Top 30 Playoff Performances: 3

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.

We will now bring you one a day as we enter the top five.

3. Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins

1971-72 – 15 GP, 5-19-24, 19 PIM, 4 PPG, 1 GWG, Conn Smythe Trophy

Team finish – won Stanley Cup Final over the New York Rangers 4-2

Despite his career being cut short, Bobby Orr give Wayne Gretzky a challenge for the title of Greatest Player Ever. (Stephen Dyrgas, Flickr)

The Boston Bruins’ long history has yielded many unbelievable playoff performances, but even Tim Thomas’ Conn Smythe winning effort last season when he set a record by making 798 saves wasn’t enough to dethrone the best player in team history. The 1970 playoffs may be recognized by more fans due to the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years and Orr scoring the overtime, Cup-winning goal to set up what is arguably the greatest hockey photo ever taken, but his play two years later was even better.

Even with all the offensive firepower they had in the 1970s, it was Orr who led the way for the Big Bad Bruins. In 1972, the Bruins had six players, Orr, Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk, John McKenzie, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield, average over a point per game and they had a great tandem of Gerry Cheevers and Ed Johnston guarding the nets. It’s a wonder they didn’t win more than two Stanley Cup that decade, though if Orr’s knees had held up they likely would have.

Through the first two rounds, a 4-1 defeat of the Toronto Maple Leafs and a sweep of the St. Louis Blues, Orr tallied one goal and 15 assists in nine games. The series against the Leafs was close as three of their wins came by two goals or fewer, but Boston had no trouble taking on St. Louis. Game 4 was the closest as Boston took it 5-3, but they demolished the Blues in the first three games 6-1, 10-2 and 7-2.

In the Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers, Orr put up eight points, getting on the score sheet in every game except game 5, a 3-2 loss. But he was at his best when it really mattered, netting two goals in the first 10 minutes and three points total in a 3-2 win in Game 4 as the Blueshirts tried to even the series. In game 6, hehad a goal and two points in a 3-0 win in Game 6 as they clinched their second Cup in three seasons. Orr had his second Cup-winning goal that game, though not in nearly as dramatic fashion as it came at 11:18 of the first period. And while there may be no famous photo of this goal, it may have been an even better individual effort, spinning away from Bruce MacGregor before rifling a shot past Gilles Villemure.

Orr’s 19 assists that postseason is the fourth highest total ever for a defenseman and his 24 points is sixth. He was only the second defenseman ever to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP (Serge Savard won it for Montreal in 1969) and is the only blueliner to win it twice. He could have accomplished way more had he played a full career, but he still accomplished more than almost anyone who has ever skated on NHL ice. He currently sits 15th all-time in goals (26) and 17th in assists (66) and points (92) among defensemen despite playing only 74 games, over 100 fewer than most of the players above him in those rankings. Looking at a per game rate, he is clearly one of the greatest ranking first among defensemen in goals per game (0.351), first among defensemen and third overall in assists per game (0.892) and first among defensemen and sixth overall in points per game (1.243).

Unfortunately he only played three full seasons after 1972 and just 24 playoff games even though he did reach the Stanley Cup Final again in 1974, losing out to the Philadelphia Flyers. The next season he would set a record for defensemen, since broken by Paul Coffey, by scoring 46 goals in the regular season, but would only play 36 games over the next four seasons before retiring.

In the all-too-brief period of time Orr was able to play, he changed the game more than any other individual in history and is the most dynamic skater ever witnessed. From Legends of Hockey:

Orr revolutionized the sport with his scoring ability and playmaking from the blue line. Other defenders, beginning as early as Lester Patrick in the nascent days of the game, had been offensive threats, but Orr dominated. He won two scoring titles, the only defender to accomplish that feat, and had career season highs of 46 goals and 102 assists. More than just statistics, Orr had the ability to control the game, to take over. He had the speed to float away from defenders and also to recover should he lose possession or get caught on a rush. Often, odd-man rushes in the other team’s favour were reversed by his effortless strides. Some argued that he wasn’t defensively sound, but hockey people rejected these claims.

For eight consecutive seasons Orr won the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman and three times he was the league’s most valuable player to collect the Hart Trophy. Orr’s plus-minus rating when he was at his best was untouchable at plus-124 in 1970-71, when he scored 139 points.

You could make an argument for Orr’s play in either of his Stanley Cup wins, but while the first was more famous, the history’s best defenseman set career highs in playoff assists and points and scored four goals in the Cup final to earn the title of Boston’s single most dominating individual playoff performance ever.

Runner-up – Tim Thomas, 2010-11: 25 GP, 16-9, .940 sv%, 1.98 GAA, 4 SO, Conn Smythe Trophy

-Tim Kolupanowich, Executive Editor

*Stay tuned as we reveal the top two greatest individual playoff performances over the nest two days.

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