Who would you look to for the game winning goal in the playoffs? Who would you send out to shut down a playoff opponent's top line? Who would you want on the ice for Game 7?
The ultimate playoff team can answer all those questions and more. I have picked 4 offensive lines, 3 defensive lines, and 2 goalies from the players currently participating in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs to create this spectacular squad of postseason performers. Keep in mind that I limited the roster to a maximum of three players from any one team.
Let the debate begin!
My first line must score, so it has to include Alex Ovechkin. Going into the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Ovechkin was averaging 1.35 points per playoff game, the fourth best mark in NHL history (minimum 50 points). His playoff goals per game are the second best of all time, and both marks are the best by any active player. He has registered two playoff hat tricks and a playoff OT game winner. His physical style, blazing speed and deceptive shot give defenders fits from the opening face-off.
Henrik Zetterberg had 99 career playoff points before this postseason even began. He has produced at just under a point per game, and he has almost one playoff goal for every playoff assist. And he's won a Conn Smythe trophy along with three Stanley Cups. This Swedish center is the perfect playmaker to center my top line.
The old vet is back in the NHL, and now he's back in the playoffs. Jaromir Jagr began his NHL career with two consecutive Stanley Cup victories, and played in 169 playoff games before this postseason began. He has delivered when it counts, totaling 181 points and 77 goals, including three different postseasons with double digit goals. Jaromir had 15 playoff game winning goals before 2012, including four during his second Stanley Cup championship run. Jagr continues to pose match-up problems for opponents, as his big frame and skating ability make it nearly impossible to dislodge the puck.
My second line needs to provide secondary scoring, and that's what Tomas Holmstrom does in the playoffs. Before this year's postseason began, Holmstrom had played in a whopping 175 playoff games and won four Stanley Cups. He has tallied 95 points with 46 goals. An expert at wreaking havoc in front of the net and deflecting shots from the point, the bruising Swede is a goalie's worst nightmare.
Sidney Crosby may be criticized for his sportsmanship, but he's not criticized for his postseason performance. Only in his seventh year in the league, the center from Nova Scotia has already played in two Stanley Cup Finals, winning once. He played in 62 playoff games before this postseason began, amassing 82 points. He is deadly on the power play in the postseason, averaging 0.56 power play points per playoff game. The year his Penguins won the Stanley Cup, Crosby registered a playoff hat trick, scored 15 goals, and had 31 total points.
Daniel Alfredsson has compiled an impressive postseason resume, and he provides leadership to go with balanced scoring. The Swedish winger had 88 points in 108 games before the playoffs began this season. He had 45 goals and 43 assists, including 21 goals and 23 assists on the power play. He also has 11 playoff game winners, including four on the way to his only Stanley Cup Finals.
I need my third line to come through with big goals at big moments, and I'll start with my team's wild card. Ruslan Fedotenko played in 88 playoff games for four different teams before this postseason began, and has generally been quiet in the postseason. But he came up huge for both Stanley Cup winners he played for, including 12 goals and three game winners in 2004 for the Tampa Bay Lightning. When the Ukrainian winger heats up in the playoffs, so does his team.
Danny Briere lives for the postseason. In 97 playoff games before this season began, he had 96 points and 42 goals. He scored 19 goals on the power play, and 12 game winners. Twelve of those total goals and four of those game winners came two years ago when he led Philadelphia on an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Jamie Langenbrunner is back in the playoffs for the first time in two years, and he'll feel right at home. The Minnesota native has now made the playoffs in 14 of his 16 seasons. In his 138 playoff games before this postseason began, he scored 88 points. Of his 33 playoff goals, 12 were game winners, and seven of those came during his two Stanley Cup championships.
I want my fourth line to give my opponent a headache, so who better to start with than the Boston Bruins' Milan Lucic. The tough winger from Vancouver has quickly established himself as one of the best power forwards in the league, and he delivers in the postseason. He has scored 15 goals in 55 playoff games, and relishes the ability to demolish the opponent and score against them on the same shift.
