Most Legendary Playoff Performances in Recent NHL History

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IMay 1, 2014

Most Legendary Playoff Performances in Recent NHL History

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    The NHL playoffs are in full swing, and fans have been treated to a host of unbelievable games and incredible individual efforts which will only get better as the series rage on.

    There's no better time to look back on some of the best playoff performances in recent NHL history, which goes back to 2000 for this list.

    These performances are legendary because they go beyond just the stat sheet. There are amazing storylines and dramatic circumstances which surround them and give them that added allure.

    Here are the most legendary performances in recent NHL history.

Tim Thomas, 2011

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    The Boston Bruins' 2011 playoff run, which ended in a Stanley Cup victory, was one to remember, and Tim Thomas was the driving force behind the team's success.

    En route to Boston's first Stanley Cup in 39 years, Thomas would become the oldest player to ever win the Conn Smythe Trophy after putting up some absolutely unbelievable numbers.

    He completed four shutouts, which helped him post an outrageous .940 save percentage. That postseason run would turn out to be the pinnacle of Thomas' career, a peak Bruins fans will remember for ages.

Brad Richards, 2004

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    In the 2004 playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning fielded a stacked team with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis leading the charge.

    But Brad Richards emerged as a real superstar in the postseason, scoring 26 points in 23 games, including 12 goals. Richards' real mark in those playoffs came with his clutch timing, as seven of those 12 goals were game-winners—still an NHL record today.

    Richards helped Tampa push through seven-game series in the Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup finals, winning the Conn Smythe for his timely goals.

Jonathan Quick, 2012

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    Mark J. Terrill

    The understated hero on the unlikely Stanley Cup Champions in 2012, Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings' story is just as incredible as the performance Quick had in the postseason.

    The Kings were the No. 8 seed, but won the Stanley Cup because Quick, who was the 72nd overall draft pick in 2007, was nothing short of phenomenal throughout the entire playoffs.

    After not advancing out of the first round in either of the previous two postseasons, Quick allowed just 29 goals in 20 games in the playoffs, and seven goals in six Stanley Cup games. 

    Quick's 1.41 GAA and .946 save percentage both broke records for goalies who had played at least 15 playoff games. He obviously took home the Conn Smythe Trophy for his otherworldly performance.

Henrik Zetterberg, 2008

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    At the time of the 2008 playoffs, Henrik Zetterberg was only an alternate captain. But it was after those playoffs that everyone was sure Zetterberg would acquire the "C" one day.

    In 22 games, Zetterberg registered 27 points and scored 13 goals, which tied Detroit's postseason record held by teammate Johan Franzen.

    Four of those goals would be game-winners, and the Red Wings would defeat Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Stanley Cup. For his efforts, Zetterberg won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Martin Brodeur, 2003

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    In an epic Stanley Cup series between the New Jersey Devils and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (why did they change that name?), fans were treated to one of the best goaltending showdowns of all time.

    Brodeur ended up coming out on top in the seven-game showdown, as he led his Devils to a thrilling Stanley Cup victory while setting a record in the meantime.

    Brodeur had a remarkable seven shutouts in that postseason, a record which he still holds. His 1.65 GAA and .934 save percentage weren't too shabby either, but his positional counterpart brought home some valuable hardware of his own, leading to the next slide on this list.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere, 2003

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    Martin Brodeur may have led his team to win the Stanley Cup in 2003, but by no means could you consider Jean-Sebastien Giguere a loser.

    His numbers were outrageous. He posted five shutouts, a .945 save percentage and a 1.62 GAA in 21 games and was spectacular against the Devils.

    He also had an impressive 15-6 record, as Anaheim stormed through the playoffs while only losing two games before reaching the Stanley Cup finals. The fact that Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy without winning the Cup is a testament to his incredible performance.

Jonathan Toews, 2010

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    Despite being just 22 years old at the time, Jonathan Toews proved more than capable of being a captain and leader of a Stanley Cup team in 2010.

    "Captain Serious" absolutely dominated in every single series, scoring seven goals and registering 22 assists for an incredible 29 points in just 22 games.

    Toews' sheer dominance, which included a hat-trick and seven multipoint games, got him his first Conn Smythe Trophy and helped Chicago win their first Cup since 1961.

Peter Forsberg, 2002

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    I think we all sort of forget how absolutely dominant Peter Forsberg was for a period of time in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    If you need a refresher, try this on for size: after having his spleen removed halfway through the 2001 playoffs, Forsberg decided to sit the entire following regular season out, returned for the playoffs and led everyone in points.

    He didn't just lead everyone in points, he dominated. Steve Yzerman had the second most that postseason, with 23 points in 23 games. Forsberg had four more points (27) in three less games (20). All following sitting out the entire regular season after getting his spleen removed.

    His Avalanche may have lost to Yzerman's Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals that year, making him the only player on this list to not have been in the Stanley Cup Finals, but it would be a crime to overlook this incredible performance.

Cam Ward, 2006

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Cam Ward is now known as one of the better veteran goaltenders around the NHL, but back in 2006 he was just a rookie trying to make his mark on the team.

    He would end up doing a lot more than just make his mark, as he became the first rookie goaltender to win the Stanley Cup since the great Patrick Roy did it way back in 1986.

    Mostly relegated to a backup role in the regular season, Ward would come in to replace Martin Gerber in the first round with Carolina down two games to Montreal. They went on to win the series and Ward stayed in net.

    His 2.14 GAA and .920 save percentage are still very good, if unspectacular, but the fact that he came in and led his team to the Stanley Cup (while winning the Conn Smythe) as a rookie is pretty legendary. 

Evgeni Malkin, 2009

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    It's hard to imagine anyone dominating a playoffs like Evgeni Malkin did in 2009. In fact, only three players have scored more points in a playoffs than Malkin's 36.

    Those three players are Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey, so Malkin is in some pretty rare company there, and his unbelievable statistics make him deserving of that.

    While Sidney Crosby (deservedly) gets the lion's share of attention in the media, Malkin was the biggest reason for Pittsburgh's success that postseason and was the X-factor in finally defeating the Detroit Red Wings after failing to them the year before.