In the end, the "Great Rookie Duel" of 2016 went to the newcomer who looks truly special.
I'm sure Buffalo Sabres fans will skewer me for that sentence.
After months of anticipation, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel faced off as NHL pros for the first time ever. The pair are the crown jewels of one of the greatest rookie classes in NHL history, forever linked as the two generational talents in the 2015 NHL Draft. It's a shame they're in separate conferences, since they'll only play each other twice a year. Thanks to McDavid's broken clavicle, we were robbed of the matchup in the first game between the Edmonton Oilers and Sabres this year.
That made the series finale on Tuesday must-watch television. It was sure to be a knock-down, drag-'em-out battle for rookie supremacy.
And then McDavid stole the script and ran away with it.
He scored just 22 seconds into the game, drawing boos from the Buffalo crowd. And even though the Sabres fought to overtime, McDavid turned a failed Eichel scoring chance into a game-winner the other way.
That's the kind of thing that has set McDavid apart this year, even from Eichel. No doubt Eichel has been special in his own right. He's third in rookie scoring with 41 points.
But McDavid seems special. The kind of special that requires italics. He does things some nights that make you reconsider scoffing every time someone compares him to Gretzky. You shake your head and tell yourself that's ridiculous, but the thought sticks to the back of your mind for the rest of the day.
So maybe we shouldn't be surprised that he upstaged his rival in their first meeting.
Bruins 2, Flames 1
Oilers 2, Sabres 1 (OT)
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3 things we learned
1. The Capitals are just plain fun
I kept seeing people Tweeting on Tuesday about how a Penguins-Capitals playoff series would be terrific. That it "has to happen." I read the same sentiments a few days ago when the Capitals played the Blackhawks in a thriller. You know what the common theme is there? Washington. Maybe we just all need a Capitals Stanley Cup title run to whet our appetite for thrilling hockey this spring.
2. Dallas is getting worse. Again.
They did this last spring too, you know. They blitzed the whole league with offensive prowess and then started leaking goals all over the kitchen floor by March and missed the playoffs entirely. They won't miss the playoffs this year, but the leakage has already started in earnest. And Kris Russell won't save them.
What is "inspire confidence"? pic.twitter.com/nV81Kq8FwY— Pat Iversen (@Pat_Iversen) March 2, 2016
3. Barry Trotz loves him some analytics
Barry Trotz on his line reshuffling: "I'll have to go on War On Ice. They had a busy night tonight with all the combinations."— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) March 2, 2016