Can Connor McDavid be stopped? The short answer is no. The longer answer probably requires more nuance than that. The first part of this discussion is to put a stop to the idea that you can actually stop McDavid for a maximum of seven games, but containment might be possible for even four games and that is all you need to win. To achieve this, the Winnipeg Jets have to be smart and work as a team. The Edmonton Oilers just hope that the Jets attempts do not work over the course of the series.
First things first: based on previous results, it would be a really bad idea to attempt to match Mark Scheifele against McDavid. Scheifele’s line is not a good match when it comes to containing McDavid. This is not a shot at Scheifele as playing against McDavid is really hard and not every player is up to the task. That appears to be the case for Scheifele therefore Paul Maurice should work to keep that from happening.
Secondly, the Jets need to figure out which defencemen are best matched against the McDavid line. If they can find a combination of players who can help slow down McDavid, they might be able to get out the four games they need to win the series even if much longer than that could show to be impossible. In earlier games this season it appeared that Neal Pionk was capable of shutting McDavid down, but he struggled with that later in the season.
Part of the issue is the fact that McDavid has had time to adjust to the Jets style of play. While the divisional format has been imperative to continue play in the midst of a global pandemic, it also allowed for players and teams to make a lot more adjustments throughout the season to adapt to how different teams play against them. It seems as though McDavid has done that already with the Jets and there is no reason to say he won’t do it again if needed.
Finally, there is the coaching. All of this comes back to Paul Maurice and how he views his matchups. Based on existing evidence, he has no issue with Scheifele matching up against McDavid which is bad news for the Jets. The Jets will go as far as their coaching will allow them to go and all signs point to their coaches holding them back. I am not saying they would be world beaters with different coaches, but I do think they would be capable of more than what they have shown us with different coaches.
So how does a team stop Connor McDavid? They don’t. Instead, they work to contain him as much as possible because they know that without McDavid, the Oilers have almost no depth and their defence is about equal to the Jets (maybe better?). But the have McDavid and he can make all the difference in the world. They also have Dave Tippett as their coach who seems to be a bit less likely to continuously try to fit a square peg into a round hole. Alas, containing McDavid is the most important part of this series.