Top 30 Playoff Performances: 12-10

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.

12. Doug Gilmour, Toronto Maple Leafs

1992-93 – 21 GP, 10-25-35, plus-16, 30 PIM, 4 PPG, 1 GWG, 1 OT

Team finish – lost Clarence Campbell Conference Final to the Los Angeles Kings 4-3

For better or for worse, the 1992-93 season is one of the most infamous in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team played a solid regular season, finishing with a 44-29-11 record. The team contained lots of talented players, like Glenn Anderson, Wendel Clark, Dave Andreychuk, and goaltender Felix Potvin in his break out season. However, one player stood alone that year, then-assistant captain Doug Gilmour.

Gilmour had the finest season of his career in 1992-93. His 127 points was far and away the best in the Leafs line up that year, and remains a single season record for the franchise. He also set the single-season record for assists that year with 95. He was the runner-up to Mario Lemieux for the Hart Trophy, and walked away with a Selke trophy for best defensive forward, quite an accomplishment when you consider his point total for the year.

Gilmour’s stellar play continued into the post-season, where he set another franchise record, for most points in a single playoffs with 35 points. He accomplished this in just 21 games. While he registered 25 assists in that span, it was a goal that is one of the most enduring moments of that post-season run. It has proven to be one of the most enduring images of the Toronto Maple Leafs as an organization. Go to 6:10 in the video below to watch the entire sequence leading up to the goal.

It was in the second overtime of game one of the conference semi-final, versus the St. Louis Blues with the game tied at one. The Leafs peppered Blues goaltender, and future Leaf, Curtis Joseph with 61 shots heading into the fifth frame. The crowd at Maple Leaf Garden didn’t have to wait long to see the conclusion of the game. Doug Gilmour won a defensive zone face-off, sending the puck back to defenseman Todd Gill, before taking a pass at centre ice and dumping it in the Blues end. The puck came out and Gill picked it up again and fired it back in. Nikolai Borschevsky cut in with a good chance, but neither him nor Gilmour were unable to bury the puck. The puck came out to the blue line, with Todd Gill sending it behind the net, where Gilmour picked it up, faked twice, and wrapped it in, under a sprawling Cujo. It’s one of the most memorable Maple Leafs playoffs moments.

Of course, everyone knows how that year’s playoffs ended for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The non-call by referee Kerry Fraser on Wayne Gretzky, for his high stick on Gilmour, remains a bone of contention for Leafs Nation. Many contend that had that penalty been called, the Leafs could have won the series that night, and stood a great chance against the Montreal Canadiens in the final. Indeed, that year was the closest the Maple Leafs have gotten to a Stanley Cup since their last championship season, in 1966-67.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the most storied franchises in NHL history, second in total cup wins to only the Montreal Canadiens with 13. Through the years, players like Dave Keon, Darryl Sittler, and Mats Sundin performed admirably in the post-season, but Doug Gilmour stands alone. Not only does he own the team’s single year playoff point record, but he also holds the Leafs record for most ever playoff points, a staggering 77 in just 52 games. The post-season run of 1992-93 was definitely his most impressive, and the most dominant in Maple Leafs history.

Runner-up – Turk Broda, 1948-49: 9 GP, 8-1, 1.57 GAA, 1 SO

11. Mike Bossy, New York Islanders

1980-81 – 18 GP, 17-18-35, 4 PIM, 9 PPG, 3 GWG

Team finish – won Stanley Cup Final over the Minnesota North Stars 4-1

Mike Bossy had one of the most truly impressive careers in NHL history. Bossy averaged nearly a 1.5 points per game in his somewhat short career, playing for the New York Islanders between 1977 and 1987, before retiring at 30 after a career plagued with back injuries. In 752 career NHL games, Bossy scored 1126 points, and holds a record with 9 consecutive 50 goal seasons, including four 60-goal seasons. Had Bossy played in another era, where he didn’t have to contend with the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Marcel Dionne, and Mario Lemieux later in his career, he might rank higher on some “best player of all-time” lists.

While Bossy’s numbers in regular season play are phenomenal, his playoff point totals are equally as impressive. As a member of the New York Islanders dynasty that won four straight Stanley Cups between 1980 and 1983, Bossy tallied 160 post-season points in his career, including 85 goals. That puts him top 20 in NHL history, tied with Gordie Howe, Al MacInnis, and Bobby Smith. Although teammates Bryan Trottier and Denis Potvin are ahead of Bossy on the all time list of points in the playoffs, his performance in the 1980-81 playoffs stands out.

En route to their second of four straight Stanley Cups, the Islanders faced little adversity, losing just four games. Their run came in the days of the preliminary round in the playoffs, which were made of five-game, rather than seven-game series. In the first round, the Islanders beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in three straight games. This was not a bad Leafs line up, by any means, and featured players like Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming and Rick Vaive. In the next round, the Edmonton Oilers gave them a little more trouble, with players like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, and Paul Coffey just on the cusp of greatness. It took the Islanders six games to win that series. Following that, another sweep, this time of interstate rivals the New York Rangers, before going on to beat the Minnesota North Stars, lead by Bobby Smith, in five games to win the Stanley Cup.

