The Stanley Cup final is the NHL’s biggest stage under its brightest lights, and for a several players on the Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals, the opportunity to play for the sport’s greatest prize will bring out their very best. There may even be a player or two who has a single-game performance great enough to rewrite a piece of the record book.
Doing so, though, is going to take a Herculean effort from the Alex Ovechkins and William Karlssons of the two Stanley Cup finalists, because over the past three decades, the Stanley Cup final has seen its share of standout performances. On the eve of Game 1, here are 10 records that near on unbeatable from the past three decades of Stanley Cup finals:
(All marks come from the past 30 years, via Hockey-Reference.)
MOST GOALS — SINGLE GAME
One might think that there would have been the kind of remarkable single-game goal scoring performance that stands above the rest in the final, but truth is that no player in the past three decades has gone beyond a hat trick. Five players, however, have been showered in chapeaus in the final over the past 30 years. That includes Jari Kurri, Esa Tikkanen, Dirk Graham, Eric Desjardins and, most recently, Peter Forsberg. It’s been 22 years since the last hat trick in the final.
MOST GOALS — SERIES
This must be a mark that belongs to a goal scorer of note, right? Maybe one of the five all-time highest post-season goal scorers, like, say, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri or Brett Hull? Nope. The mark actually belongs to Esa Tikkanen, who went off in the 1988 Stanley Cup final, scoring nine points, six of which were goals.
MOST POINTS BY A FORWARD — SINGLE GAME
The Oilers’ heyday is best remembered for Wayne Gretzky’s high-scoring heroics, but Gretzky’s wingman in Edmonton, Jari Kurri, wasn’t half bad. In fact, after Gretzky had been dealt away to the Los Angeles Kings, Kurri had his best single Stanley Cup final game and the best single-game scoring performance in the past 30 years. In Game 2 against the Boston Bruins, Kurri had a hat trick and five points.
MOST POINTS BY A FORWARD — SERIES
Wayne Gretzky had some dominant post-seasons, including a record 47-point playoff in 1985. But his best performance in a series with the Stanley Cup on the line came in 1988, a post-season in which he registered 43 points in just 19 games. Against the Boston Bruins in the final, Gretzky scored three goals and 13 points, leading the Oilers to their fourth Stanley Cup in five seasons.
MOST POINTS BY A DEFENSEMAN — SINGLE GAME
The 1990s saw top-flight defensemen have offensive outbursts in the Stanley Cup final, but chief among those to stuff the scoresheet with the sport’s biggest prize on the line are Larry Murphy and Brian Leetch. During the 1991 final, Murphy had a hand in four of Pittsburgh’s six goals in the Penguins’ Game 5 victory over the Minnesota North Stars. As for Leetch, he had a point on all four Rangers goals in Game 4 of the 1994 final, a game New York won 4-2 over the Vancouver Canucks.
MOST POINTS BY A DEFENSEMAN — SERIES
Given Leetch’s four-point outing in Game 4 of the 1994 final, it should come as no surprise that he also holds the mark for most points by a rearguard in a single Stanley Cup final. He was absolutely dominant against the Canucks, scoring five goals and 11 points in seven games and he was only held off the scoresheet once in the series. Leetch has the Conn Smythe Trophy to prove how good he was, too.
MOST SAVES — SINGLE GAME
In Game 1 of the 2013 final, Tuukka Rask made 59 stops in an overtime loss, and that’s the best single-game mark over the past two decades. It’s not the best performance in the past 30 years, however. That mark belongs to Patrick Roy, who stopped a whopping 63 shots in Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup final. Better than making 63 saves, though, is that Roy did so en route to a shutout in the series-deciding contest.
HIGHEST SAVE PERCENTAGE
Statistically speaking, Patrick Roy’s greatest playoff performance came during the 2001 post-season. Across 23 games, ‘Saint Patrick’ put together a .934 SP, 1.70 goals-against average and four shutouts as the Avalanche marched to the Stanley Cup. But he’s never been more of a brick wall in the final than in 1996, when, up against the Panthers, Roy allowed just four goals in Colorado’s sweep of Florida.
As the NHL’s all-time shutout leader in both the regular season and post-season, one would expect Martin Brodeur to also hold the mark for most shutouts in a single Stanley Cup final, as well. Sure enough, too, it is Brodeur who holds the mark for the most shutouts in a single final by blanking the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim not once, not twice, but three times in seven games. That includes back-to-back shutouts to kick off the series and a series-sealing 24-save shutout in Game 7.
Through the first four games of the 1991 Stanley Cup final, the Penguins and Minnesota North Stars traded victories, but Pittsburgh turned the tide in the series in Game 5 when they scored early and often en route to a 6-4 victory and took a 3-2 series lead. But as the series shifted back to Minnesota with the North Stars’ season — and Cup chances — on the line, the expectation was they would come out flying as they looked to even the series. Judging by the scoreline, though, only one team showed up to the contest and it most certainly wasn’t the North Stars. In Game 6, Pittsburgh scored three in the first, three in the second and two in the third en route to an 8-0 victory, which remains the single biggest blowout in a Stanley Cup final contest, let alone the series-deciding game.
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