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First NHL goal won't stop endless scrutiny Connor McDavid will face

Heralded rookie Connor McDavid scored his first goal of the season Tuesday night, but the pressure will be on McDavid all season long. How will he handle the spotlight?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: The look on his face said it all, Edmonton Oilers rookie Connor McDavid lighting up the rink in Dallas with a smile so pure, so fitting for an 18-year-old. McDavid's deft deflection past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen got him his first NHL goal in a 4-2 loss to Dallas, history made in an instant. Believe it or not -- this could only happen with hockey in Canada -- there was beginning to be some hand-wringing about McDavid failing to score in his first two NHL games. My goodness, take a pill, everyone. Still, it underlines one of my concerns about McDavid as he begins what promises to be a special career in Edmonton: the kind of religious, 24/7 spotlight that Sidney Crosby didn't get in Pittsburgh and current fellow rookie Jack Eichel will be spared in Buffalo. Those are both excellent markets, but the kind of never-ending attention McDavid will get in Edmonton worries me to a degree. The Oilers brass knows this and will do their best to shield him, but there's only so much you can do.


Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeMac: Your concerns are understandable, Pierre. The only time I witnessed Connor McDavid in the spotlight was during the NHL draft this past June, and I thought he handled it well. But the pressures to perform on the ice will only become greater, especially in a market like Edmonton. I remember having this conversation during the draft, and I thought then that Eichel would have a better start to his career, only because he played against men in their 20s during his freshman year at Boston University and that would help his transition. As a hockey fan, it's thrilling to see both McDavid and Eichel contribute to their respective teams this quickly. Both have been in the spotlight from an early age and the focus on them will only grow as their careers progress. I know I've been pushing Eichel more, partly because he's a local kid here in Boston, but it was good to see that sense of relief from McDavid.


Craig Custance@CraigCustance: The pressure will be great on McDavid but I'm convinced he can handle it. He's been dealing with it since he was 12 years old. His teammates have done a strong job of incorporating him into the team and the organization is protective of him. But it's definitely a fair concern. For his sake, it's a good thing he got that first goal out of the way because every game he went without it, the pressure would have grown. Now the team needs to break through as well. Edmonton is 0-3 to start the season and has been outscored 9-3. The schedule-maker didn't make it easy on them with three road games against three consensus playoff teams. The pressure that was on McDavid is going to shift to the entire team if they don't pick up a win here soon.


Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: Pierre, if I were a net-half-full kind of guy we'd be talking this morning about McDavid's first goal or the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 start, including two shutouts by new goaltending sensation Martin Jones, most recently his 5-0 blanking of the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. Or the undefeated Detroit Red Wings who, under rookie head coach Jeff Blashill, knocked off a tough Tampa Bay Lightning team Tuesday night to go to 3-0. But nope, I'm not that guy. Instead, I am wondering what is up with the Los Angeles Kings, who have fallen flat so far as they look to re-establish themselves after last season's ugly campaign. The Kings were shut out 3-0 at home Tuesday by another surprising squad, the 3-0-1 Vancouver Canucks. But L.A. is a mess right now. They've been outscored 12-2, newcomer Milan Lucic has been ineffective, and the idea that he, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik might form one of the most feared forward combinations in the league seems pure fantasy at this point. Hard to imagine coach Darryl Sutter is in trouble, but it's also hard to imagine the team being this bad this early.


AROUND THE LEAGUE

• The Winnipeg Jets are proving early this season they are legit. The Jets earned a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. They didn't produce a complete 60-minute effort, but did enough to win. Winnipeg's Bryan Little scored twice, including a shorthanded goal and a power-play tally. -- Joe McDonald

• Is it too late to change my preseason predictions? It was a safe bet that the Eastern Conference's top teams would be just that, but the Montreal Canadiens are off to an incredible 4-0-0 start after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. At the other end of the ice, the Penguins are 0-3-0. -- Joe McDonald

• Speaking of predictions, many hockey experts picked the Washington Capitals to win the Stanley Cup this season, and many pundits have given up on the San Jose Sharks because of their perennial disappointments. The Sharks posted a 5-0 victory over the Capitals on Tuesday night at Verizon Center in Washington. Jones finished with 31 saves, but he was fortunate enough not to face Alex Ovechkin, who missed the game due to personal reasons. -- Joe McDonald

• In a rematch from the first round of last season's Stanley Cup playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 3-1 score on Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Their series last spring went seven games, with the Lightning winning and eventually reaching the Cup finals. The Red Wings could have won that series, and Tuesday's game had more of a Game 8 feel to it than that of an early regular-season game. -- Joe McDonald

• What in the world is up with the Kings? After spending time with them during training camp, I was beyond sure they were chomping at the bit to make up for a brutal 2014-15 season. Star defenseman Drew Doughty showed up in the best shape of his career. For once, the Kings were rested. Now they're 0-3 to start the season? Ouch. Something isn't right there. -- Pierre LeBrun