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Tuesday, April 16, 2002
Updated: May 1, 11:29 AM ET
Best NHL playoff performances

Page 2 staff

As the NHL prepares for the beginning of the real season, Page 2 compiled its list of the 10 best playoff performances in NHL history.

Terry Sawchuk
Terry Sawchuk was a money goalie in the Original Six era.
Take a look at our list of the 10 best playoff performances, then see how our readers ranked their choices. And be sure to vote in the poll to crown the No. 1 Stanley Cup playoff performance in history.

1. Terry Sawchuk (Detroit Red Wings, 1952)
Sawchuk and the Red Wings shut out the Maple Leafs twice while sweeping the semifinal, then shut out the Canadiens twice while also sweeping the final. In eight games, Sawchuk allowed only five goals, and compiled a .977 save percentage.

2. Wayne Gretzky (Edmonton Oilers, 1985)
Gretzky led the Oilers' offensive juggernaut (they scored 44 goals in the six-game Campbell Conference final against the Blackhawks), scoring 17 goals with 30 assists for an astounding 47 playoff points (still a record) as the Oilers won their second Stanley Cup in a row.

3. Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh Penguins, 1991)
Wayne Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky's name is all over the playoff record book.
Lemieux missed 54 regular-season games because of a back injury, but he played in all 23 of the Penguins playoff games, amassing 44 points -- just one less than his regular-season total. Lemieux's 16 goals and 28 assists helped lead Pittsburgh to playoff victories over the Devils, Capitals and Bruins, before the Pens beat the North Stars in a six-game Stanley Cup final.

4. Patrick Roy (Colorado Avalanche, 2001)
Roy's 1.58 goals-against average over 23 games in the playoffs was the key to Colorado's second Stanley Cup win. Among Roy's 16 wins were four shutouts, including two in the finals against the New Jersey Devils.

5. Maurice Richard (Montreal Canadiens, 1951)
The Rocket notched three overtime goals, and scored nine goals and added four assists for a total of 13 playoff points. His Canadiens dispatched the Red Wings in the semis in six games, but lost to the Maple Leafs 4-1 in the finals. Each of the five games in the finals went into OT.

6. Bobby Orr (Boston Bruins, 1970)
In 1969-70, Orr became the first defenseman to lead the NHL in scoring. In the playoffs, he led the Bruins to a six-game first-round win over the Rangers and a four-game sweep over the Blackhawks. Then, in the finals, he scored the goal that won the Stanley Cup against the St. Louis Blues in OT in Game 4. That final play was captured in a famous photograph that shows Orr flying through the air after being upended by Blues defenseman Noel Picard. In the playoffs, Orr scored 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists).

7. Ken Dryden (Montreal Canadiens, 1971)
Rookie goaltender Dryden had played only six NHL games before the playoffs, but tended goal in all 20 of Montreal's playoff games, including the Canadiens' win in Game 7 of the finals against the Blackhawks.

Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux's back didn't bother him when he hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1991.
8. Bernie Parent (Philadelphia Flyers, 1975)
Parent's 2.03 goals-against average resulted in a Vezina Trophy in 1974-75, and his playoff performance was even better. Parent shut out opponents four times in 15 playoff games, compiling a 1.89 goals-against average, as the Flyers won the Stanley Cup for the second year in a row -- beating the Maple Leafs, the Islanders, and then the Sabres in the six-game finals.

9. Brian Leetch and Mark Messier (New York Rangers, 1994)
Leetch was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, scoring 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points in the Rangers' 23 playoff games. He also had an incredible Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, scoring four points. Messier's performance was both inspiring and unforgettable, scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 7 against Vancouver and finishing the playoffs with 12 goals and 18 assists.

10. Normie Smith (Detroit Red Wings, 1936)
Maurice Richard
Maurice "The Rocket" Richard's six career overtime goals are still a record.
Against the defending Stanley Cup champion Montreal Maroons in the first game of their semifinal playoff, Smith had the best single-game performance by a goalie. The game went into six overtimes, and Smith held the Maroons goalless. In the second game of the series, he also shut out Montreal -- compiling 237 straight scoreless minutes in the net. In the third game, he held the Maroons to only one goal. Then the Red Wings went on to win the Stanley Cup, defeating the Maple Leafs in the finals.

Also receiving votes:
  • Reggie Leach (Philadelphia Flyers, 1976) -- Leach led the NHL with 61 goals scored during the regular season, and continued as a dominating scorer in the playoffs. Leach scored 19 goals in 16 games and was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy even though the Flyers lost to Montreal in the Stanley Cup finals.

  • Gretzky (Edmonton Oilers, 1988) -- Only a power failure in the second period of game four at Boston Garden could stop Gretzky, who led the Oilers to a sweep of the Bruins in the finals with a record-setting 13 points. In the playoffs, Gretzky scored 12 goals and added 31 assists for 43 points in the playoffs.

  • Roy (Montreal Canadiens, 1986) -- The Canadiens' rookie goalie had a 1.92 goals-against average over 20 games in the playoffs, and shut out the Calgary Flames in the fourth game of the five-game final, won by Montreal.

  • Stan Mikita (Chicago Blackhawks, 1962) -- Mikita set playoff records with 21 points and 15 assists, and scored two game-winning goals. But it wasn't enough to give the defending champ Blackhawks the Stanley Cup -- they lost the finals in six games to the Maple Leafs.

  • Jean Beliveau (Montreal Canadiens, 1956) -- Beliveau led the NHL in scoring during the regular season (47 goals and 41 assists), and then scored 12 goals, including two game-winners, and added seven assists in the playoffs, as the Canadiens beat the Rangers in five games in the semifinal and the Red Wings in five in the finals.