A defensive specialist, Jordan Staal is the perfect fourth-line center on this dream team. A veteran of 68 playoff games before 2012, Staal has also contributed 17 playoff goals. He would be matched up against the other team's top line to help shut them down, allowing me to get more favorable match-ups for my own top line.
Once the object of Stanley Cup ridicule, Marian Hossa played in three consecutive Stanley Cup finals with three different teams before finally winning the elusive Cup. Hossa has played in 127 playoff games and amassed 97 playoff points, 37 on the power play. The Slovakian winger comes up big in the clutch, but he's on this team for his hockey smarts and defensive skills. He will help my fourth line cause match-up nightmares for the opposition's best line.
I need my top pair of defensemen to be skilled in all facets of the game. Naturally, I'll start with "The Perfect Human". Nicklas Lidstrom has played in six Stanley Cup Finals, winning the Cup four times and the Conn Smythe Trophy once. He has played in 258 playoff games, and racked up 178 points, but only 76 penalty minutes. Lidstrom plays intelligently and is rarely—if ever—out of position. He is also deadly on the power play, with 111 of his playoff points coming with the man advantage.
Zdeno Chara is an imposing figure, and he will help me impose my will on the opponent. The tallest man to ever play in the NHL is also one of the most physical. An excellent defender, Chara is an incredible +27 in his 100 previous playoff games, including a +11 for last year's Stanley Cup champions. He puts his 100+ mph slap shot to good use on the power play, as almost half of his playoff points have come while a man up. Plus, I need someone on my team who can grow a wicked playoff beard.
My shutdown defensive pair begins with the ultimate "stay at home" defender. Hal Gill has played 105 playoff games in his career and has a total of six points. This year marks his fifth straight trip to the postseason, with three different teams. That postseason consistency helped him earn a Stanley Cup. Smart, physical, and disciplined, Hal Gill is the perfect defender to shut down an opponent's top player, and frustrate him in the process.
Any team I assemble needs a shot-blocking machine like Anton Volchenkov. The Moscow native is the only skater in the NHL who blocks enough shots to deserve a save percentage. He also hits like a freight train, and this physicality wears his opponents down. In 61 playoff games, Volchenkov is an even player with only 48 penalty minutes. He is not on the ice for his offense, and in the playoffs he has scored a total of three goals. But two of them were game winners.
My third defensive pair needs to be solid and steady. Dan Boyle is both. The Ottawa native produces in the playoffs without producing the headlines. Prior to 2012, he played in 84 playoff games, which included a successful trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. He has accumulated 56 points, with 27 points on the power play. His discipline and leadership on defense are a calming influence on his teammates.
Much like his defensive partner on this team, Brian Campbell is a disciplined defender with some offensive skills. In 90 playoff games prior to 2012, he was a plus player who averaged 25 seconds per playoff game in the penalty box. Campbell also had 37 playoff points, and 16 on the power play, which helped him win a Stanley Cup. He is an excellent skater whose passing ignites the offense.
My number-one goaltender has compiled such a spectacular career that he could retire today and be inducted into the Hall of Fame tomorrow. And Martin Brodeur may even be better in the playoffs. He had 99 career playoff victories before this year, and 23 of them were shutouts. He also has a 2.01 GAA and a .919 SV%. And that's over 181 games, while winning three Stanley Cups.
Tim Thomas moves more like a monster from a 1950's sci-fi movie than a goaltender. "The Blob" may be unconventional, but he's devastatingly effective. In only 43 career playoff games prior to this year, Thomas has a 2.00 GAA and a .936 SV%, with 26 wins and five shutouts. The Michigan native single-handedly stole three playoff series for the Bruins last year, including the Stanley Cup Finals against Vancouver. Tim's heroics earned himself the Conn Smythe Trophy and a place on this team.