Top 30 Playoff Performances: 9-8

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.

9. Al Macinnis, Calgary Flames/Atlanta Flames

1988-89 – 22 GP, 7-24-31, plus-6, 46 PIM, 5 PPG, 4 GWG, 1 OT, Conn Smythe Trophy

Team finish – won Stanley Cup Final over the Montreal Canadiens 4-2

The Calgary Flames have a history full of strong players. From the start of their Calgary days with Lanny MacDonald, to present day with Jarome Iginla, the Flames have had skilled players regularly grace the Saddledome hallways. Those hallways have also seen a great deal of early spring locker clear out days. The franchise came out strong with a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1986, and a Stanley Cup Championship in 1989. They would not reach the Finals again until 2004.

In this history of ups-and-downs, Al MacInnis will always stand as one of the team’s most consistent performers and all time greats. This was recognized in 2012 when MacInnis became the inaugural inductee of the Forever a Flame program (His induction video is below. Go to the 2:07 mark to hear about his performance in the 1989 playoffs.). The foundation for MacInnis’ status in Calgary, and within the NHL as a whole, was laid in the 1989 Playoffs.

Following a surprisingly hard fought and close seven game opening series against the Vancouver Canucks, the Flames made it past the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks with relative ease.

The true test for the Calgary Flames franchise, and a defining moment for the team in many ways, was the Stanley Cup Finals against the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens had pushed the Flames aside in 1986 to win the Stanley Cup, and in 1989 there continued to be a belief that Montreal was a near unbeatable team once in the finals.

It was in this series that MacInnis exploded as an offensive threat and game changer. Nine of MacInnis’ 31 playoff points came against Montreal in the finals. Both coaches approached the finals with a defensive mindset, and it was MacInnis’ offensive abilities that proved to be the X factor. His famed slapshot would find ways to get on net, and if it didn’t beat Patrick Roy, it would create a rebound scramble that often led to a scoring chance, if not a goal.

MacInnis became the first defenseman to be the NHL playoff point leader and his 17-game scoring streak continues to be a record for NHL defenseman. MacInnis’ performance led to his being named the Flames’ only Conn Smythe Trophy winner in franchise history, which continues to be the case.

MacInnis’ 1989 playoff performance epitomizes the Calgary Flames identity better than anyone else in their history. Although MacInnis was an All Star, and led a Hall of Fame career, he did so without ever being a “star” by definition. In 1989 he approached each game with a quiet confidence, and he led through results. When no other player could get a shot on net, MacInnis would. If they were stuck in the defensive end, he would lead the rush. And when a goal needed to be scored, he would score.

Aside from a booming slapshot, he played without too much flare, and yet led a record setting campaign for defensemen.

The standard he set in 1989 makes his performances one of the all time best for any NHL team.

Runner-up – Miikka Kiprusoff, 2003-04: 26 GP, 15-11, .928 sv%, 1.85 GAA, 5 SO

8. Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles Kings

1992-93 – 24 GP, 15-25-40, plus-6, 4 PIM, 4 PPG, 1 SHG, 3 GWG, 1 OT

Team finish – lost Stanley Cup Final to the Montreal Canadiens 4-1

Wayne Gretzky was a game changing player at every step of his career. By the time he arrived in Los Angeles, his trophy cabinet was already full and there was legitimate concern that he’d run out of fingers for Stanley Cup rings.

For the game of hockey, and the Los Angeles Kings, the 1993 Stanley Cup Playoffs could be defined as one of his best and most influential performances.

The Kings finished the regular season with a respectable 88 points. Gretzky played in only 45 games prior to the playoffs, compiling 16 goals and 65 points. When compared to many of his seasons prior to 1992-1993, Gretzky’s regular season performance was sub par.

The Kings had made the playoffs every year since Gretzky’s arrival in 1988, but couldn’t get past the second round despite a strong roster.

On their way to the 1993 Stanley Cup finals, several players stood out. Goaltender Kelly Hrudey was strong, and 12 players had double digit point production. The team came together in a way it hadn’t prior to 1993.

However, it was Gretzky who not only scored an amazing 40 points in 24 games, but also timed his production to the most for the most important moments.

On the strength of Gretzky’s performance, the Kings got past three teams above them in the standings. Despite beating division rivals in the first two rounds, the defining moment for the Kings, and Gretzky, came in the Conference Finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In Game 6 against the Leafs, with the Kings facing elimination, Gretzky cemented himself in Toronto folklore. Much has been written and said about Gretzky’s high stick to Doug Gilmore. The topic still can’t be discussed rationally in Toronto to this day. Regardless of the scandal, Gretzky did what he did best – he came through in a clutch situation and forced a Game 7.

Gretzky would go on to score three goals in Game 7 (see video below), and almost single handedly led the Kings to their first ever Stanley Cup Finals. It has taken superhuman performances by  three core player in Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, and Dustin Brown to replicate the playoff impact of Gretzky.

All the stats and boxscores point to why this is one of the greatest NHL playoff performances, and most certainly the greatest in the Kings’ history. However, it is the impact of Gretzky’s play outside of 1993 that is most important. Unlike so many other players, Gretzky had a way to influence entire cities, countries and leagues. The near glory of the 1993 Playoff run for the Kings established them as a major contender in the Los Angeles sports market, despite years of relative anonymity following Gretzky’s departure. Not only that, but the performance set in motion years of expansion into southern United States markets for the NHL.

When one player’s performance can open new markets, there is no other way to describe it as outstanding. For Wayne Gretzky, it was just another day at the office.

Runner-up – Jonathan Quick, 2011-12: 18 GP, 15-3, .948 sv%, 1.39 GAA, 3 SO

-Sean Meister, Contributing Writer

*Stay Tuned for 7-6

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