Top 30 Playoff Performances: 27-25

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.

Yesterday we took a look at 30-28, here are 27-25.

27. Joel Ward, Nashville Predators

2010-11 – 12 GP, 7-6-13, plus-4, 6 PIM, 2-2-4 PPP, 1 SHA, 1 GWG

Team finish: lost Western Conference Semifinal to the Vancouver Canucks- 4-2

The 2011 playoffs marked the first time in franchise history that the Preds made it past the first round, and a big reason for that success was all around depth player Joel Ward.

Joel Ward’s 13 points in the 2010-11 playoffs is four more than any other Predator in their history. (Dinur, Flickr)

His 13 points in 12 games were a team-best – four up on veteran David Legwand, who placed second in playoff scoring with nine points. His plus-4 rating was also a team-best, tied only by Jordin Tootoo.

While Ward finished eighth in team scoring with 29 points during the 2010-11 regular season, his performance in the playoffs reached a whole different level and any time the Preds won a game in the postseason that year, Ward was a very noticeable presence on the ice.

Being the defensive, hard-working role player that he is, Ward represented a perfect microcosm of the Nashville organization, which has qualified for the playoffs for seven of the past eight seasons despite employing a blue-collar roster with no real all-star power up front.

His stellar playoff performance for the Preds was likely a key factor in attracting the attention of his current team, the Washington Capitals, who signed him to a four-year deal worth $12 million immediately as he entered free agency on July 1, 2011.

While Ward led Nashville in playoff scoring that year, as previously mentioned, he also played a crucial role on the penalty kill. Coach Barry Trotz relied on Ward to play in all situations, which is why his ice time spiked to an average of 20:25 per game during the playoffs compared to his 17:04 average in the regular season.

Nashville defeated the Anaheim Ducks in six games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, but lost to the Vancouver Canucks in six games in the semifinal. Regardless of the outcome, Joel Ward was by far the team’s most valuable player in the 2011 playoffs.

His postseason success wasn’t quite as great in 2012 with Washington, although Dale Hunter only opted to use Ward for an average of 10:56 per game. Still, the 31-year-old native of North York, Ont., finished sixth in team scoring with a goal (game-winner to boot) and five points, along with a plus-3 rating.

Pretty impressive for a guy who earned his way playing four years of Canadian University (CIS) hockey for the University of Prince Edward Island en route to the NHL.

Runner-up – Tomas Vokoun, 2003-04: 6 GP, 2-4, .939 sv%, 2.02 GAA, 1 SO

26. Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks

2003-04 – 17 GP, 10-7, .935 sv%, 1.71 GAA, 3 SO

Team finish – lost Western Conference Final to the Calgary Flames 4-2

For the first time in San Jose Sharks history, the 2003-04 team made it to the Western Conference Final, only to lose in six games to the Calgary Flames, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.

Evgeni Nabokov was the main reason for the Sharks’ first conference final appearance. (Dunir, Flickr)

The 17-game stint in the postseason was the most promising playoff performance the franchise had seen, and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was a major part of that success.

While Sharks’ legend Vincent Damphousse had a solid playoff run, notching 14 points and three game-winners, and Patrick Marleau followed close behind with 12 points and two game-winners, neither total came near a point-per-game performance and the San Jose offense came from a committee effort.

At the other end of the rink, Nabokov held the fort for all of the Sharks’ 17 games and finished the playoffs with the most impressive stats on the team. His three shutouts in particular stick out like a sore thumb, and both his goals against and save percentage were career-bests.

Recalling the first two series wins that came against the St. Louis Blues (4-1) and Colorado Avalanche (4-2), Nabokov came up with a countless number of key saves and made some stellar acrobatic maneuvers to not only stop pucks, but make it look stylish and easy.

Although Nabokov did have some success in the postseason following his performance in 2004, his numbers were never as good and he couldn’t seem to get the job done in latter years when the Sharks roster was much improved and looking more dangerous.

But that year, Nabokov was arguably one of the best playoff performances throughout the entire league – let alone San Jose. Since the Sharks have since gained the reputation of playoff choke artists and have had some trouble finding consistency in the postseason, even among their top performers, Nabokov’s 2003-04 performance has to go down as the greatest in Sharks history.

Runner-up – Joe Pavelski, 2009-10: 15 GP, 9-8-17, plus-6, 6 PIM, 5-2-7 PPP, 1 SHA, 3 GWG, 1 OT

25. Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets

2011-12 – 16 GP, 9-7, .944 sv%, 1.99 GAA, 3 SO

Team finish – lost Western Conference Final to the Los Angeles Kings 4-1

2012 was a special year for the Phoenix Coyotes. Not only was the club finally sold after years of financial struggles, but it was also the first time the Yotes made it past the first round in franchise history.

Captain Shane Doan played a big role in the team’s success as he always does, but goaltender Mike Smith certainly took over headlines and was even mentioned in the same breath as Jonathan Quick for a possible Conn Smythe candidate.

While Smith’s road to stardom hasn’t been an easy one, having played the role of a backup net minder for much of his NHL career, he certainly earned some much-deserved credit this year.

Although he had just a 9-7 record in the playoffs, Smith recorded three shutouts and was the main reason the Yotes were even able to win nine games. Known primarily as a defensive-minded team, some may assume the task of tending goal may be easier in Phoenix than in other places, but the club was surely tested this postseason and Smith came up with a plethora of key saves to keep his team in games or better yet, provide them with a spark of momentum to come up with the win.

In such a monumental year for the Coyotes, having a solid and confident goaltender was crucial and Mike Smith did an excellent job stepping up to the plate and proving to pundits throughout the hockey world that he is a legitimate starter.

Smith was part of the reason the Coyotes were feared as one of the toughest teams to beat this postseason – even up to their series against the Kings.

Smith was a rock for Phoenix and as 2011-12 was the franchise’s most successful season to date, it should come as no surprise the greatest playoff performer goes to the man who led the team to its first Conference Final.

Runner-up – Dale Hawerchuk, 1986-87: 10 GP, 5-8-13, minus-4, 4 PIM, 3 PPG

-Jeff Blay, Executive Editor

*Stay tuned for 24-22.

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