There's no greater way to make your mark as a hockey player than in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It's where they separate the men from the boys, the pillow-soft regular-season wonders from the gritty, broken-tooth warriors.
This year the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg have made indelible marks on the hockey world with their post-season performances, showing they are equal parts talent, intestinal fortitude and stamina as the playoffs wear on.
Seeing superstars such as Crosby and Malkin come of age in these playoffs got us to wondering about the greatest post-season performers of all-time.
As you can see, it was extremely difficult to narrow it down to just 10 (that's why we didn't), but here's the list we came up with.
10. The goalies
Take your pick between Terry Sawchuk, Ken Dryden, Jacques Plante, Martin Brodeur, Bernie Parent and Turk Broda. All of them backstopped their teams to multiple Stanley Cups. Sawchuk's overall numbers weren't as great as some of the others, but check out his 1952 playoff season with Detroit (8-0, four shutouts and a 1.63 GAA). Sawchuk won four Cups while going 54-48 with a 2.54 GAA and 12 shutouts. Dryden won six times (80-32, 10 SO, 2.40), Plante won six (71-36, 14 SO, 2.14), Broda won five (60-39, 13 SO, 1.98) and Brodeur has three (98-78, 22 SO, 1.98 GAA). Let's not forget Parent, who won back-to-back Conn Smythe Trophies while leading the Philadelphia Flyers to Cups in 1974-75.
9. Steve Yzerman/Gordie Howe
One of the greatest two-way players in NHL history, Yzerman also captained the Detroit Red Wings to three Stanley Cup wins and posted 185 points in 196 career playoff games. Yzerman won the Conn Smythe Trophy for his efforts in helping the Wings to the championship in 1998. Howe was tough as nails and scored 68 goals and 160 points while leading the Wings to four Stanley Cups.
8. Joe Sakic
Sakic earned the Conn Smythe Trophy while leading the Colorado Avalanche to their first of two Stanley Cup titles in 1996. He has 84 goals and 188 points in 172 career playoff games and holds the NHL record for playoff overtime goals with eight. He has scored 19 game-winning goals during his playoff career.
7. Bryan Trottier
The New York Islanders had a plethora of talent while winning four straight Cups between 1980 and '83 and four different players won the Conn Smythe Trophy during that stretch. In 1980 it was Trottier, the gritty centre who went on to capture two more Cups with Pittsburgh in 1991 and '92. Trottier finished his six-Cup career with 71 goals, 184 points and nearly 300 penalty minutes in 221 career games. A true post-season warrior.
6. Bobby Orr
The game's greatest defenceman only won the Stanley Cup twice (1970 and 1972) but was named Conn Smythe Trophy winner on both occasions. He scored 26 goals and had 92 points in 74 career games and, of course, had his famous Stanley Cup-winning goal in 1970. Orr's Superman dive, after scoring in overtime to give the Boston Bruins the win over the St. Louis Blues, is one of the most indelible images in hockey history.
5. Mario Lemieux/
The Magnificent One took home Lord Stanley's mug twice and captured the Conn Smythe Trophy both times (1991 and 1992). Mario scored 76 goals and had 172 points in just 107 games while gracefully captaining the Pittsburgh Penguins to back-to-back titles. He had 44 points in one playoff season, the second-most in history. In many ways the widely hated and never graceful Claude Lemieux (no relation to Mario) was the better playoff performer. He has 80 career playoff goals, including 19 game winners, 158 points, 529 penalty minutes, four Stanley Cup titles and a Conn Smythe. Tough to ever mention these two players in the same sentence, but when it comes to the playoffs, they had equally effective careers.
4. Maurice Richard
Long before there was such a thing as the Conn Smythe Trophy, the Rocket was the NHL's most dominant playoff performer. In leading his Montreal Canadiens to eight Stanley Cup titles, Richard became an icon like no other in Quebec. He scored 82 goals and had 126 points in 133 career playoff games and had 18 game-winning goals, including six in overtime.
3. Mark Messier
Messier posted 109 goals and 295 points in 236 playoff games while winning six Stanley Cups. Need we say more? Probably not, but Messier is the second all-time leading playoff scorer and he won the Conn Smythe in 1984 when he won the first of five Cups with the Edmonton Oilers. He also guaranteed a win and then led the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 1994 and holds the NHL record for playoff short-handed goals with 14. He also had 14 game-winners during his career.
2. Patrick Roy
The only player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy three times, Roy has four Stanley Cup rings and NHL playoff records for wins (151) and shutouts (23). While playing 247 games in goal for the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche, Roy posted a 2.30 career GAA in the post-season and was known for coming up huge when his team needed him most.
1. Wayne Gretzky
Just like in the regular season, the Great One owns the playoff record book after scoring 122 goals and 382 points while winning four Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers. He also holds the record for points in a playoff with 47, scored seven points in a game three times, had 10 hat tricks, 24 game-winning goals and four overtime goals. He recorded four of the five best playoff scoring marks and captured two Conn Smythe Trophies. Simply the best.
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