Top 30 Playoff Performances: 30-28

Throughout the Stanley Cup Final, Coincidental Minors will be releasing a series ranking each team’s greatest individual playoff performance.

We polled our staff to determine each team’s top individual postseason effort, then ranked those players 1-30.

Want to know who had your favorite team’s greatest playoff performance and where they rank among each team’s best, then stay tuned to find out only on Coincidental Minors.

We begin with number 30.

30. R.J. Umberger, Columbus Blue Jackets

2008-09 – 4 GP, 3-0-3, even, 0 PIM, 2 PPG

Team finish: lost Western Conference Quarterfinal to the Detroit Red Wings 4-0

The Columbus Blue jackets finally broke through and made the playoffs for the first time in 2008-09 after failing to do so for the first seven years of their existence. Their reward? Facing the Central Division leaders and defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. The experienced Wings would make short work of the Jackets, sweeping them out of the playoffs in what remains their only postseason appearance.

R. J. Umberger is the most clutch goal scorer on the Blue Jackets. (bridgetds/Flickr)

A lot of credit for the playoff appearance was placed on the shoulders of Calder Trophy winner and second team all-star goaltender Steve Mason who was also a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, but another addition played a key role as well. Before the season began, Columbus traded a first and third round draft pick to Philadelphia for center R.J. Umberger, giving them a young player capable of scoring big goals.

After leading the Flyers with 10 goals in 17 games as they reached the Eastern Conference final in 2008, he recorded 26 goals to set a career high and finish second on Columbus behind Rick Nash. Umberger would once again be the top goal scorer, but the team results wouldn’t be nearly as sweet this time.

The Blue Jackets, who finished seventh in the Western Conference with 92 points, were mismatched from the opening faceoff and got outscored 12-2 through the first three games of the series. They put 78 shots on net against Chris Osgood, but only Umberger was able to find a dent in his armor, scoring both goals. He tied Game 1 at one goal apiece before the Red Wings put in three more then had a power play marker in Game 3 to cut the Detroit lead to 3-1.

Their offense finally came to life in game 4, but they still couldn’t match the pace of the Red Wings, dropping the game 6-5. Umberger scored his third goal of the series, again on the power play, just over five minutes into the second period to knot the game at three. Umberger tied Wings center Henrik Zetterberg for the most goals in the series scoring three of Columbus’ seven goals. He would finish with an even plus-minus rating, tying him for the third best mark on the team.

Should Rick Nash be moved this summer, Umberger will remain as Columbus’ active leading goal scorer with 94 and at least 20 goals in all four seasons with the jackets. With 13 goals in his past 21 playoff games he has shown to have the tools to be an elite playoff goal scorer, he just needs help getting back to that position.

Runner-up – Rick Nash, 2008-09: 4 GP, 1-2-3, minus-4, 2 PIM, 2 PPA

29. Pascal Dupuis, Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers

2006-07 – 4 GP, 1-2-3, plus-2, 4 PIM

Team finish: lost Eastern Conference Quaterfinal to the New York Rangers 4-0

Just like Columbus, Winnipeg does not have much of a playoff history to choose from.

Their only playoff appearance came during their seventh season in 2006-07 when they were playing in Atlanta. Marian Hossa, Slava Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk paced the team throughout the season, but a number of late season acquisitions, including veterans Keith Tkachuk and Alexei Zhitnik, helped push them to the top of the Southeast Division.

Despite the star power, it was an unheralded acquisition from Minnesota, Pascal Dupuis, who was their most reliable player through the series. He led the team with a goal, two assists, three points, a plus-2 and was tops among forwards playing a career high 20:28 per game. He had helped the upstart Minnesota Wild reach the Western Conference Final in 2002-03 and is one of those players who can provide consistent, responsible play in his own zone and produce at a reasonable clip offensively as well.

They took on the sixth seeded New York Rangers and the momentum gained from making the playoffs, after missing out by two points the season before, vanished quickly.

