Top 30 Playoff Performances: 24-22

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.

On Wednesday we took a look at 30-28 and yesterday we reviewed 27-25.

Here are spots 24-22.

24. John Vanbiesbrouck, Florida Panthers

1995-96 – 22 GP, 12-10, .932 sv%, 2.25 GAA, 1 SO

Team finish – lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Colorado Avalanche 4-0

By all accounts, the Florida Panthers of 1995-96 were a group of over-achievers. A team without a bonafide star, composed primarily of role players. Yet, they made it through three solid teams in the Eastern conference, the Boston Bruins, lead by Adam Oates and Ray Borque, a talented Philadelphia Flyers line up that featured the Legion of Doom line of Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg, and a stacked Pittsburgh Penguins line up in the conference finals, highlighted by Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis, who combined for 429 points in the regular season.

Undoubtedly, the team’s run was due largely in part to their netminder, John Vanbiesbrouck. Beezer, as he was commonly known, had his most impressive post-season showing in 1996. He drastically improved his regular season save percentage, going from a .904 in 57 regular season games to a .932 in 22 playoff games. This is especially impressive when you consider the fact that Vanbiesbrouck faced an average of 33 shots per game in that span. Vanbiesbrouck capped off that year’s playoff performance by matching Patrick Roy save for save in the last game of the Cup Final series, carrying a 0-0 draw into a third overtime period, before getting fooled on a change-up slapshot from Uwe Krupp. Incidentally, Vanbiesbrouck had previously duelled with Patrick Roy in a playoff series, the ’86 Wales Conference Finals, when he was with the New York Rangers, and Roy was backstopping the Montreal Canadiens. That was also a short series, with Roy’s Habs beating the Rangers in 5 games.

The Panthers run to the Stanley Cup was doubly surprising considering it came in just their third year of existence. Since then, the team has made post-season appearances just three more times. Certainly, when talking about Florida’s most dominant playoff performers, one is nearly limited to the team of 1995-96. Dave Lowry lead the team with 17 points, and both Stu Barnes and Ray Sheppard each notched 16, but Beezer was the best Panther on the ice that spring.

Vanbiesbrouck was a fan favourite during his time in South Florida, with his trademark Panther mask, and is perhaps the franchise’s best goaltender. Panthers fans surely look back on his time with the club fondly, especially the 1995-96 playoffs.

Runner-up – Dave Lowry, 1995-96: 22 GP, 10-7-17, plus-8, 39 PIM, 4 PPG, 2 GWG, 1 OT

23. Brett Hull, St. Louis Blues

1989-90 – 12 GP, 13-8-21, plus-1, 17 PIM, 7 PPG, 3 GWG

Team finish – lost the Norris Division Final to the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3

As an organization, the St. Louis Blues made appearances in the Stanley Cup playoffs for 25 straight seasons, between the 1979-80 and 2003-04 seasons. However, in that large span of time, the team has enjoyed very limited playoff success, making it past the second round just twice, so there is a fairly limited pool of talent to draw from. But of course, there is one Blue that stands out.

Right in the middle of that streak of playoff appearances, Brett Hull was enjoying the salad days of his career. The 1989-90 season was the first of four straight 100+ point seasons for the Golden Brett. In three of those four seasons, Brett broke the 70 goal mark, including an 86 goal season, just 6 short of Wayne Gretzky’s record from 1981-82. At that time, he was more than a shade of his famous father, Bobby Hull, and he was the most dynamic goal-scorer in the NHL.

The 1989-90 season was also one of the lengthier post-season stints for the Blues during Hull’s time with the team. The Blues knocked off the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round in 5 games, before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in 7 games in the next round. In total, the team played 12 post-season games that year. Hull finished the run with 21 points in that 12 game span, including 13 goals. Among those 13 goals were 7 on the man advantage and 3 game-winners.

