NHL Playoffs: 25 Most Dangerous Scorers in Stanley Cup Playoff History
Anytime you make an "all-time" list of anything sports related, you better have thick skin as a writer. Comparing players from different generations remains an elusive endeavor and a daunting task.
How you handicap modern day changes such as nutrition, training, health care, and equipment technology? What about the infusion of world talent in the NHL game? How much weight is given to coaching styles and rule changes?
There is no correct answer for any of these questions, but the best one can do is evaluate how dominant certain players were in their era and slot them in the master list accordingly.
In this list we have the top 25 most dangerous scorers in playoff history. The criteria used for this list was pretty broad to allow the inclusion of a variety of different players. Some posed a threat with their dynamic physical ability. Others slipped in based on pure production. Moreover, a few made it in based on their hockey sense and uncanny ability to drive opponents crazy.
However, the one common thread that links them all is that opposing goalies always accounted for their whereabouts on the ice at all times. If they didn't, the paid the price.
Without further ado, I present the best of the best.
25: Newsy Lalonde
I'm not sure anyone reading this has ever seen Newsy Lalonde play a game, but there's something to be said for his stats. He was such a lethal threat on the ice in 1919 that he netted an amazing 17 goals in 10 games. In fact, he only had one assist in that run which just proves he was all about lighting the lamp.
The Stanley Cup was cancelled that year due to the flu pandemic and Lalonde was one of the players to come down with the influenza bug.
He won't be on any highlight shows anytime soon, but Newsy Lalonde, we still salute you.
Tidbit: Known as the original "flying frenchman", he gained his Newsy nickname from working in a newspaper plant at the time.
24: Paul Coffey
I couldn't compile an entire list without including at least one defensemen. With all due respect to players such as Niklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Bobby Orr, and Denis Potvin, Paul Coffey remains the prototypical offensive defenseman.
In his long and illustrious career, he found the back of the net 59 times. That is more than a lot of very good forwards to play in this league. That list included guys like Guy Lafleur, Cam Neely, Luc Robitaille, and Stan Makita. Furthermore, when he retired he was fifth in all-time playoff scoring with 196 points.
Tidbit: Played for six different teams in his final six seasons.
23: Phil Esposito
When it comes to playoff scoring leaders, not many have had as much success as Phil Esposito. He led all scorers in three different seasons on his way to multiple Stanley Cup wins. This was quite the feat considering some of the names in his era.
Tidbit: Continues to coach hockey to this day...albeit for the fire department on the hit series "Rescue Me".
22: Alexander Ovechkin
Much like Pavel Bure, Alexander Ovechkin makes this list as an "exception" of sorts. He doesn't have the playoff success or stats of others, but he is a game-changer each and every time he steps over the boards for a shift.
He only has 20 playoff goals to his name, but that has come in a minuscule 28 game sample size. That isn't exactly production that opposing goalies take lightly. Whether it is a highlight reel end-to-end rush or a one-timer on the power play, this guy creates many sleepless nights for goalies.
Tidbit: Was named as an ambassador for the 2014 Sochi Olympics games based on the assumption that the NHL will be there. Oops?
21: Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr has one of the oddest postseason reputations in the history of the game. Alongside Mario, he was a dynamite force in the playoffs. One look at his numbers and you'd think he was a slam-dunk prime-time player.
Yet, once he was asked to carry a team on his own, he got engulfed in the checking and couldn't elevate his game to the next level. Now whether that is fair or not is still up for debate because he did play in the dead-puck era.
Also, it usually took a collective effort to shut him down. It wasn't as easy as putting a shadow player on him and moving on with the game plan. So to his credit, he was one of the more dangerous players on the ice, whether he produced or not.
Tidbit: Began the fan salute at Madison Square Garden, now seen throughout the league.
20: Bobby Hull
The first of two Hull's on this list is the elder statesman Bobby Hull. A Chicago Blackhawks legend and one of the best left wingers to ever play the game, he led all scorers in the playoffs in the 1965 season. He is still in the top 25 in all-time playoff scoring, but he did it in much fewer games than the names around him.
