Top 30 Playoff Performances: 21-19

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.

Click here for 30-28, here for 27-25 and here for 24-22.

21. Olaf Kolzig, Washington Capitals

1997-98 – 21 GP, 12-9, .941 sv%, 1.95 GAA, 4 SO

Team finish – lost Stanley Cup Final to the Detroit Red Wings 4-0

The Washington Capitals haven’t had a whole lot of success in their 37-season history, reaching the third round of the playoffs just twice. But they did manage to reach the 1998 Stanley Cup final, Riding the shoulders of goalie Olaf Kolzig the entire way.

Kolzig had a long road to the NHL, literally. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, just over 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) away from Washington D.C. Drafted 19th overall in 1989, he spent a lot of time in the East Coast and American Leagues, playing in only 71 NHL games before the 1997-98 season, posting a 14-36-8 record. He then finally took control of the reigns, playing in 64 games, going 33-18-10 and posting a .920 save percentage and 2.20 goals-against average. But that was just his warm-up.

Olie the Goalie as he was known ramped up his play and took the Caps as far as they had ever been before or since. He posted a .941 save % and 1.95 GAA in 21 playoff games and had to be at his best every night as Washington wasn’t the offensive powerhouse they are today. They finished 13th out of 26 teams in the regular season scoring 219 goals and were very thin behind Peter Bondra (52 goals, 78 points) and Adam Oates (58 assists, 76 points) as defenseman Calle Johansson finished third on the team with 35 points.

The Caps faced the Boston Bruins in the first round, edging them out in six games despite only managing two more goals. They then made quick work of the eight-seeded Ottawa Senators in the second round who were coming off an upset of the conference-leading New Jersey Devils. The conference final would prove to be a challenge as Kolzig and the Capitals would go toe-to-toe with Dominik Hasek and the Buffalo Sabres. There were only 24 goals in the six-game series as four contests were decided by a single goal.

They would eventually be swept in the Stanley Cup Final by the Detroit Red Wings who captured their second straight Stanley Cup. The first three losses were by one goal as the Caps couldn’t find enough support to help Kolzig’s valiant effort.

Though he would never reach such heights again, Kolzig would go on to become the greatest goalie in Capitals history. He holds team records for games (711), wins (301), shutouts (35) and wins in a season (41). He played in two All-Star Games (1998 and 2000) was a first team all-star and Vezina Trophy winner in 2000 and won the 2006 King Clancey Trophy.

Runner-up – John Druce, 1989-90: 15 GP, 14-3-17, minus-2, 23 PIM, 8 PPG, 4 GWG, 1 OT

20. Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres

1998-99 – 19 GP, 13-6, .939 sv%, 1.77 GAA, 2 SO

Team finish – lost Stanley Cup Final to the Dallas Stars 4-2

Dominik Hasek is one of those rare goalies who could will a substandard team to victory all on his own. Take him in his prime, put him on the 2011-12 New York Islanders and they are right there fighting for a playoff spot. The Czech Republic native has six Vezina Trophies, six first team all-star selections and two Hart Trophies for a reason.

During the 1998-99 season, Hasek finished second with a 1.87 goals-against average and set a then-record with a .937 save percentage. But as good as he was that season, Buffalo could only manage a seventh place finish in the Eastern Conference.

They went up against the Ottawa Senators in the first round who finished second in the Eastern Conference with 103 points and had a plus-60 goal differential. They were paced by Alexei Yashin who finished sixth in league scoring with 94 points. He was held pointless and the team that finished fifth overall in goals was held to six in the sweep despite outshooting Buffalo 162-106.

Next came a match against the division rival Boston Bruins who were dispensed of in six games leading to a conference final matchup against the fourth seed Toronto Maple Leafs. Dwayne Roloson started the first two games of the series, but Hasek stepped into play winning the last three games and giving up only six goals the team that led the regular season with 268 goals.

The Stanley Cup Final was a matchup between the Sabres and Presidents’ Trophy winning Dallas Stars who led all teams in the regular season with 168 goals against and a plus-68 goal differential. The Sabres were outmatched the whole series, but Hasek kept them in it.  Buffalo could only muster up nine goals in six games, but were still in the series until arguably the most controversial call in NHL history ended their season in the third overtime of Game 6.

The incident where Brett Hull would score with his skate in the crease the season officials were regularly calling goals back for the same infraction. Ironically, Hasek and Hull would win a Cup together with Detroit in 2002.

Hasek may not have won the Stanley Cup that year, but guiding a team to the Stanley Cup Final that was led in scoring by defensemen Alexei Zhitnik and Jason Wooley is quite an accomplishment.

Runner-up – Gilbert Perreault, 1979-80: 14 GP, 10-11-21, 8 PIM, 3 PPG, 2 GWG

19. Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers

2005-06 – 25 GP, 12-6-18, plus-9, 16 PIM, 6-3-9 PPP, 4 GWG

Team finish – won Stanley Cup against the Edmonton Oilers 4-3

Rod Brind’amour had points on seven of Carolina’s 16 game-winning goals in the 2006 postseason. (justinhenry, Flickr)

No one knew what to expect coming out of the lockout, but the Carolina Hurricanes winning the Southeast Division and finishing second in the Eastern Conference with 112 points was definitely a shock.

Brind’Amour led the ‘Canes in goals in the playoffs, scoring seemingly every big goal along the way. Down 2-0 to the Montreal Canadiens in the quarterfinal he scored the tying goal in Game 3 and the winner in Game 4 as they evened the series then assisted on Cory Stillman’s overtime, series winning goal in Game 6.

He had another assist on an overtime goal in Game 2 against New Jersey in a thrilling game in which the Devils went ahead with 21 seconds to go in the third and Carolina was able to tie it up with three seconds to go. He then had the winning goal again in Game 3 to put the Hurricanes up 3-0. He would assist on yet another Stillman series winning goal in Game 5, this one coming on the power play in the second period.

Of the 18 points he had in the playoffs, 11 of them came in the first two rounds, but that doesn’t mean his play dipped in the next two rounds. Though he was just a plus-2 the first half of the playoffs, he improved his all-around play and was a plus-7 the rest of the way. Brind’Amour was on the ice at every crucial moment taking 658 faceoffs, 140 more than Shawn Horcoff of the Edmonton Oilers, winning 57.3% of them and playing 23:51 a game, fifth most among forwards.

The Eastern Conference Final was a battle against the Buffalo Sabres, a very similar team to the Hurricanes. Both were young, fast and backed by fantastic rookie netminders, Cam Ward and Ryan Miller.

Though he only had 1 goal in the first four games Brind’Amour was a plus-5. He tied Game 5 at three providing the setting for another Stillman overtime goal to go up 3-2 in the series. With Game 7 tied at two with less than 10 minutes remaining, Brind’Amour scored the game winner and had an assist on the insurance goal earning the Hurricanes their second Stanley Cup Final birth.

Game 1 didn’t start well as the canes were down 3-0 with just over three minutes remaining the the secnd period when Brind’Amour scored to end their momentum and start a rally that would put Carolina up 4-3. After Edmonton tied the game Brind’Amour converted on a misplay by Ty Conklin for the winner with 32 seconds remaining. Though he would only score one more goal the rest of the way, Brind’Amour’s experience and leadership was evident as Carolina captured the Cup in seven games.

Runner-up – Arturs Irbe, 2001-02: 18 GP, 10-8, .938 sv%, 1.67 GAA, 1 SO

-Tim Kolupanowich, Executive Editor

*Stay tuned for 18-16

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