Can You Win a Cup with This Guy? (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday May 8, 2007 11:35AM; Updated: Tuesday May 8, 2007 11:35AM
The cold truth, of course, is that those are regular-season stats. There are some around the league who find the idea of McDonald's centering the top line on a Cup-caliber team a bit of a stretch. As the conference finals begin, the question looms large: With Clydesdale-sized centers in vogue, how far can Anaheim get with Seabiscuit centering its top line? Scott Niedermayer isn't worried about McDonald. "Obviously, two months of playoff hockey is tough," he allows. "But more than your size, it's a commitment, a mind-set, that determines success this time of year. It's about whether you're willing to go certain places, to do certain things."
McDonald seems to be holding up to the rigors of the postseason. He had a hat trick in a 5-1 laugher over Vancouver in Game 1. True, he didn't score for the rest of the series, but that wasn't because the Canucks were pounding him into Duck confit. McDonald put 15 shots on net in those four games, but Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, the best player in the series, stopped them all. While McDonald's critics may have been emboldened by the drought, they are advised not to raise their doubts around Ducks G.M. Brian Burke, who may ask them to step outside. When a Toronto Star writer declared in print that the Ducks lacked a "bona fide Number 1 center," Burke wigged. "I'd like to meet the imbecile who said that in a dark alley," he snarled.
Indeed, there was McDonald deep in Vancouver's end in the second period of Game 5, jolting Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa from behind, trying to knock him off the puck. One shift later he took Vancouver blueliner Mattias Ohlund into the boards as hard as he could. (Whether either Canuck actually noticed that McDonald was accosting them is less important than the fact that he was willing to do so.) The ultimate form of aggression, of course, is to attack with the puck, which has long been McDonald's strong suit.
Howard Cosell once referred to Colgate as "the little giant of the Chenango Valley" -- which doubles as an apt description of McDonald during his days as the scourge of Starr Rink, the 2,246-seat claustrophobic's nightmare that the Raiders call home. Game time was still 90 minutes away on that evening in early 2000 when Anaheim assistant general manager Dave McNab walked into that cramped arena. It was empty save for a single player, sitting in the uppermost bleacher, reading a textbook. It was McDonald, who majored in international relations and found that studying before games "relaxed" him.
Undrafted out of Junior B, McDonald went to Colgate "to get my degree and maybe have a chance to play in Europe." By the time McDonald was a senior, Europe was no longer in the mix. McNab knew all about him. "He was an easy guy to like," says the Ducks' superscout. "You knew right away what his flaw was -- he was small. But he was such a great skater. He had so much talent. If you ask me, I thought he was the best player in the country in his senior year."
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