Long before there was a hardest shot contest at the All-Star game, rumors had it that he was once clocked at 118 mph. I'm not about to question the scientific validity of that, but needless to say goalies far and wide feared his shot like the plague.
Tidbit: Became the third NHL player to be on the cover of Time magazine.
19: Yvan Cournoyer
Back in the era of great nicknames, Yvan Cournoyer was dubbed as the "roadrunner" for his small size and lightning speed. And as you all know, speed kills. In 1973 he engraved his name in hockey history as he burned goalies for 15 of his 64 playoff goals. When he finally retired, he had 10 rings to his name, second only behind Henri Richard.
Tidbit: Had to wait three seasons before he saw a regular shift because coach Toe Blake considered him a defensive liability.
18: Pavel Bure
Pavel Bure might not have the career numbers that other players on this list have, but make no mistake about it—he was one of the most dangerous players on the ice in playoff history. With 35 goals in 64 games, there is no denying that he produced when the situation called for it.
On Vancouver's historic cup run in 1994 Bure led the way with 16 goals in 24 games. Many of those were big goals in big situations and he did it with dramatic flair. It's a shame that his career was cut short due to injuries and bad circumstances, but for those of us who were lucky enough to see him in his prime, there weren't many better.
Tidbit: Off-ice highlights include ties to the Russian mafia and a relationship with Anna Kournikova.
17: Sidney Crosby
There aren't many modern day players on this list (and with good reason) but it would be silly to leave off a player like Sidney Crosby. It's quite remarkable what he's accomplished in this league in such a short period of time, but with a cup ring on his resume it's safe to say that monikers like "choker" or "can't win the big one" aren't going to be looming over his head any longer.
Crosby followed up a great cup run with an even greater cup win the year after and has already cemented himself as one of the all-time playoff performers. He's only played in 62 career playoff games, but has 30 goals to his name and it won't be long until his name goes shooting up the charts.
Tidbit: Youngest player to lead the NHL playoffs in scoring.
16: Peter Forsberg
It is a little strange to be writing about Peter Forsberg in the past tense after his latest comeback was just a few short months ago, but most people remember him for his glory years in Colorado. Blessed with one of the best overall games in hockey history, Forsberg completely dominated the postseason every time he was on the ice.
With his rare combination of touch, physical play, and vision, Forsberg was a threat to score in any situation of the game. He led the playoffs in scoring twice and finished his career with 64 playoff goals.
Tidbit: Is reportedly looking into bionic feet to make another comeback next season.
15: Guy Lafleur
Among all the great Montreal Canadiens players on this list, Guy Lafleur is perhaps the most dangerous of them all. For three consecutive seasons, "The Flower" dominated postseason play. He led all goal scorers those seasons and racked up 58 goals in his playoff career. He might have had a controversial career off the ice, but in the time he was on it—very few players did it better than him.
Tidbit: Drafted by the Minnesota North Stars in 1991 even though he was already retired.
14: Gordie Howe
What can I say about "Mr. Hockey" that hasn't been said before? He led the playoffs in scoring three times and sits at the 17 spot in all-time playoff goal scoring. Say what you want about his numbers, this was one of the early players to define the term "dangerous scorer". This had as much to do with his style of play as it did his scoring prowess. You didn't know if he would punch, elbow, or hit you, but one thing was certain—he was going to bring the pain each and every game.
Tidbit: Despite having his No. 9 retired in three different teams, he wore No. 17 in his rookie season.
13: Claude Lemieux
Known as the "other" Lemieux, Claude was a polarizing player for the entire second half of his playing career after his infamous hit from behind on Kris Draper. Unfortunately, this incident tainted and clouded just how great he was on the ice. If the hit happened a fraction of a second earlier/later people would be honoring Claude Lemieux in a much different light.
And they would have good reason to. Only three players played in more playoff games than him and only two others have more game-winning goals. It didn't seem to matter what the situation was, Claude was a dangerous threat at any point in the game. He quickly became one of the most dangerous players to face in the postseason and his knack for clutch goals devastated net-minders. This four-time cup and Conne Smythe Trophy winner ranks up there with the best of them.
