Top 30 Playoff Performances: Number 1

Since the beginning of the Stanley Cup Final, Coincidental Minors has been counting down each team’s single greatest individual playoff performance. We have brought you 30 through number two and today we reveal the final player left in our countdown.

This was a fun project that featured some pretty tough choices. Some teams’ representative were obvious and resulted in a unanimous decision while others could have gone several ways. Teams such as Montreal, Detroit and Toronto (well, maybe not recently) have had so many great players who put in amazing postseason efforts, you could debate who is number one for the rest of the summer and still not come to an agreement.

And is choosing one players from each team wasn’t hard enough, ranking the top 30 proved to be a challenge. Since we are looking at individual efforts, it was difficult to decide who should be ranked higher, the player with better numbers whose team lost in the conference final or the one who went on to win the Stanley Cup. There have been many great performances, Doug Gilmour’s 1993 playoff comes to mind, where a player willed his team further than than they should have gone even if they didn’t win the ultimate prize.

Who would you rank higher? Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who took the seventh-seeded Mighty Ducks to the final in 2003 by posting a .960 save percentage and 1.22 goals-against average through three rounds, only allowing one goal in the Western Conference Final, or Martin Brodeur who put up three shutouts against them in the Cup Final and set a record with seven shutouts total even though he had a much better team in front of him.

Jeff Blay will reveal our pick for the best individual playoff performance, our only unanimous decision for both team pick and final ranking, but first a summery of the first 29.

30. R. J. Umberger, Columbus Blue Jackets

He recorded three of Columbus’ seven goals as they were swept by Detroit in their only playoff appearance in 2009.

29. Pascal Dupuis, Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers

Another team that was swept in their only playoff appearance in 2007, Dupuis was their steadiest presence, recorded points on three of their six goals and was a plus-2 in a series they in which the Rangers outscored them 17-6.

28. Marian Gaborik, Minnesota Wild

Gaborik’s eight-game point streak helped Minnesota reach the 2003 Western Conference Final in just their third season and he would finish third in goals and points.

27. Joel Ward, Nashville Predators

In 2011, the grinding winger set team records with seven goals and 13 points as Nashville reached the second round for the first time in their history.

26. Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks

Nabokov put up a .935 save percentage and 1.71 GAA, both career highs in the 2004 postseason, as San Jose reached the Western Conference Final for the first time in their history.

25. Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets

Phoenix made it out of the first round for the first time this year since 1987 when they were in Winnipeg and Smith put up a .944 save percentage and 1.99 GAA despite the fact they were outshot in 14 of 16 games by an average of 38-27.

24. John Vanbiesbrouck, Florida Panthers

Vanbiesbrouck helped Florida reach the 1996 Stanley Cup Final by beating the top two seeds, Philadelphia (103 points) and Pittsburgh (102 points), posting a .932 save percentage and 2.25 GAA along the way.

23. Brett Hull, St. Louis Blues

In only 12 games, Hull set team records with 13 goals and 21 points, factoring in on half of St. Louis’ goals in the spring of 1990.

22. Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators

The Sens captain put his playoff woes behind him, recording 14 goals  and 22 points en route to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2007.

21. Olaf Kolzig, Washington Capitals

In his first season as a starter, Kolzig took Washington to the 1998 Stanley Cup Final with a .941 save percentage, 1.95 GAA and four shutouts.

20. Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo always went as far as Hasek could take them and with little offensive support, they went to the 1999 Stanley Cup Final as he posted a .939 save percentage and 1.71 GAA.

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

Carolina won the 2006 Stanley Cup  as their captain led with way with strong leadership, excellent defensive play and timely goals.

18. Pavel Bure, Vancouver Canucks

The Russian Rocket recorded 16-15-31 and a plus-8 as Vancouver made it to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in 1994.

17. Brad Richards, Tampa Bay Lightning

Richards won the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy, leading Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup posting 12-14-26 and a record seven game-winning goals.

16. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

The second youngest Cup-winning captain in history set a Chicago record with a 13-game point streak, recorded 7-22-29 in 22 games and won the Conn Smythe Trophy to help break their 49-year Cup drought.

15. Ed Belfour, Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars

The Eagle bettered Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek, leading Dallas to their only Stanley Cup in 1999, putting up a .930 save percentage and 1.67 goals-against average.

14. Bernie Parent, Philadelphia Flyers

Parent won the second of consecutive Conn Smythe Trophies, leading Philadelphia to the 1975 Stanley Cup while positing a 1.89 GAA and four shutouts in 15 games.

13. Ken Dryden, Montreal Canadiens

For a franchise with dozens of phenomenal playoff performances, Dryden’s run in 1977 stands above the rest as he lost only two games and had a minuscule 1.55 GAA and four shutouts in 14 games.

12. Doug Gilmour, Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto just missed out on the Stanley Cup Final in 1993, but Gilmour did everything he could putting up 10-25-35 and a plus-16 in 21 games, breaking the team’s playoff scoring record by 14 points.

