Written by HPC podcast co-host, Kevin Kustron.
Ah the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Is there a better postseason in any sport?!
There’s really no doubt the Stanley Cup is the toughest championship trophy to win!
And from a fan perspective, what else could you want?
Speed, finesse, toughness, Cinderella stories, choke jobs galore, and did I mention game 7s?! How about sudden death overtime?
And have you ever seen a guy take a puck to the face that knocks out a bunch of his teeth in the 1st period, only to see him back on the ice by the second? Watch enough playoff hockey and you will!
So with the NHL season resuming in August with a modified playoff format, here’s a look at the top 10 active playoff performers ranked by me.
First, a quick note; remember these are the top PLAYOFF performers. I gave extra points to the guys that noticeably step up their game come playoff time.
Also, intangibles play a role and I disqualified a few guys because of what I deemed a lack of sample size. For example, Jake Guentzal and Ryan O’Reilly are two that are trending toward being in the conversation but they need to play more games and keep it up.
Without further ado…
Top 10 Active NHL Playoff Performers:
10. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
We start with the 6’9” Slovakian d-man who captained the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins. He’s played a whopping 182 playoff games and is an impressive +52 with 68 playoff points. Oh yeah, he also averages 26+ minutes of ice time per game in the playoffs!
As far as leaders go, few demand more respect than Chara thanks to his intangibles. Toughness is hard to put a stat on. Ditto for leadership.
However, team success is always a good measure. The Bruins have certainly had their share of playoff success and it’s doubtful there’s anyone else they’d want leading them in the trenches!
At the end of the day, Zdeno Chara is simply a specimen. Few men are capable of buckling a full-speed Alex Ovechkin…
…then turning around and having hands like this..
9. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
What if I told you of an NHL player who has played in 125 playoff hockey games and ranks 5th among active players in points per game with .96, is that something you might be interested in?
Ryan Getzlaf has a sneaky good playoff resume. He won the Cup with the Ducks in 2007 totaling 17 pts including 3 GWG during their run. He’s been in the postseason 10 other times, all with Anaheim.
He’s a big presence every time he’s on the ice as he’s reliable in both ends of the ice and in the face-off circle. He knows the stakes and never shies away from a big moment!
Like Chara, he might be getting a little long in the tooth, but there are few guys you’d want on your team more than Getzlaf come playoff time.
8. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
When you think of the most exciting players to watch night in and night out, Kane is certainly in the discussion… In fact, when the NHL did a players poll in November with 48 current players, asking them to name the Player that is the Most Fun to Watch, Kane missed the number one spot by one vote.
Patrick Kane is a three-time Stanley Cup Champion who has won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP. He is 4th among active players in playoff points per game with .969 and has 11 GWG in the playoffs to boot.
Of course, none bigger than his Stanley Cup-clinching goal in 2010, leading to one of the oddest cup celebrations in NHL history…
7. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
Here’s a guy that has played in 126 playoff games, has won three Stanley Cups, and one Conn Smythe Trophy.
He averages an insane 28+ min of ice time in the playoffs. Not only can he quarterback your power play but he’s happy to shut down the opposition’s biggest threat.
Plus, like Chara, Keith brings the intangibles. He’s a respected leader in the locker room and a veteran of 15 seasons. Oh, and he has an absolute bomb, case in point…
6. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Holtby flies under the radar a bit as a big-time playoff performer. But the truth of the matter is he’s 1st in GAA with 2.09, 4th in save percentage with .928, and his 7 playoff shutouts are good for 5th among active goalies. And of course, he backstopped the Capitals to their 2018 Stanley Cup!
But what caught my attention was his save percentage jumps from .916 in the regular season to .928 in the playoffs. That’s huge! And this isn’t a small sample size we’re talking about given 88 career playoff starts.
He’s proven he can step his game up when the stage is biggest. And this save in game 2 of the ‘18 finals is an all-time great…
5. Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks
Wait that guy on the Sharks!? Yes and I’ve got reasons, damn it!
Couture has played in 116 playoff games and averages .871 pts/game and .414 goals/game, ranking 10th and 5th respectively among active players.
He absolutely destroyed the ‘15-’16 playoffs on the way to a Stanley Cup Finals loss with 30 pts in 24 games. In his career, his .764 pts/game during the regular season is solid but it jumps to the aforementioned .871 pts/game come playoff time.
This is a guy that has earned that “Big Game Player” moniker and keeps proving it. Last season in the 18-19 playoffs, the Sharks might have come up a few wins short but not because of Couture as he scored 14 goals in 20 games.
And did I mention he’s clutch…
4. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights
At what point does experience and trust trump stats?
Not to say Fleury has poor stats but his career .911 save percentage in the playoffs ranks 23rd by active goalies, albeit solid. His 2.59 GAA is a notch or two better at 21st among active goalkeepers.
But here’s where it gets juicy… Fleury is a three-time Stanley Cup Champion and has played in two other Cup Finals! In ‘17-’18 he practically carried the Golden Knights to the finals on his back where he had a .927 save percentage along with 4 shutouts!
He’s still only 35 years old and is loved in every locker room he’s been in, which goes a long way to gaining teammates’ trust.
The Athletic recently held a poll asking current players who they want starting in net for their team in a game 7, other than your own goalie. Fleury finished second to only Carey Price. Meanwhile, Price has never sniffed the finals while Fleury’s been there 5 times. Give me that experience all day!
Aaand I just had to…
3. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Where to start with Ovi? For a long time, he was that generational superstar that couldn’t get the big one — a Dan Marino on skates. Well, he accomplished that in 2018 with his first and so far only Stanley Cup Championship.
His 15 goals and 27 pts captured him the Conn Smythe but his effects on each hockey game were felt way beyond the stat sheet. He ranks third in points per game behind the two Penguins with .984. Second in Goals Per Game with .508 and his 65 goals in 128 playoff games is nuts!
A lot can be said about Ovi’s two-way game but the dude can flat out score! Wherever he goes, regular season or playoffs, goals pour in. He’s fiery, fun to watch, and a generational talent. Every time the puck leaves his stick you expect it to go in.
I want Ovi on my team come playoff time 100/100!
2. Justin Williams, Carolina Hurricanes
You don’t get a nickname like Mr. Game 7 by accident!
Justin Williams might be the ultimate example of a “Big Game Player”. He’s played in 9 game 7s in his career going 8-1 while piling up 15 pts — the most game 7 points in NHL history and tied with Glenn Anderson for most game 7 goals with 7.
And did I mention he’s won three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe?!
His 101 points in 155 games aren’t eye-popping but his career playoff +30 rating and 8 GWG sure are. He’s spent nearly two decades in the NHL and is another guy that just brings a locker room presence.
The truth of the matter is this, everyone has a bit more confidence when Justin Williams is in your locker room and it’s playoff time. And that’s a pretty high compliment!
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Oh, I can see the eye rolls now, unless you’re a Pens fan. But let’s be honest, it was always going to end this way!
In 164 career playoff games, he averages 1.134 points/game (1st) and .402 Goals/Game (6th). He has won the Cup three times and been to another and earned two Conn Smythe Trophies along the way.
He’s the ultimate leader and teammate and even though he’s not as explosive as he was at 22, he has more than made up for it with veteran savvy.
He’s the best two-way forward in today’s game and right now, today, there’s no one I’d rather have on my team in the postseason than Sid the Kid.
Just Missed the Cut / Honorable mentions:
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Phil Kessel, Arizona Coyotes
Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks