There have been many dominant performances by legends of the game worthy of being recognized as one of the greatest NHL Playoff performances of all time. Many even carried their teams on their back all the way to a Stanley Cup victory.
Greatest NHL Playoff performances of all time
The best NHL Playoff performances are from the players who stood out among the rest throughout an entire playoff run. Whether it was because of big-time stops, game-winning goals, or taking the game over at times, hockey fans could easily realize that they were watching one of the best individual playoff performances in NHL history.
The players on this list are those that dominated not just for a single game or a single series, but multiple series on the way to a deep playoff run.
10. Jonathan Quick (2012)
Jonathan Quick had one of the greatest NHL Playoff performances by a goaltender in 2012.
The Kings were definitely not favorites entering the playoffs, but Quick’s play quickly changed that. Throughout the first three rounds, Quick allowed three goals in a game just once. In the Stanley Cup Finals, Quick allowed only seven goals in the six-game series.
Quick finished the postseason with a .946 save percentage and 1.41 goals-against average, which is the best of any goaltender to play at least 13 playoff games in a season. Quick led the Kings to a Stanley Cup victory, while being named the most valuable player of the playoffs.
9. Patrick Roy (2001)
Patrick Roy had many memorable playoff performances, but the 2001 playoffs at age 35 was his best.
After a sweep of the Canucks in the first round, Roy stood on his head in round two to help Colorado advance to the Western Conference Finals. In the Conference Finals, Roy stopped 170 of the 181 shots he faced in the series. He carried that momentum into the Stanley Cup Finals, where he had two big shutouts in games one and six as the Avalanche captured the Holy Grail.
Roy finished the playoffs with a 1.70 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. After his outstanding performance in one of the best NHL postseason series ever, Roy was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.
8. Joe Sakic (1996)
Joe Sakic had the clutch gene all throughout the 1996 playoffs.
In the first round, Sakic had 11 points, which included the game-winning goal in game six to eliminate the Canucks. In round two, Sakic added his third game-winning goal of the playoffs, scoring in triple overtime of game four to even the series.
Sakic finished with six game-winning playoff goals that season, which is tied for the second-most all-time. One of the greatest NHL Playoff performances in history, Sakic had 34 points in just 22 games. His 18 playoff goals in 1996 are the third most by a skater in NHL history.
7. Terry Sawchuk (1952)
Although it only took eight playoff wins to capture the Stanley Cup in 1952, Terry Sawchuk made the most of them. Sawchuk, who was the goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings, was a wall the entire postseason.
In the first round, Sawchuk had two shutouts in the first two games. He followed that up by letting in just three goals in the next two games as the Red Wings swept the Maple Leafs. In the Stanley Cup Finals, Sawchuk got even better.
In the first two games, Sawchuk gave up just two goals. With Detroit up 2-0 in the series, Sawchuk posted back-to-back shutouts to close out the series and win the Stanley Cup.
Sawchuk finished with a 0.63 goals-against average, which is the best of any goalie of all time with a minimum of eight playoff games in a season.
6. Maurice Richard (1951)
Maurice Richard’s talent was on full display throughout the 1951 playoffs.
During the first round against the Detroit Red Wings, Richard had six points in six games. He had four goals, which included two game-winning overtime goals in games one and two.
In the Stanley Cup Finals, Richard played amazingly despite the 4-1 series loss to the Maple Leafs. Richard had seven points in the series, which included five goals. He had the overtime winner in game two to give the Canadiens their lone win of the series. Richard finished the postseason with nine goals and 13 points in just 11 games played.
5. Paul Coffey (1985)
Paul Coffey had the best NHL Playoff performance by a defenseman in the 1985 playoffs.
Wayne Gretzky had the most memorable playoff performance that season and gets the most recognition, but Coffey was special during that run to the Stanley Cup. After scoring two goals in the first round, Coffey followed it up with four goals, including two game-winners, in a second-round sweep of the Jets. In the Conference Finals, Coffey had 14 points in just six games, adding yet another game-winning goal.
It was more of the same from Coffey in the Stanley Cup Finals, as he finished tied with Gretzky for the most points in the series with 11. Coffey ended up with 37 points in just 18 playoff games that year, which is the most by any defenseman ever.
4. Brad Richards (2004)
Brad Richards had a performance to remember throughout the 2004 playoffs for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Richards started off quietly in the first round, scoring just one goal and adding four assists. In the second round, Richards made everyone aware that he was going to be the game-winning hero throughout the playoffs for Tampa. Richards scored three goals in the series, which included the overtime winner in game three and the game-winning goal in game four to sweep the Canadiens.
Richards went on to score four more game-winners, including two in the Stanley Cup Finals. He finished with seven game-winning playoff goals that season, the most by any player of all time.
3. Mario Lemieux (1991)
Mario Lemieux had one of the greatest NHL Playoff performances ever in 1991, racking up 44 points in 23 games.
Lemieux led the series in scoring for both the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals. In the Conference Finals, Lemieux had 15 points in just six games, which was five more than anyone else in the series. In the Stanley Cup Finals, Lemieux registered 12 points, including two short-handed goals. The Penguins would capture the Stanley Cup over the North Stars in six games.
Lemieux’s 44 points that season is the second-most by a skater in league history.
2. Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2003)
Jean-Sebastien Giguere was outstanding in net for the Anaheim Ducks in the 2003 postseason.
Giguere started his hot streak in the first round, going 4-0 with a .965 save percentage. In the second round, Giguere had a .936 save percentage and one shutout. The third round was one of the greatest NHL Playoff performances by a goaltender in a single series. Giguere posted three shutouts and an eye-popping .992 save percentage.
Although the Ducks would lose in the Stanley Cup Finals in some of the top NHL Playoff games ever, Giguere was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for his postseason performance.
1. Wayne Gretzky (1985)
It is only fitting that the Great One has the best individual playoff performance in NHL history. Wayne Gretzky broke the NHL record books during the 1985 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In just 18 playoff games that season, Gretzky had 17 goals and 30 assists. His 47 points are the most by any player in a single playoff run ever. In addition to breaking the single-season playoff points record, Gretzky also broke the plus / minus record by finishing a +27.
Included in the 47 playoff points in 1985 are two short-handed goals, three game-winning goals, and seven game-winning assists. It is simply the greatest NHL Playoff performance of all time.