The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs came to an end on Sunday night with the Colorado Avalanche defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. It capped off a dominant run by the Avalanche to give them their first Cup in two decades, and ending the Lightning’s bid for a third consecutive championship.
It also ended what was a sensational playoffs over the past two months.
The postseason was filled with drama, storylines, series comebacks, and great individual performances from a number of the NHL’s top players.
In this week’s NHL Power Rankings we take a look back at the 10 best individual performances from the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Which players made the cut?
To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!
1. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche. What a dominant season from start to finish. Makar won the Norris Trophy as the top overall defenseman during the regular season, and then followed it up with one of the best playoff runs we have seen from a defenseman in the history of the league to win his first Conn Smythe Trophy. It is just the fourth time a defenseman has won the Norris and Conn Smythe in the same season, putting him on a list that includes only Bobby Orr (who did it twice) and Nicklas Lidstrom (who did it once). Pretty elite company.
He also finished the playoffs with 29 points in 20 games, giving him a 1.45 points per game average. As a defenseman.
Among defenders that played at least 15 games in a single postseason, that 1.45 average is the fourth best in league history, trailing only Paul Coffey (2.06 in 1984-85), Orr (1.60 in 1971-72), and Brian Leetch (1.48 in 1993-94).
Along the with the offense he also posted absolutely dominant possession and scoring chance numbers and was one of the best play-drivers in the league. When he and Devon Toews were on the ice together the Avalanche were unstoppable.
[Related: Makar wins Conn Smythe Trophy]
2. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers. McDavid did everything he could to drag the Oilers as far as possible, and it resulted in a run to the Western Conference Final where they just simply ran into a buzzsaw of an Avalanche team. McDavid finished the playoffs with 33 total points, leading the league, despite the fact he only played in 16 games. That is a 2.06 per game average, one of the best in NHL history. Only twice over the past 25 years did a player have more than 33 points in an entire postseason: Nikita Kucherov had 34 in 2019-20 with the benefit of the play-in/round-robin round to add some games to his postseason, and Evgeni Malkin had 36 in 2009 while playing in 24 games.
McDavid, again, played in only 16 games.
Every time he was on the ice he was a one-man wrecking crew for opposing teams.
3. Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers. The Rangers are a very good team with a lot of top-tier players and a strong young core. But given how they actually played as a team in the playoffs? They had no business being within two wins of the Cup Final.
Igor Shesterkin was the reason.
Despite the fact the Rangers were badly outshot, out chanced, and mostly out played in every round and every game, they still put together a run to the Eastern Conference Final and even had a 2-0 series lead before the Lightning stormed back for four consecutive wins. Shesterkin was a force all postseason. He finished with a .929 save percentage despite facing more expected goals against (74.9) than any other goalie in the playoffs and playing behind a team that had some of the worst possession and scoring chance numbers we have ever seen from a conference finalist.
4. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. He may not have had the most goals or points, but if your team was playing the Avalanche the fear of god was put into you every time he stepped on the ice. Every game, every shift he looked like he was shot out of a cannon and was all over the ice. He still ended up scoring 13 goals with 24 total points in 20 games (awesome numbers) and also had 117 shots on goal. That is just an absurd number. It is also the most shots on goal any player has ever had in a single postseason since shots started officially being tracked, besting the 116 that Henrik Zetterberg had during the 2007-08 playoffs. Zetterberg reached his mark in 22 games. MacKinnon played only 20 games.
5. Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars. We only saw Oettinger play seven games over one series, but they were a dominant seven games. He finished with a .954 save percentage and nearly dragged the Stars out of their First Round series with Calgary. The Flames just absolutely bombarded him the entire series, dramatically outplaying the Stars, only to have Oettinger build a wall around his net. Do not let the First Round loss take away from the way he played. He deserved better.
6. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. He nearly matched McDavid point-for-point, and did so while playing most of the playoffs at less than 100 percent. He does get put a little bit lower because his best production came while on a line with McDavid. His play, and the Oilers’ play, dropped off when he was running his own line. Most likely due to a combination of health and linemates. Still an amazing run as he and McDavid carried the Oilers on their best playoff run in more than 15 years.
7. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning. He is one of the best goalies (and especially big game) goalies in league history, and it was another dominant run for him. The Lightning were not as good overall as they were the past two years, and needed to rely on Vasilevskiy a bit more. Especially early in the playoffs. He was more than up to the challenge, going 4-1 when the Lightning were facing elimination and finishing the playoffs with a .922 save percentage in 23 games.
8. Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers. He had a slow start in the First Round, but then caught fire in Game 5 to help the Rangers overcome a 3-1 series deficit to start their run. He was money on the power play and had a 12-game stretch in the middle of the playoffs where he scored 10 goals and 20 points. That included a seven goals in eight-game stretch through the second and third rounds.
9. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning were extremely top heavy this postseason and relied almost exclusively on their top line of Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Ondrej Palat to carry the offense. Kucherov was, again, their top offensive force and not only led the team in scoring (while being one of the top scorers in the league) scored and set up some of their biggest goalies.
10. Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins. Like Oettinger in Dallas, we only saw him in one round, but what a round it was. Guentzel not only scored eight goals in the seven games, he finished the postseason 14th in goals, 25th in expected goals, and 35th in shots on goal despite playing in only one round. He is the only player to rank in the top-40 of each category to not play at least two full rounds. He was dominant.
11. Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild. The Wild did not get the result they wanted in the playoffs, but you can not blame Kaprizov for that. He scored seven goals in the Wild’s six games and was the most dominant player on the ice in that series. A true superstar. Minnesota’s first since Marian Gaborik.
12. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida Panthers. The Panthers’ postseason may have been a massive disappointment, but he was not. He had 12 points in 10 games and was their best offensive player. He almost single handedly pulled the Panthers through the first round series against Washington.
13. Valeri Nichushkin, Colorado Avalanche. He not only had a great regular season and postseason, he made himself a ton of money this offseason in free agency.
14. Adam Fox, New York Rangers. He is going to lead the Rangers’ blue line for years to come and had a great postseason offensively, while also playing top minutes on defense.
15. Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers. He finished as one of the top goal scorers in the playoffs. Somebody, whether it be Edmonton or another team, is going to look past all of the red flags and concerns and sign him because of that.