NEW YORK — The connection between Edmonton Oilers teammates Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid seems telepathic.
The duo, who are playing together for a fifth season, don't even have to look up to find each other on the ice. From simple rushes in warmups to their multipoint performances in a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, their chemistry is evident, and that chemistry has helped lead the Oilers to a 5-0-0 start to their season, something the franchise hasn't accomplished since 1985-86.
"We're playing well," winger Zack Kassian, who plays alongside the two, said. "[Draisaitl and McDavid] are obviously two dynamic players. You want to be smart and make simple plays to them. I think from the blue line in, we're really strong on the cycle, really good at creating space and then, obviously, when they get the puck, they can create a lot . . . so it's going good so far, but obviously a long year ahead."
Kassian is right — the season ahead is, in fact, long. In a way, it's hard to believe from their production that it has only been five games. The two have already combined for eight goals and 23 points (McDavid's 12 points lead the league).
This doesn't come as a surprise, though, considering that last season they racked up a combined 91 goals and 221 points while both finishing among the top four in NHL scoring.
Both of them also registered 40-plus-goal campaigns in 2018-19, with Draisaitl's 50 leaving him just a goal shy of tying Alex Ovechkin for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
"Everyone knows how they are. It's so nice to have them on your team knowing if you just keep the game close, you have a chance to win with those guys on your team. It's been nice to get to know those guys and obviously not have to face them," Oilers goalie Mike Smith told Sportsnet, cracking a smile.
Draisaitl and McDavid have put up impressive individual stats during their four-plus seasons together --- the former has recorded 314 points in that span, the latter 384 and two league scoring titles --- but they can also credit each other for some of their respective success. Beyond playing on the same line at even strength, they have transformed the Oilers' power play into one of the strongest units in the league and dominate 3-on-3 overtime, often in highlight-reel fashion.
Even though he has been with them just a short time, Oilers first-year coach Dave Tippett is far from shocked when it comes to their elite play — and how it makes the entire team better.
"I mean, [McDavid's] talent is phenomenal, but I think it's his concept of wanting to win and wanting to really win as a group rather than carrying the whole load on his shoulders. I think he's feeling comfortable with this group that everybody has to contribute and he himself, he takes that responsibility to be a top player . . . real good team player and real student of the game, things like that," Tippett said. "It's easy to watch the highlights and score unbelievable goals and set up goals, but when you get into the trenches with him, he's figuring out how to win, [how] our team needs to win and how to lead a team."
On Draisaitl, Tippett said: "I think the rest of the league knows he's a really good player. He got a lot of accolades last year for 50 goals that put him on a plateau. It's been fun to watch him dig into the times where we really need him. . . . He's another one just like Connor. He wants to win and he's willing to do those other things to help us win, other than just scoring goals or personal accolades."
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in OT are unreal pic.twitter.com/3AD85A5uz8
— Bar South N Celly™ (@BarSouthNCelly) November 8, 2017
McDavid agreed, adding that beyond the numbers, he enjoys the dynamic he shares with his linemate on and off the ice.
"He's a fun guy to play with," McDavid, 22, said of the 23-year-old Draisaitl. "Obviously he can shoot it or pass it and play any type of game you want him to play. Great teammate, we've played together a lot over the years and I like where our chemistry's at."
With Edmonton looking to keep the ball rolling, it isn't focused too much on records or the stats behind its success. As McDavid put it bluntly, it wants to find ways to keep winning on a consistent basis.
"It's nice to be 5-0, but there's so much work to be done . . . hockey's got to keep getting better and [we need to] keep finding our game."