty shots.That’s another thing about the Newmarket, Ont., native: he makes people take penalties at a league-leading rate.The 27 he has drawn through 55 games is far and away the highest total in the league (Nikolaj Ehlers of Winnipeg is second with 20).On this day, the Habs took three trying to contain McDavid; Weber for tripping, Nathan Beaulieu for hooking, Alexei Emelin for hooking.Andrew Shaw should have gotten another for what looked suspiciously like a slew foot, and surely would have had the referee’s arm not been up already for the Weber trip.This is a player whose mere presence on the ice forces opponents to reach and defenders to backpedal.We haven’t even started in on the breakaways yet.There was one in the first, after he astutely intercepted Alex Radulov’s cross-ice breakout pass at centre (Beaulieu was penalized for preventing his shot).There was another in overtime, when Habs goalie Al Montoya made a save (one of the 32 he would make on the night) despite not appearing to know for sure where the puck was; on a couple of other occasions he roared around the Montreal defence to create chances.“He could have had a hat trick today,” Lucic said.As it was, McDavid’s linemate Leon Draisaitl provided the winning marker in the shootout to secure the 1-0 win.In the first period, the Bell Centre crowd paid McDavid the ultimate compliment: lusty boos when he fell over theatrically after some sneaky, accidentally-on-purpose contact from penalty killer Tomas Plekanec.“The crowd was getting on me a little bit, but I was definitely not diving, all three of those chances I was trying to make a play to the net, stuff like that happens,” McDavid said afterward.As to the catcalls, McDavid said “I don’t usually get those … but I don’t mind, if it’s a compliment I’ll take it.”It also happens Sunday was McDavid’s 100th career game.His totals at the milestone are 34 goals, 74 assists, 108 points, and too many edge-of-the-seat rushes to count.When it was put to McDavid afterward that he had just completed an NHL century of games, he said, “I didn’t even know that.”“It goes by so fast, honestly, it feels like just being drafted a day ago,” he said. Well, he’s pretty much the present, too … he’s going to get chances no matter what you do.”Game planning for star players is nothing new, but on Super Bowl Sunday the Habs essentially played a road game at home in a bid to bottle up the NHL’s leading scorer.“A lot of clogged-up areas out there,” observed Oilers winger Milan Lucic.The former Bruin also contributed the best line of the day about his 20-year-old superstar teammate. I don’t know what else to say, I’ve pumped his tires pretty good,” he said.Montreal coach Michel Therrien likened McDavid to Sidney Crosby, whom he coached at 18 and 19, and said, “You can see he’s the future of the NHL. On his first shift, number 97 in white looked like he was in a nothing position, caught between the boards and a defenceman, and then, well, he wasn’t.Instead, Connor McDavid scooted around the Montreal Canadiens’ Shea Weber, widely considered one of the elite defenders in the game, and presented himself in front of the net. “He’s electrifying, and for a lot of reasons. Not only that, he’s got the mind for it. His speed, his skill, his ability to finish, his ability to pass. A lot of guys have maybe one or two things, or a thing here or there, but he’s definitely as close as it gets to having it all.”Like many before him and a large number to come, Weber fielded multiple questions about the man against whom he was matched up (McDavid played 25:07, Weber played 25:09) and – it must be said – managed to hold off the scoresheet.“He’s strong, too. His hands are as good as his speed, but he’s agile and shifty as well. “It just goes by quick.”It’s an appropriate frame; if everyone else is impressed by the way he flies around, the man himself may as well be surprised at the alacrity with which he is taking the league by storm. It came to nothing, but the thing about the Edmonton Oilers captain is he makes opponents question the very idea of certainty; you can’t conclusively say you’ve got him where you want him, because you don’t.Read more: Is Connor McDavid the next Gretzky of endorsements?After the game, Weber, winner of two Olympic medals and a World Cup trophy, and a man who has been among the first defencemen selected to Team Canada for the last eight years, was asked whether the challenge presented by McDavid is merely one of speed.“Everything,” he snorted.“Obviously, he’s fast, but there’s a lot of guys that are fast.