In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we jump into the time machine to take a look at surprising performances from past postseasons.
Specifically, some of the most surprising postseason performances. Completely out of nowhere performances from players that no one really saw happening.
The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs were supposed to have started this past week, but with the season temporarily paused we are not sure when they are going to begin. In the meantime, we can always take a stroll down memory lane.
Which performances make the cut this week?
To the rankings!
1. John Druce, Washington Capitals (1989-90). This is the surprising playoff performance that all other surprising playoff performances are measured against. The Capitals reached the Wales Conference Final during the 1990 postseason, and it was Druce’s 14 goals in 15 games that helped drive them to the NHL’s final four. Dino Ciccarelli (eight goals) was the only other player on the team that scored more than four goals that postseason. It was so surprising because at the time Druce had scored only 16 career goals in 93 career games.
2. Fernando Pisani, Edmonton Oilers (2005-06). The Oilers were a Game 7 away from winning the 2005-06 Stanley Cup and there were a lot of big contributors that helped them get there. Chris Pronger was at the top of his game and a game-changer on defense. Dwayne Roloson arrived at the trade deadline and solved their goaltending issue. And the leading goal-scorer in the entire playoffs was … Pisani? He scored a very respectable 18 goals in 80 games during the regular season, but ended up pacing the entire league in the playoffs with 14 goals in 24 games. It helped him get a four-year, $10 million contract with the Oilers. Prior to the 2007-08 season he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, missed 27 games, and was never really the same after that.
3. Marcel Bonin, Montreal Canadiens (1958-59). Bonin won four Stanley Cups with the Canadiens throughout the 1950s as a role player. But it was the 1958-59 championship where he ended up taking on a starring role due to the absences of Rocket Richard and Jean Beliveau (only three playoff games each). Bonin finished with 10 goals and 15 total points in 11 playoff games and was the hero of the Stanley Cup run. That performance came after he scored just 13 goals in 57 regular season games. For his career, he only scored one playoff goal in 49 playoff games outside of this run. His 10 goals in 11 games remains one of the best goal-scoring performances in NHL playoff history.
4. Ville Leino, Philadelphia Flyers (2009-10). Leino arrived in the NHL prior to the 2008-09 season with much fanfare and was supposed to be a huge addition for the Detroit Red Wings. It did not work out as planned, and after a rather uninspiring start to his career was traded to the Flyers during the 2009-10 season. It was with the Flyers that he absolutely went off in the 2010 postseason, finishing with 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 19 games to help lead them to the Stanley Cup Final. It was the high point of his career, and was a big part of why he ended up getting a huge free agency contract with the Buffalo Sabres.
5. Jaroslav Halak, Montreal Canadiens (2009-10). Nothing changes the playoffs more than a hot goalie, and during the spring of 2010 no goalie was hotter than Halak. At the time, Halak was in a 1A-1B situation with Carey Price and ended up securing the top job going into the playoffs for the No. 8 seed Canadiens. All he did was single handedly steal back-to-back series against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals and defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The Canadiens were clearly the inferior team in both series based on which teams carried the play, but Halak was the X-Factor.
6. Johan Hedberg, Pittsburgh Penguins (2000-01). Early in the 2000-01 season Mario Lemieux came out of retirement for the Penguins and helped make them a Stanley Cup contender again. The only flaw: They needed a goalie. Instead of going for a big-name goalie at the deadline, they made the under-the-radar move to acquire Hedberg — with zero games of NHL experience at the time — from the San Jose Sharks. After starting just nine regular season games following the trade, he went into the playoffs as the unproven starter and ended up backstopping to the team to the Eastern Conference Final.
7. Alyn McCauley, Toronto Maple Leafs (2001-02). The last Maple Leafs team that wasn’t a colossal postseason disappointment was the 2002 team that went all the way to the Eastern Conference Final, and it was McCauley that helped drive them there with a stunning offensive performance. He was the team’s second-leading postseason scorer with 15 points in the 24 games. He had just 16 points in 82 regular season games.
8. Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks (2013). The 2013 Blackhawks were a monster that dominated the league from start to finish. Their overall depth was on display in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that year when superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane both went through extended scoring slumps and it still never slowed them down. The reason it never slowed them down? Players like Bickell stepped up with nine goals and 17 total points in 23 games. Just for some perspective on that performance: In Bickell’s career his 82-game regular season average was 13 goals and 26 points.
9. Chris Kontos, Los Angeles Kings (1988-89). This was a big year for hockey on the west coast because it was the year Wayne Gretzky arrived in Los Angeles. The Kings made the playoffs upset and Gretzky’s former team (the Edmonton Oilers) in the first round, winning a seven-game series before being swept in the second round. For as great as Gretzky was that year, the Kings’ leading playoff goal scorer was Kontos with nine goals in 11 games. Kontos appeared in seven regular season games that year and scored two goals. For his career, he scored 54 goals in 230 games (and 24 of those came in his final year as a member of the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning).
10. Dave Lowry, Florida Panthers (1995-96). John Vanbiesbrouck’s goaltending was the biggest factor in the third-year Panthers making a miracle run to the Stanley Cup Final. But there was also Lowry’s performance to help carry the offense with his 10 goals and 17 points in 22 games. For his career he was good for about 10 goals and 20 points over 82 games.