Wayne Gretzky is the all-time leader in playoff points with 382. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)
With 33 points through Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin is the first player to top 30 playoff points since 1996, when Colorado’s sure first-ballot Hall of Famer Joe Sakic netted 34 en route to the Avalanche’s first Cup championship.
With 29 points of his own, Pens captain Sidney Crosby needs one point to join Malkin in the 30-point club. The duo would become the first two skaters to best 30 points in the same post-season since 1994, when New York Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch led the playoff parade with 34 points and Vancouver sniper Pavel Bure slotted in at No. 2 with 31 points.
(Just for interest’s sake, the last time teammates topped 30 springtime points was all the way back in 1991, ironically also involving Pittsburgh skaters. That year a trio of Penguins – all-time great Mario Lemieux (44 points), the still-going Mark Recchi (34) and power forward Kevin Stevens (33) – finished 1-2-3 in playoff points as the Penguins won their first of back-to-back Cups.)
To avoid repetition — we’re talking to you Mr. Gretzky — we’ll count down the 10 best point-leading totals in NHL playoff history with the caveat individuals can only appear once. So these may not be the 10 best totals of all-time, but they are the 10 best totals from 10 different players in 10 different years.
10. Eric Staal – Carolina Hurricanes, 2006, 9-19-28, 25 games
Staal didn’t win the Conn Smythe Trophy (it went to goalie Cam Ward), but he could have. The then-21-year-old center bested teammate Cory Stillman by two points to take the scoring race.
9. Bryan Trottier – New York Islanders, 1980, 12-17-29, 21 games
Trottier also led the playoffs with 29 points in 1982, but notched half as many goals as the 12 he had in 1980, the year the Islanders won their first of four Cups in a row and Trottier won his only Conn Smythe.
8. Craig Simpson – Edmonton Oilers, 1990, 16-15-31, 22 games
En route to winning the Oilers’ fifth (and final) Cup in seven years, Simpson tied Mark Messier in total points, but scored seven more goals. But neither skater won the Conn Smythe; it went to Edmonton goalie Bill Ranford.
7. Al MacInnis – Calgary Flames, 1989, 7-24-31, 22 games
The first of two defensemen on the list, MacInnis led the Flames in scoring by seven points and the playoff race by six on his way to a Conn Smythe Trophy. Calgary beat Montreal in six games for its lone Cup in franchise history on the back of the MVP’s four game-winning goals.
6. Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh, 2009, 13-20-33, 20 games
With at least two games yet to play, Malkin is likely to move up on this list — although if Crosby catches fire he could very well take his skating-mate’s spot.
5. Joe Sakic – Colorado Avalanche, 1996, 18-16-34, 22 games
Sakic led the league in goals and game-winners (6) as the Avalanche won its first of two Cups in six years. Colorado swept Florida in the Cup final; Dave Lowry led the Panthers in scoring with exactly half of Sakic’s 34-point total.
4. Brian Leetch – New York Rangers, 1994, 11-23-34, 23 games
Although not the highest scoring defenseman in any single post-season (that mark goes to Paul Coffey’s 37 in 1985), Leetch led the league in assists and tied with teammate Messier with four game-winners. That year the Blueshirts won their first Cup in 54 years and Leetch took home the MVP trophy.
3. Mike Bossy – New York Islanders, 1981, 17-18-35, 18 games
The man with the highest regular season goals-per-game average (.762) amongst players with 200-plus goals in NHL history was good for nearly a goal and two points per game in the ’81 post-season. He led the playoffs in goals, assists and power play goals, but somehow lost out on MVP honors to teammate Butch Goring. Not to worry, Bossy collected the hardware in 1982, when the Islanders won their third Cup in succession.
2. Mario Lemieux – Pittsburgh Penguins, 1991, 16-28-44, 23 games
Lemieux was simply magical in leading the high-octane Pens to their first Cup, beating the upstart Minnesota North Stars (15th overall) in six games; the Pens, for their part, finished the regular season seventh overall. Lemieux led the playoffs in scoring by 10 points over teammate — and current ageless wonder — Mark Recchi, recording the second-highest playoff point total in NHL history.
1. Wayne Gretzky – Edmonton Oilers, 1985, 17-30-47, 18 games
Gretzky’s 2.6 points-per-game average will likely never be matched. For leading the scoring race by 10 points over teammate Paul Coffey, The Great One captured the first of his two Conn Smythe Trophies. Gretzky had already led the post-season points parade the prior two years and went on to do it a total of six times, a record matched, appropriately enough, by just one other NHL legend: Gordie Howe.
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