Despite this however, Hull was just plus-1. Three other players on the team that year, Adam Oates, Rob Brind’amour and Jeff Brown, scored at least a point per game, and Hull had the best plus/minus of the lot. This was an example of the team’s style of play at the time: a style with a heavy emphasis on offense, that often times lead to defensive lapses. The Blues of the 89-90 season were tied for 8th in the league in goals for with 295, but finished the regular season 279 goals against, a plus-16 goal differential, which is especially mediocre when you consider the great seasons put forth by Hull and Oates.

The point remains, however, that Hull’s performance in the playoffs that year was dominant, and just another example of the type of irrepressible sniper Hull was in his prime. As far as pure scorers go in the history of the NHL, Hull is at or near the top of the list, right up there with his father. In fact, Hull is third all-time in regular season goals with 741 and fourth in playoff goals with 103 behind only Kari Kurri (106), Mark Messier (109) and Wayne Gretzky (122) each of whom played on the dynamic Edmonton Oilers dynasty.

There is a reason that Steven Stamkos’ most common comparison is to Brett Hull. His 13 goals in the 1989-90 playoffs represents a career high, despite the fact that he played nearly twice as many games in the playoffs with the Stars in 1999 and 2000, and with the Red Wings in 2002, and helps to make him the Blues’ most dominant playoff performer.

Runner-up – Jacques Plante, 1968-69: 10 GP, 8-2, 1.43 GAA, 3 SO

22. Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators

2006-07 – 20 GP, 14-8-22, plus-4, 10 PIM, 6-5-11 PPP, 1 SHG, 4 GWG, 1 OT

Team finish – lost Stanley Cup Final to the Anaheim Ducks 4-1

There’s really no debate as to who the greatest Ottawa Senator of all time is. Of course, that is the team’s leader, the face of the franchise, Daniel Alfredsson. He is far and away the franchise leader in games played, goals, assists, and points. He’s also the team’s best playoff performer, with 90 points in 111 games.

Daniel Alfredsson almost single-handedly brought the Ottawa Senators to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2006-07. (RingoCalamity, Flickr)

We saw no better playoff performance from Alfie than in 2007, when the Ottawa Senators went to the Stanley Cup Final to face the Anaheim Ducks. That year, Alfie teamed with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley to form perhaps the best line in the NHL. They combined for 279 points in the regular season, with Alfie and Spezza’s numbers mirroring each other. Both ended the season with 87 points. In the post-season that year, all three players posted 22 points in 20 games, but Alfie’s stats stand out from the rest.

14 of Alfie’s playoff points that year were goals. While it is important to spread the wealth, and be able to set up one’s team-mates, no offensive stat is more important in the playoffs than goals. Alfie had a habit of scoring in the playoffs, while his regular season play displayed equal parts sniper and playmaker. More than that, Alfredsson was able to score in key situations when his team needed it most. Six of his goals came on the man advantage, and four of his 14 goals were game-winners. He even managed to put up one short-handed goal.

Perhaps no goal was bigger than his overtime winner in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final to eliminate the Buffalo Sabres. Not only did that goal help shake of his reputation of not being able to deliver in the clutch, he got his revenge from the previous season when Jason Pominville skated around him to score a shorthanded, overtime goal to eliminate the Senators in the conference semifinal.

Some still believe that Alfredsson deserved to win the Conn Smythe Trophy that year. If the Senators had won the Cup, he would have been the obvious winner. Now nearing the twilight of his career, and with next year uncertain for him, hockey fans have to wonder if that’s as close as Alfie will ever get to the Stanley Cup. Until the Senators do win the cup though, it is safe to say that Daniel Alfredsson will continue to be the Ottawa Senator’s most dominant playoff performer.

Runner-up – Jason Spezza, 2006-07: 22 GP, 7-15-22, plus-5, 10 PIM, 3-7-10 PPP

-Stephen Lethbridge, Contributing Writer

*Stay tuned for 21-19

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