Swarming Sharks keep Oilers’ McDavid in check

From last fall to early spring, Connor McDavid hit the score sheet pretty much whenever he stepped on the ice for the Edmonton Oilers. Even when he is not around a rink, McDavid must be peering over his shoulder to see if Marc-Édouard Vlasic and Justin Braun are following him.Stanley Cup Playoffs: The latest news and resultsThe San Jose defencemen are sticking to him like fly paper. It is mainly because the Sharks, especially in the past two games, have swarmed around him like a man on a life raft. With each game that he is held in check, tension rises. The game ended with fans chanting, “We want eight!” That is never a good sign.Counting himself among them, Milan Lucic said afterward that it is time for the Oilers’ key players to have an impact. Since then, nothing. He never failed to do one of those things more than two games in a row. 2. From then to now, he has played 33 games. The same is true in hockey.In San Jose this week, McDavid said it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t score as long as the Oilers win. Zack Kassian, who had seven goals during the regular season, scored the winners in Games 2 and 3 but was not a factor on Tuesday night. Mark Letestu is the oldest player lining up for Edmonton, and he is 32.Sidney Crosby, the NHL’s last great generational player before McDavid came along, had three goals and two assists in his first playoff series. More often, when he wasn’t scoring goals himself, he was helping teammates score. At 37, Joe Thornton is as old as Moses and rather resembles him. That could happen for the first time when the Oilers and San Jose Sharks meet Thursday night at Edmonton’s Rogers Place in Game 5 of their playoff series. If it happened to you or me on the street, police would be summoned. When the opportunity has been presented, Joe Pavelski has not hesitated to give McDavid a nudge or a sharp jab with his stick.The rude treatment is not unusual for young players, especially supremely gifted ones such as McDavid. He either led or was tied for the league lead in scoring every day this season from Nov. 22 on. 31 and Feb. Todd McLellan, the Edmonton coach, said that nobody on either team is likely to be near the top of the chart in playoff scoring after this series because of the tight checking.“There is not an inch of room out there,” Lucic said.The Sharks were roughed up in Game 2 in Edmonton and their coach, Peter DeBoer, shrugged it off.“It is big-boy hockey time,” Burns said.McDavid has 150 points in his first 131 games. He had 27 points over 16 leading into the third game of this best-of-seven series. Until now.Through 131 NHL games, the Oilers’ captain has never gone more than two without a point. Angst is not without merit. It is not because Edmonton’s young captain is playing so poorly. He had 100 points and won the Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring champion in his second season. Before that, he torched San Jose for five goals and five assists in seven games. When a baseball team’s sluggers suddenly can’t hit a lick in the World Series, things usually go south. On occasion, Brent Burns, the Sharks’ mountainous Norris Trophy candidate, has chipped in. Five other San Jose players are 32 or over. Players with such immense skills are unlikely to disappear for too long.“You never know when he’s going to break out, so every shift we’ve got to be on him,” Braun said.The Sharks aren’t easy. There is still no reason to think McDavid won’t. The great ones persevere, and produce. To a man, they are nearly four years older than the Oilers. So of course, he is Shark bait.He knows it, the Oilers know it, fans know it. In his first crack at the Stanley Cup, Wayne Gretzky had three points in three games.It is harder than it looks, especially for a young player. At this time of year in arenas across North America, it is described as playoff hockey.The last time McDavid went consecutive games without a point was Jan. It is unlikely Edmonton can win without him having much of a presence, especially without contributions from his teammates.Leon Draisaitl, who finished eighth in the NHL in scoring with 77 points, has all but disappeared. He is right. The 21-year-old German, without a point through four playoff games, got so frustrated during the Oilers’ 7-0 bushwhacking by San Jose on Tuesday night that he speared Chris Tierney in the groin and was subsequently kicked out.On Wednesday, the NHL fined Draisaitl $2,569.44 (U.S.), the maximum allowable under the collective agreement, for the spearing infraction.Patrick Maroon has four penalties and zero points through four games.