11. Mike Bossy, New York Islanders

Bossy put up nearly two points per game, going 17-18-35 in 18 games, leading New York to the second of four-straight Stanley Cups in 1981.

10. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Anaheim Ducks

Giguere was everything for the Mighty Ducks in their 2003 run to the Stanley Cup Final, putting up a .945 save percentage, 1.62 GAA, five shutouts, setting records for most saves in a playoff debut (63, since broken by Roberto Luongo) and fewest goals allowed in a seven-game series (one to the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference Final), and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in a losing effort.

9. Al MacInnis, Calgary Flames/Atlanta Flames

MacInnis used his famous slap shot to post a 17-game scoring streak, a record for defensemen, and record 7-24-31 in 22 games as Calgary won the 1989 Stanley Cup, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.

8. Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles Kings

In their first Stanley Cup Final appearance, Los Angeles relied on Gretzky’s knack for scoring big goals as he put up 15-25-40 in 24 games in the spring of 1993.

7. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

Brodeur set a record with seven shutouts along with a .934 save percentage and 1.65 GAA as New Jersey won their third Stanley Cup. Only a super-human effort from  J-S Giguere kept Brodeur from winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.

6. Terry Sawchuk, Detroit Red Wings

Sawchuk went undefeated and didn’t allow a single goal at home as Detroit won the 1952 Stanley Cup. He went 8-0 with an insane 0.63 GAA and four shutouts.

5. Brian Leetch, New York Rangers

Leetch became the first American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1994 as he posted 11-23-34 and a record for defensemen with a plus-19 in 23 games and was held without a point just four times as New York won its first Stanley Cup in 54 years.

4. Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques

The Colorado captain posted the second-highest goal total ever and 18-16-34 and a plus-10 to take the Conn Smythe Trophy as they won their first Stanley Cup in 1996.

3. Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins

Orr set career playoff highs in assists and points, posting 5-19-24 in 15 games, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy and leading Boston to their second Stanley Cup in three years in 1972.

2. Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins

Only Gretzky has put up more points than Lemieux who had 16-28-44 and a plus-14, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as Pittsburgh won the 1991 Stanley Cup, the first in their history. He was held without a point just once, had an 18-game points streak and scored a goal in every game he played in the Stanley Cup Final.

And now, our choice for the best individual playoff performance of all time.

1. Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers

1984-85 – 18 GP, 17-30-47, plus-28, 4 PIM, 4 PPG, 2 SHG, 3 GWG, Conn Smythe Trophy

Team finish – won Stanley Cup Final over the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1

While a fair amount of research, contemplation and close votes from our writing staff eventually rendered our Top 30 playoff performances, the No. 1 spot was the easiest choice of them all – sort of.

We all knew it would have to go to Wayne Gretzky, but we then had to decide which of his many outstanding postseason performances would top the cake. In the end, we went with his 1985 Conn Smythe performance, which helped earn the Edmonton Oilers its second straight Stanley Cup.

In 18 playoff games, Gretzky finished with an astonishing 17 goals and 47 points – a career best for The Great One and to this day, an NHL record. His playoff performance that year followed his 73 goal, 135-assist regular season, where he also finished with a career-best plus-98 rating.

It’s safe to say Gretzky was already as hot as can be heading into the ’85 playoffs.

With his help, they won the Cup while losing only three games. Edmonton swept the first two rounds, eliminating the Los Angeles Kings in three games, out scoring them 11-7, then did the same to Winnipeg in four games in Round 2, outscoring them 22-11.

The Oilers combined with Chicago to set a record of 69 goals scored in a playoff series as they won the Campbell Conference Final in six games, out scoring the Hawks 44-25 and twice netting at least 10 goals. Gretzky’s playmaking ability helped linemate Jari Kurri set individual records with 12 goals and three hat tricks in one playoff series.

Although the Flyers would win Game 1 of the series by a convincing 4-1 score, Gretzky and the Oilers took over the series from there on in.

Gretz scored the game-winner in the Oilers’ 3-1 Game 2 victory, then proceeded to single handedly give his team its first lead of the series in Game 3 by scoring two goals in the first 90 seconds and completing a hat-trick by the end of the first period. Edmonton was tested by the Flyers, but managed to hold on to a 4-3 win due to Gretzky’s play.

Game 4 was no different; Gretzky notched another pair of goals as the Oilers took a 5-3 win.

With a 3-1 series lead heading into Game 5, Edmonton played its strongest game of the series and it’s no surprise Gretzky once again led the pack and added another goal and three assists in the affair. The Oilers ended up beating Philly 8-3 to capture their second straight title and the second of four Cups in the franchise’s Gretzky era. Here’s video of that Game 5 triumph.

Of the 98 goals scored by Edmonton in the playoffs, an astounding 5.44 per game, Gretzky had a hand in nearly half of them and posted 0.94 goals per game and 2.61 points per game.

Runner-up – Paul Coffey, 1984-85: 18 GP, 12-25-37, plus-26, 2 PPG, 2 SHG, 4 GWG

-Jeff Blay, Executive Editor

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