Tidbit: Was once accused of cannibalism after taking a bite of Jim Peplinski's finger.
12: Jean Beliveau
Many Montreal Canadiens remain legends in their own right and some of those teams seemed unfairly stacked with talent, but this shouldn't take away from some of the individual feats by their players.
Case in point is Jean Beliveau. He not only led the NHL in goals in the 1956 playoff run, but he is still in the top 10 for goals scored in the postseason alongside Maurice Richard with 79.
Ranked seventh on the list of top 100 players in NHL history by the Hockey News, Beliveau's continued to be an active member of the NHL community long after his playing days.
Tidbit: He threatened to leave the Hall of Fame if Alan Eagleson wasn't removed and took a controversial stance against the players during the 2005 lockout.
11: Dino Ciccarelli
Is any all-time playoff list complete without Dino Ciccarelli's name? If someone made an all-time underrated player list, it's very likely that his name would be No. 1 or 2. The most likely reason for this was the fact that he got the vast majority of his goals in front of the net.
He played in a time where the front of the net was a free-for-all in terms of abuse. Cross-checks to the back and head were permitted in this area along with tripping, slew-footing, and slashing. Despite it all, Ciccarelli's toughness and competitiveness never wavered.
He finished with the fourth most hat-tricks in the playoffs and the third most power-play goals. One could even argue that he was the most dangerous player on the ice. No one did his job better than him and he came to be known as the poster-child of dirty goals. Luckily for him and the Capitals, they all counted the same on the score sheet.
Tidbit: One of the best players to have never won a cup.
10: Joe Sakic
Come playoff time, not many players electrified the television screen as much as Joe Sakic did. He was the captain of some of the most feared lineups to ever take the ice. In both Avalanche cup runs, Sakic led the team in goal scoring. If it wasn't for Patrick Roy's incredible heroics in 1996, Joe Sakic would have been the runaway winner of the Conne Smythe Trophy.
He owns the record for the most game-winning goals in the playoffs and tied for fourth all time in game-winners. That is pretty elite company when you start considering who else is on that list. Sakic finished up his career with 84 career postseason goals and sits seventh on the all-time list.
Tidbit: Had a street named after him in his hometown—"Joe Sakic Way".
9: Glenn Anderson
Wayne Gretzky overshadowed a lot of Oilers during his time there. It's always debatable whether or not Hall of Famers like Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, and others got the true recognition they deserved, but one name that is truly undermined is Glenn Anderson.
He never led the playoffs in scoring, but he finished his career with 93 goals—good enough for fifth all-time. Yet, for a variety of reasons he's never talked about on the same level as the names around him. How many people know that he is third all-time in playoff overtime goals and tied for sixth all-time for game-winners?
Tidbit: His peers definitely recognized his talents. He had one of the largest alumni turnouts for his jersey retirement.
8: Cam Neely
Was there a more difficult player to contain in the playoffs than Cam Neely? Mr. Bruin exemplifies what playoff hockey is all about and it's too bad we didn't get to see him in the league longer. He only got the chance to play in 93 games, but before he was ready to retire he managed to score 57 goals.
A large number of those came against the Montreal Canadiens. Patrick Roy went on the record after his career to say that Neely was the most dangerous scorer he ever faced. That's high praise coming from the greatest goaltender in history. Enough said?
Tidbit: Makes regular appearances with Phil Esposito on "Rescue Me".
7: Maurice Richard
When you name a scoring trophy after you, you can be certain it was for a good reason. Maurice Richard led the Stanley Cup Playoffs in goals twice—once in 1947 and again in 1951. He also remains in the top 10 of playoff goal scoring in NHL history with 82.
Tidbit: The "rocket" continues to be known as the most prolific scorer of his time and his lethal instincts are well-known to most fans, but did you know he tried to join the military three times? Luckily for the hockey world, broken bones in junior hockey never healed properly so he was denied each time.
