Grit and sandpaper go a long way come playoff time in the NHL. Toughness is an essential factor in teams making Stanley Cup runs and when a hard-nosed player liked David Backes goes down, the results can change, as is certainly apparent in the St. Louis and Chicago series.
Below are the top five tough guys (we’re talking effective tough guys who can also put points on the board, not pure goons) who’ve laid some of their claim to fame in the most essential of games by laying some smack down.
5. Ken Linseman
Linseman did some major damage for the Bruins in 1987-88 when he recorded 25 points in 23 games, but he also knew how to throw his weight around, earning 56 penalty minutes that same year. He was a major factor in the Bruins making the Stanley Cup final that season and was also a key contributor in the Flyers’ playoff runs of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
The Kingston, On., native was a scrappy 175 pound bulldog, which is why he’s still beloved by Bruins and Flyers’ fans to this day.
4. Glenn Anderson
Anderson appeared in 225 playoff games between 1980-1996 for a number of teams including: Edmonton, Toronto, New York and St. Louis.
The Vancouver, B.C., native was a mix of toughness, grit and clutch play recording 214 points, 22 power play goals, 17 game-winners and a plus/minus of 31 to go along with 442 penalty minutes.
When it came to the playoffs, Anderson didn’t mess around and teams wanted a player of his caliber on their side rather than on the opposing bench.
He’s also famously remembered as the main player who came to the Rangers for their remarkable ’94 Cup run in exchange for Mike Gartner.
3. Claude Lemieux
The Buckingham, Que., native is synonymous with the playoffs. During the 1980s and ‘90s it felt like Lemieux was in the playoffs every year and that’s because he was. He made playoff appearances for the Canadiens, Devils and Avalanche every year from 1985-2000.
He really knew how to stir the pot and get under the skin of his opponents and just seemed to be in on every important play, whether he was agitating, instigating or scoring.
If there’s ever any wonder as to the effectiveness of tough guys in the playoffs, you can look to Lemieux’s four Stanley Cup rings.
2. Chris Chelios
The ageless wonder just never seemed to get tired of playing hockey… and winning at it. The defenseman won three Stanley Cup championships with the 1986 Canadiens and the 2002 and 2008 Detroit Red Wings, earning the latter at the ripe young age of 47 and still played tough-nosed hockey the entire time.
He retired after playing just seven games with Atlanta in 2009-10, but will always be remembered as one of the toughest defenseman to ever grace the ice.
His 144 playoff points rank him seventh all-time behind impressive company which includes Paul Coffey, Nicklas Lidstrom, Ray Bourque, Denis Potvin, Al MacInnis and Larry Murphy.
1. Scott Stevens
This man was just scary on the ice. The definition of tough. The definition of grit. The term sandpaper was probably created by him as he crafted his own stick out of a tree in his backyard.
Stevens was a mainstay on a Devils’ blueline that earned championships in 1995, 2000 and 2003. He was feared on the ice for massive, brain-shaking hits, but was revered by his teammates and fans for his leadership and toughness in the dressing room and on the ice.
The Kitchener, On., native was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2007, finishing second behind only Chelios in all-time playoff penalty minutes.