To start off this game summary, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Connor McDavid is a good hockey player.
In the Erie Otters’ 4-1 win over the Knights on Sunday, the phenom put up three assists; two of which were primary; one of which was one of the quickest backhand/no-look passes I’ve ever seen in my life. This guy is absolutely astounding. At first, I didn’t believe the whole “as good as Crosby” hype, but now, it’s becoming a reality. Connor McDavid is on a completely different level than the entire Canadian Hockey League.
Another one of McDavid’s best assets that were shown Sunday was his ability to pickpocket opposing players in Datsyukian-like fashion. Several times in the game, against an array of different London Knights, he would steal the rubber like it was a Criss Angel magic trick.
But enough about that guy.
Despite losing, there were a few Knights that stood out Sunday in a good way.
In the absence of Tyler Parsons, Knights goaltender Mike Giugovaz stepped in between the pipes for his first ever playoff start. Despite letting in four goals, he was the reason the Knights stayed in the game for at very least the first two periods. Guigovaz made 37 saves, including a breathtaking breakaway stop on 97 in white, and an equally stunning save that had him sprawling across the crease in desperation mode for a glove stop.
Unfortunately for the Knights, Giugovaz’s Erie goaltending counterpart Devin Williams was even better, making 27 saves and claiming first star of the game. He would have had the shutout too, had it not been for those meddling kids; Josh Sterk (assist), Aaron Berisha (assist), and lone Knights’ goal scorer Joel Wigle.
Another Knight that stood out was defenseman Victor Mete. Selected as third star of the game (despite being a team worst minus-3), Mete was constantly on the ice with McDavid, and managed to stifle 97’s offensive opportunities with brilliant defensive plays a number of times. May it be known that Mete’s game has grown exponentially since the start of the season. He’s really turning into the number one defenseman that the Hunters envisioned when they acquired him.
The last Knight I’ll give props to for his play on Sunday is Owen MacDonald. He was all over the ice, playing comparable to Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins at his best. Every whistle that went, he’d give the extra shove, or the extra little hack to any Otter in his way. He had a special relationship with Dylan Strome by the start of the second period. It’s those little things like getting the Otters to take penaties, and his great defensive play that made his night a good one, but his ability to create offense when it seemed like no one else could was what made his night a great one.
Several times throughout the night, it looked like MacDonald and Max Domi had switched numbers. Not to say that Domi had a bad night by any means, but I am saying MacDonald was looked like an OHL superstar a few times in the game. As for Domi, the luck wasn’t on his side. It felt like it was just one of those nights where nothing was clicking for the captain, and the bounces just weren’t going his way.
But one of the biggest Knights that stuck out didn’t even dress. All night everyone in Budweiser Gardens was mourning the absence of leading scorer Mitch Marner.
The Knights were able to create some decent scoring chances over the course of 60 minutes, but one thing was clear; this team is not nearly as threatening without number 93. The unavailability of Marner’s ability to create has taken a severe stab at the Knights’ offense. They now really only have one true scoring line (Domi/Dvorak/Insert whoever here).
Not only is it bad for the Knights, but it’s bad for Marner from a draft point of view as well.
Marner is in a heated battle with Erie’s Dylan Strome (and arguably Boston College d-man Noah Hanifin) to be selected third overall in this year’s draft. Going into the playoffs, and even this series, Strome had somewhat been the heavy favourite to be taken ahead of Marner, but I truly feel that Marner could have turned a few heads this series.
This is partly because the Knights are so much better with Marner, but it’s also because Dylan Strome has NOT played like Dylan Strome in this series at all.
Marner didn’t even finish game one, yet he has the same number of goals and points as Strome over all three games. Strome’s struggles were amplified on Sunday. He was consistently losing his temper (cue Owen MacDonald), he took two penalties, and ended the night pointless with a minus-1 rating.
The Otters have scored 16 goals in three games, and Strome has one point.
And at what’s looking like the end of the series, Marner is listed day to day, and it’s unkown if he’ll play in game four.
What we do know is the Knights are officially in do-or-die mode, and it’ll be an uphill battle not to be swept on Tuesday in front of their home crowd at Budweiser Gardens.