PITTSBURGH — Everyone involved is making sure to emphasize that it’s Oilers versus Penguins, not Sidney Crosby versus Connor McDavid, Tuesday night.
But how cool would that be?
Kick everyone else off the ice for 10 minutes or so, move the nets to the blue-lines and have the best player on the planet and his 19-year-old heir apparent play a little one-on-one?
Maybe 87 and 97 can have their own shootout?
OK, maybe not. Nobody wants to make a gimmick out of this, but Edmonton at Pittsburgh is a special day and a special game in the NHL. Two generational talents on the same ice at the same time, for the first time, is one of those “I was there” moments the league needs more of.
After missing both games against the Penguins last season with a broken collarbone, McDavid finally gets to lace up against the two-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Olympic gold medallist, two-time Hart Trophy winner and two-time Art Ross winner.
And yes, he’s pumped.
“It’s exciting, I didn’t get a chance to, last year,” said McDavid, who was tied for fourth in league scoring Monday. “And I didn’t get a chance to play him at the World Cup. So it’s exciting for me. He’s someone I grew up idolizing. For me, it’s going to be pretty cool.”
It’s going to be pretty cool for everyone else, too.
Crosby has been in a few of these situations himself: Crosby vs. Ovechkin, Crosby vs. Toews, Crosby vs. Dubinsky, Crosby vs. the entire Flyers organization.
He can do without the hype, but won’t lie — he loves the challenge.
“Once you get out there, I think that’s the best part,” said the Penguins captain. “The competitive side kind of takes over. There’s match-ups every night. I mean, some aren’t talked about as much as others, but there’s some that personally you feel are more of a match-up than maybe other people think, just because of history.
“Some are talked about more than others. Obviously tomorrow night will be one that’s talked about a little bit more, but at the end of the day, you’re going out there, trying to get two points. They all mean the same, but you definitely understand the situation. I think that competition is why you play, that’s what you love about the game.”
McDavid is only 58 games into his NHL career and while his speed, his ability to make plays at that speed and his vision on the ice lead many to believe he will one day surpass Crosby as the player in the game, he is the first to admit he has a looong way to go before he catches up where it counts.
“Obviously he’s the best player in the world,” he said, adding he tries to keep up with Crosby’s exploits.
“I definitely still follow him most nights that he’s playing. If you can have half his success or even a quarter of his success, I think that’s a pretty amazing career.
“You know what he’s been able to do and all the championships he’s won. He’s won basically everything there is to win. So definitely he’s a pretty good guy to try and follow.”
Crosby, who is on an incredible roll right now with eight goals in six games, watches McDavid on TV and sees the same thing everyone else does.
“I think just his speed stands out the most,” he said. “I think that allows him to do so many other things. He sees the ice really well, he’s strong on the puck, but I think just his hockey sense and his speed are probably the biggest things.”
McDavid has already played one of these marquee games on this trip, when it was McDavid vs. Auston Matthews in Toronto, a showdown that was instead dominated by Nazem Kadri.
Then there was his first game in Madison Square Garden. Then his last game in Joe Louis Arena.
“There’s going to be an awful lot made of it,” said Oilers coach Todd McLellan. “But as well I know Sid and as well as I know Connor, they’re going to make it about their teams and we’re going to make it about the teams because it’s going to take 20 (to win).
“You guys will make it about the two individuals and it’s exciting for the fans to see them play, but it’s another night where we’re going to get tested.
“We’re going to have an opportunity to play the best team in the league and see where we’re at and we’re excited about that.”