Like Umberger, Dupuis did his best to keep the Thrashers in the games, but they were over powered by a Rangers team featuring Jaromir Jagr, Michael Nylander, Martin Straka and goalie Henrik Lundqvist. His assist on a Shane Hnidy goal in the second period of Game 1 brought Atlanta to within one, as did his goal in the third, but they couldn’t find the equalizer, losing the contest 4-3. Game 2 was also a close affair with Atlanta losing 2-1 before getting blown out 7-0 in Game 3. The put up a fight in game 4, leading for the first time in the series on a Tkachuk goal in the first period then went up 2-1 when Dupuis assisted on a Greg de Vries goal in the second period.

That Dupuis finished with a plus-2 in the series is made all the more impressive considering there were only four players on the Thrashers who didn’t finish with a negative rating. That goes to show just how reliable and effective he can be in all areas of the game.

Dupuis was traded midseason against in 2007-08, this time to Pittsburgh where he has continued his reliable play, helping them to two Stanley Cup finals, winning in 2009.

Runner-up – Keith Tkachuk, 2006-07: 4 GP, 1-2-3, plus-2, 12 PIM, 1 PPA

28. Marian Gaborik, Minnesota Wild

2002-03 – 18 GP, 9-8-17, plus-2, 6 PIM, 4-3-7 PPP

Team finish: lost Western Conference Final to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim 4-0

Unlike Columbus and Winnipeg, Minnesota’s first foray into the playoffs was largely successful, making it all the way to the 2002-03 Western Conference final before bowing out to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Minnesota faced the powerful Colorado Avalanche in the first round, a team that was led by Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner Peter Forsberg, Rocket Richard Trophy winner Milan Hejduk and Hall of Famers Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy, and the Vancouver Canucks in the second round who were led by Ted Lindsay Award winner Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. They overcame 3-1 series deficits against both teams, the first team to do so in one postseason.

Marian Gaborik’s offense was a huge reason Minnesota was able to overcome a 3-1 series deficit twice in 2002-03. (Brett Quiggle/Flickr)

Gaborik was their most consistent supply of offense, leading the team with nine goals, 17 points, our power play goals, 52 shots and played more minutes per game than any other forward with 18:11 per game.

He recorded his first career playoff goal in his first career playoff game, giving Minnesota a two goal lead they would not relinquish, taking it 4-2. He would only score one goal in the next four games as they dropped three straight before winning against to bring the series to 3-2. He then put up three points in a 3-2 win to force Game 7 in what was the beginning of an eight-game point streak. Gaborik tied the final game of the series at two with just under five minutes remaining, setting up Andrew Brunette’s overtime winner, the last goal against in Roy’s career.

They split the first two games of the conference semifinal in Vancouver before dropping Games 3 and 4 in Minnesota. Once again, they were on the brink after four games despite Gaborik’s four goals and seven points, including two goals in a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4. The Wild exploded for seven goals in Game 5 and five in Game 6 when Gabby assisted on the opening and game-winning goals. Despite being held pointless with a minus-1, the Wild prevailed in game 7 once again.

It was looking good for Minnesota, but their season came to a historic, screeching halt in the Western Conference final. They set a record, albeit one they wouldn’t go around bragging about, by scoring only one goal in a best-of-seven series as they were shut out three times by Jean-Sebastien Giguere and the Mighty Ducks.The Wild had 42 goals at the beginning of the conference finals, 12 more than any of the four teams remaining, but that meant nothing to Giguere who stopped the first 101 shots the Wild threw at him and finished the series by stopping 121 of 122 shots including 12 from Gaborik. But he was so prolific that, despite only recording a point through two rounds, finished third in playoff scoring, just one point behind Jamie Langenbrunner and Scott Niedermayer of New Jersey who won the Stanley Cup that year.

Runner-up – Wes Walz, 2002-03: 18 GP, 7-6-13, plus-5, 14 PIM, 1 PPA, 2 SHG, 2 GWG

-Tim Kolupanowich, Executive Editor

*Stay tuned for 27-25.

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