In the team’s 18 games in the playoffs last year, Bossy, Trottier, Potvin, and Conn Smythe winner Butch Goring registered at least 20 points, and Wayne Merrick posted a point per game. Bossy’s 35 points, though, lead the team by 6. Primarily known as a goal-scorer in his career, certainly one of the NHL’s greatest, Bossy spread the wealth among his team mates, setting a career playoff high with 18 assists in 1980-81. His 35 points also represent a career high, as does his 17 goals. Bossy was just one point shy of averaging two points per game in the post-season that year. More than that, he was able to step up and score in key situations for the team. Nine of his goals came on the man advantage, and three of them were game-winners.

Mike Bossy was obviously a key member of the Islanders line up each of the four years that they won the Stanley Cup. In those four years combined, he registered 111 points in 72 games. As with the rest of his career, his ability to put the puck in the net set him apart from his teammates, many of whom are legends in their own rites, and that ability was on display most prominently in the 1980-81 post-season, and making Mike Bossy the New York Islanders’ most dominant playoff performer.

Runner-up – Bryan Trottier, 1979-80: 21 GP, 12-17-29, 16 PIM, 4 PPG, 2 SHG, 2 GWG, Conn Smythe

10. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Anaheim Ducks

2002-03 – 21 GP, 15-6, .945 sv%, 1.62 GAA, 5 SO, Conn Smythe

Team finish – lost Stanley Cup Final to the New Jersey Devils 4-3

The Anaheim Ducks, or Mighty Ducks of Anaheim as they were previously known, are arguably the most successful NHL expansion team, incorporated after 1990. Of course, the team won a Stanley Cup on the back of players like Scott Neidermayer, Teemu Selanne, Chris Pronger and goaltender J-S Giguere, in 2007, losing just five times in the playoffs that year. But the team saw it’s most impressive playoff showing in a year that they did not win the Cup, the 2002-03 season.

The team iced by the then-Mighty Ducks in the 2002-03 season was, by all accounts, a group of over-achievers. There was certainly talented players in the line up. Paul Kariya put up 81 points that year, and Petr Sykora had a 34-goal year, but the team was composed primarily of players that would fall into one of or both of the “gritty” or “role-player” categories, players like Steve Rucchin, Keith Carney  and Matt Cullen. That year, under rookie coach Mike Babcock, they posted a solid 40-27-9-6 record, but still entered the post-season in seventh seed, staring down the mighty Detroit Red Wings in the first round.

Giguere was under duress early, facing 64 shots in the first game, but managing to hang on for a 2-1 OT win for the Ducks. It wouldn’t be the only time Giguere faced over 60 shots in the playoffs that year. The Ducks went on to complete the improbable sweep of the Red Wings, winning the fourth game in overtime, ona goal by Steve Rucchin. The Ducks had a tougher road in second round, but managed to beat divisional rivals, and Pacific Division champs that season, the Dallas Stars in six games.

If there were any doubts about Giguere’s abilities through the first two rounds, they were all quelled in the Western Conference Final versus the Minnesota Wild, another young franchise. Giguere opened the series, backstopping his team to a 1-0 win, with Sykora scoring in the second overtime, stopping 39 shots in the process. His stellar play continued in the next game, this time a 24-save shut out, as the Ducks won 2-0. Then, in the third game, the biggest win for the Ducks in that year’s post-season, he made 35 saves in a 4-0 win. Finally, in the fourth game, the Wild’s Andrew Brunette was able to break the shout-out streak, which had exceeded the 210 minute mark. In total, Giguere stopped 122 of 123 shots he faced in the four game series, posting a .992 save percentage in the process.

In the Stanley Cup final versus the New Jersey Devils, the offensive deficiencies of the team in front of Giguere became glaringly obvious, as the Ducks managed just 16 shots on Martin Brodeur in Games 1 and 2. Giguere continued to be the team’s best player, stopping 55 of 57 shots, as the team evened the series with back to back overtime winners. The experience, toughness, and depth of the Devils did eventually win out, with the Cup being won in a seventh game at Continental Airlines Arena. That did not take anything away from Giguere’s performance however, as he was named playoff MV. Giguere was the 4th goaltender and 5th player ever to win the Conn Smythe trophy as a member of a losing team.

When one looks at Giguere’s stats line in the playoffs that year, it’s easy to see why he was the MVP of that year’s playoffs. He posted a 15-6 record in 21 games, with 5 shutouts, a 1.62 goals-against average and a staggering .945 save percentage. This came in just his second season as a starting goaltender in the NHL. Looking deeper, however, it’s easy to see why Giguere is the most dominant playoff performer in the Ducks’ history. Of the 21 games the Ducks played in the post-season that year, 12 were one-goal games. In those 12 games, the Ducks were outshot in all but four. Looking even further, two of those four games in which the Ducks’ weren’t outshot, the shots were even. It’s easy to say that Giguere was the reason the Ducks that season almost won the Stanley Cup. Had they won it all, Giguere’s performance might be considered the greatest goaltending performance in the history of the NHL playoffs. But for now, he’ll have to settle for the title of the Anaheim Duck’s most dominant playoff performer.

Runner-up – Ryan Getzlaf, 2006-07: 21 GP, 7-10-17, plus-1, 32 PIM, 3-5-8 PPP, 1 SHG, 3 GWG

-Stephen Lethbridge, Contributing Writer

*Stay Tuned for 9-8

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