6: Brett Hull
Calgary Flames fans wince every time they see a story about Brett Hull. OK so they did get Joe Nieuwendyk in return, but Brett Hull remains one of the purest snipers the NHL has ever seen. If you were an opposing goaltender, the number one priority you had was knowing exactly where Hull was at all times. If Hull had a split second advantage, the puck was already in the back of the net.
Not many players knew how to evade traffic and get open as well as Hull. The only thing better than his hockey sense was his release. With 104 career playoff goals, Hull sits fourth on the list only behind Gretzky, Messier, and Kurri. Not bad at all.
Tidbit: Decided to play for the US National Team after being passed over by Team Canada.
5: Mike Bossy
Simply put, Mike Bossy was one of the most feared snipers in NHL history. They can change the training regimen, nutrition, equipment, and the rules all they want, not many players are going to touch the success that Mike Bossy achieved.
Sometimes, one needs to talk about the intangibles to extrapolate the greatness of a player. With Bossy, the numbers tell the story. Sitting at sixth in league history, he has 85 goals in 128 games. Do some quick math to find out what his goals-per-game average was—it's mind-blowing.
Tidbit: Tried to get a job with the Montreal Canadiens organization after his playing days as a consultant, but was turned down multiple times.
4: Jari Kurri
Everyone knows Jari Kurri was the prolific wing-man on those great Oilers teams, but the truth is, he was a flat-out playoff stud regardless of who was around him. His 103 career playoff goals ranks third all-time and he put up another 10 in 22 games after Wayne Gretzky was gone.
One the 1985 postseason he had an amazing four hat-tricks and a historic 19 goals in 18 games. No one has ever come close to repeating his hat-trick extraordinaire performance since that season and it could be quite some time before we see it again.
Tidbit: Married Miss Finland.
3: Mark Messier
It's never easy following in the footsteps of greatness, but that's exactly what Mark Messier did when Wayne Gretzky was packaged up and shipped first class to Los Angeles. Some thought that would be the end of the Oilers, but instead it was a chance for Messier to shine. In 1990, he became the undisputed leader of Edmonton and helped lead the way to a cup.
A few short years later, he proved that run was no fluke and did it again with the New York Rangers. When all was said and done, he completed his career second to only to the "Great One". The two closest active players that threaten his 109 career playoff goals are Mike Modano and Mark Recchi. Let's just say that his place in hockey history is safe for now.
Tidbit: Only professional athlete to captain two different championship teams
2: Mario Lemieux
I was very tempted to put Mario Lemieux number one on this list. Many hockey people make the case that he was indeed more talented that Wayne Gretzky, but due to injuries and organizational circumstances, was never in a position to put up the kind of numbers or win the number of championships that the Great One did.
However, there is a case to be made for longevity, and Lemieux just didn't have it. Having said that, it shouldn't take away from what he was able to accomplish. He led all goal scorers in both cup runs and finished with 76 goals in 107 games.
Let me repeat that—76 goals in 107 games! That kinda production is just unheard of, especially when opposing teams did everything in their power to shut him down.
Tidbit: Is not the highest scoring Lemieux on the list. That honor goes to Claude Lemieux with 80 (albeit in 127 more games).
1: Wayne Gretzky
Is it boring to have Wayne Gretzky at the top of the list? Maybe so, but it's simply impossible to deny the facts. Hey, he was called the "Great One" for a reason, right? And no one was greater in the history of this sport than Gretzky. He had the most goals in six different postseasons and remains the undisputed goal leader in playoff history with an unattainable 122.
Legends are made in the playoffs. Many good players can't handle this pressure once the prime-time lights turn on. They wither in the lime-light and become forgotten souls in the hockey world.
Not Gretzky. He took his game to another level and single-handedly put hockey on the proverbial map with his championship runs. There has never been a more feared player on the ice and it's questionable if there will ever be another like him. Mr. Hollywood is easily the most dangerous scorer in playoff history.
Tidbit: Continues to be one of the most endorsed athletes in all of sports, despite the fact that he's been retired forever.