NHL Playoffs: Top 30 Individual Single-Season Playoff Performances Ever

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IApril 19, 2012

NHL Playoffs: Top 30 Individual Single-Season Playoff Performances Ever

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    This 2012 NHL playoffs has featured some impressive performances already (not in net in the state of Pennsylvania, but elsewhere). Will someone jump into the conversation of the best postseason ever?

    To begin that argument you need to have some frame of reference. Who had the best individual performance in a single postseason ever?

    What follows is writeup of 30 guys that played like gods for a couple months one year.

30. Joe Nieuwendyk: 1999

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    In 1999, Joe Nieuwendyk scored 11 goals in 23 playoff games and six of them were game-winners as the Stars won the cup and Nieuwendyk won the Conn Smythe.

29. Pierre Pilote: 1961

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    Four years before they awarded the Conn Smythe for the first time, Pilote led the Blackhawks to their third Stanley Cup. In an era when defensemen didn't do as much scoring, Pilote had 15 points in 12 playoff games. Two years later, Pilote would begin a stretch of three consecutive Norris Trophies.

28. Tim Thomas: 2011

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    Thomas won the Conn Smythe last year with four shutouts among his 16 victories. His .940 save percentage is the highest of any goalie to win 16 games in a single postseason.

27. Craig Simpson: 1990

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    Explain this: In 1990, Craig Simpson scores 16 goals, including the cup-clinching goal in Game 5, in 22 postseason games but doesn't win the Conn Smythe? He had 31 points that spring, including three game-winning goals, but Bill Ranford was voted the postseason's Most Valuable Player.

26. Bernie Parent: 1975

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    In leading the Flyers to their second straight Cup win—and his second straight Conn Smythe—Parent had his best postseason. He won 10 of 15 games and had four shutouts and a 1.89 goals-against average.

25. Jean Beliveau: 1956

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    In the first year that the Conn Smythe was awarded, it was fittingly handed to Beliveau in 1965. But nine years earlier he had his best postseason.

    Beliveau scored 12 goals in 10 playoff games in 1956 as the Habs defeated the Red Wings 4-1 in the finals. He had 19 points in that postseason, a personal best.

24. Henrik Zetterberg: 2008

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    Four years before Shea Weber got his hands on Zetterberg's head, he scored four game-winning goals and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup. Zetterberg scored 13 goals and was plus-16 in 22 games in those playoffs.

23. Steve Yzerman: 1998

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    Yzerman's best postseason came in 1998 when he led the Red Wings to their second straight Cup. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy that year with 24 points in 22 games, and he was plus-10 in those playoffs.

22. Patrick Roy: 2001

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    In 2001, Roy won his record third (and final) Conn Smythe Trophy as he led the Colorado Avalanche to the cup. That year he was 16-7 with a fantastic .930 save percentage in a playoff run that included four shutouts.

21. Bryan Trottier: 1980

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    On his way to the Conn Smythe and leading the Islanders to their first of four straight cups, Trottier put up 12 goals and 17 assists in 21 games.

Honorable Mention: Non Cup-Winner

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    You'll hear more about the 1985 postseason later in the list (specifically at the top), but lost in the Edmonton hysteria was an outstanding postseason from Chicago's Denis Savard. That year, Savard had 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in only 15 games.

20. Mark Messier: 1988

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    The guy wearing No. 99 might have won the Conn Smythe in 1988, but Messier had an incredible postseason with 11 goals and 23 assists in 19 games. He had a number of great playoff runs, but 1988 was arguably his best.

19. Al MacInnis: 1989

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    In 1989, Al MacInnis became the second defenseman in NHL history to reach the 30-goal plateau in a single postseason. He posted 31 points (seven goals, 24 assists) in 22 games and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. Four of his seven goals were game-winners.

18. Ken Dryden: 1977

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    In leading Montreal to the cup in 1977, Dryden went 12-2 with 22 goals allowed in the 14 games. He also posted four shutouts in those playoffs, but Guy LaFleur was awarded the Conn Smythe.

17. Frank Brimsek: 1939

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    In 1939, Frank Brimsek had an incredible postseason run in which he allowed only 18 goals in 12 games as the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. But what made that goal total even more impressive is that Brimsek played in 863 minutes in that postseason, or an average of over 72 minutes per game.

16. Jonathan Toews: 2010

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    While leading the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup in 2010, Toews posted 29 points in 22 postseason games and was awarded the Conn Smythe as the postseason's Most Valuable Player. He was credited with three game-winning goals during the run.

15. Reggie Leach: 1976

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    The only Philadelphia Flyers player other than Bernie Parent to win the Conn Smythe, Leach scored 19 goals in only 16 games in 1976. Unfortunately for his Flyers, they were swept in the finals by the Montreal Canadiens that year.

    Only five players in NHL history have won the Conn Smythe as a member of the team that lost in the finals.

14: Yvan Cournoyer: 1973

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    Part of one of the Montreal teams of the early 1970s, Cournoyer scored 15 goals and added 10 assists in only 17 games on his way to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.

13. Evgeni Malkin: 2009

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    Only three players in NHL history—Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemeiux and Paul Coffee—have scored more points in a single postseason than the 36 Malkin poured in during the 2009 playoffs. He was awarded the Conn Smythe for his exceptional effort, which included three game-winning goals.

12. Bobby Orr: 1970

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    A strong case can be made that the 1969-70 season for Bobby Orr was the greatest for any defenseman in the history of the game.

    He won the Hart Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy, the Norris Trophy and finished the year with the Conn Smythe as the Most Valuable Player in the postseason. He scored nine goals and added 11 assists in 14 playoff games that year.

11. Dominik Hasek: 2002

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    Nicklas Lidstrom may have won the Conn Smythe, but Dominik Hasek's performance was incredible as Detroit won the cup in 2002.

    He had six shutouts in 23 starts, winning the magic number of 16. Only one goalie in NHL history had more shutouts in a single postseason, and you'll read more about him later in the list.

Honorable Mention: The Gretzkys

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    Because he had so many incredible postseason performances, we're going to limit Wayne Gretzky to only one of the top 30. But we need to at least mention some of his other great postseason performances.

    1988: 43 points in 19 games, Conn Smythe Trophy
    1993: 40 points in 24 games
    1983: 38 points in 16 games
    1984: 35 points in 19 games

    Gretzky had 382 points in 208 career playoff games. To put some of those individual seasons in perspective, there have been only 10 individual postseasons in which a player has posted 35 points or more, and Gretzky has five of them.

10. Brad Richards: 2004

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    Seven years before breaking the bank in New York, Richards was breaking the hearts of fans all over the East Coast.

    In 23 games, he was credited with only 88 shots on goal but set the all-time postseason record with seven game-winning goals as he led the Lightning to the cup. He added seven power-play goals and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.

9. Brian Leetch: 1994

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    In 1994, sometimes lost in the guarantee from Mark Messier, was the incredible postseason performance of Leetch.

    Only Paul Coffee with the Oilers in 1985 had more points as a defenseman in a single playoff year, as Leetch posted 34 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 23 games.

    He was plus-16 in the postseason and had four game-winning goals from the blue line, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy.

8. Mike Bossy: 1981

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    Bossy had his best playoff run during the Islanders' second of four straight cup wins in 1981. He scored 17 goals and added 18 assists in just 18 games, including an incredible nine power-play goals and three game-winners.

7. Charlie Gardiner: 1934

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    Jumping onto the way-back machine, Gardiner holds a few distinctions. One of which is being the only goalie to serve as captain of a Stanley Cup champion as he led the Blackhawks to the title in 1934.

    But that postseason was incredible for a number of reasons.

    It only took eight games for the Hawks to win the cup that year because of the size of the league, but Gardiner had six wins in those eight with two of them coming as shutouts.

    The epic cup-clinching game ended when Mush March broke a 0-0 score at 10:05 in the second overtime. Gardiner allowed only 12 goals in those eight games.

    Unfortunately, Gardiner didn't know it at the time but he was very sick during those playoffs. He struggled with vision issues and a tooth infection. Two months after winning Stanley Cup, Gardiner collapsed, went into a coma, and eventually died of a brain hemorrhage at age 29.

6. Jean-Sebastian Giguere and 5. Martin Brodeur: 2003

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    A far cry from the debacle between the pipes in the current Flyers-Penguins series, the playoffs in 2003 treated hockey fans to some of the finest goaltending in postseason history.

    Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy on the losing team. He had a 15-6 record, .945 save percentage and 1.62 goals-against average with five shutouts.

    Brodeur set a record he still holds with seven shutouts in a single postseason. He was 16-8 that spring, posting a .934 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average. He wasn't the playoffs' Most Valuable Player, but he won the Cup.

4. Mario Lemieux: 1991

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    On his way to the first of his back-to-back Conn Smythe Trophies, "Super Mario" put up 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) in 23 games. He had two short-handed goals in that postseason in addition to six power-play tallies as the Pens captured the cup.

3. Joe Sakic: 1996

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    Sakic had a magnificent career, but his finest stretch of play may have been the 1996 postseason. He posted 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists) in 22 games on his way to the Conn Smythe Trophy. Six of his 18 goals were game-winners.

2. Terry Sawchuk: 1952

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    If the numbers put up by Gardiner, Giguere and Brodeur were impressive, the postseason Sawchuk had in 1952 was ridiculous.

    Eight games.

    Eight wins.

    Five goals allowed.

    Four shutouts.

    Unreal numbers that are rarely touched during a regular-season stretch, much less against the best the game has to offer.

Honorable Mention: The 1985 Oilers (Other Than 99)

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    The top spot on this list, as is the case with most "best of" hockey lists, is reserved for Mr. Gretzky. Not to spoil the next slide, but he had an epic postseason in 1985 on arguably the greatest team in the history of the game.

    But a number of other Oilers had enormous individual postseasons. So that this list didn't become too Oilers-heavy, other 1985 Oilers will be posted as honorable mentions.

    Paul Coffey: 12 goals 25 assists in 18 games
    Jari Kurri: 19 goals, 12 assists in 18 games
    Glenn Anderson: 10 goals, 16 assists in 18 games
    Mark Messier: 12 goals, 13 assists in 18 games

1. Wayne Gretzky: 1985

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    The don't call him "The Great One" for nothing. During his first of two Conn Smythe-winning postseasons, Gretzky destroyed the record books. He scored 17 goals and added 30 assists in only 18 games. His 30 assists alone would be tied for the 27th highest individual postseason point total ever.