Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Torey Krug has had a spectacular playoff run.
Through six Stanley Cup games, Krug has a goal and a team-leading six points, becoming just the fourth defenseman in the 21st century to record at least a half-dozen points in the final (Drew Doughty was the last to do so, back in 2012). Krug’s 18 points in these playoffs ties him for sixth since 2000 among defenders, and while five of his six points in the final have come on the power play, he’s been a lethal presence.
Throughout the series, Krug has looked confident, engaged offensively and, of course, he isn’t afraid to play on the edge. Remember it was Krug who delivered a giant hit on Robert Thomas, a check that’s status as a charge/non-charge is still being debated today. But it’s his play with the puck that has really turned heads, as Krug and St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo (17 points) battle it out for the playoff scoring lead by blueliners.
Krug has been good, but how does he compare to some of the all-time best Stanley Cup final endeavors by defensemen?
Brian Leetch, NY Rangers (1994) – 11 points
Even if you’re not a New York Rangers fan, the team’s run in 1994 is likely etched in your memory. And a big part of reaching the summit was Leetch’s 11-point performance against Vancouver in the Stanley Cup. Not only was Leetch the top-scoring defenseman in the final, but he led all players in both goals (five, tying Denis Potvin for the most in a Cup final by a defenseman) and points, and he tied Vancouver’s Cliff Ronning with six assists. Leetch was the clear choice for the Conn Smythe Trophy after leading all players with 34 points in 23 games.
Paul Coffey, Edmonton (1985) – 11 points
Coffey’s 12-goal, 34-point playoff effort in 1985 is still the single-season playoff record by defensemen. He tied Wayne Gretzky for the scoring lead in the final, with their 11 points each more than double that of Derrick Smith, who led the Philadelphia Flyers with five. Coffey, the gold standard of offensive defensemen, scored two of his three goals, including the game-winner, in the series-clinching Game 5. The win was the second of Coffey’s four Stanley Cups.
Larry Murphy, Pittsburgh (1991) – 10 points
The Penguins were loaded in 1991 (with Coffey on the team, too), and Murphy’s play was something to behold. A mid-season trade from the Minnesota North Stars made him a focal point of Pittsburgh’s D-core, with Murphy posting 23 points in as many games for the best playoff output of his career. In the final, against his former team, Murphy had a goal and nine assists, trailing just Mario Lemieux for the most points in the six-game series. Pittsburgh won its first of two consecutive Stanley Cups, and Murphy claimed the first of his four championships.
Denis Potvin, NY Islanders (1982) – 9 points
Potvin recorded nine points in both the 1980 and 1982 finals, but he was at the top of his game in 1980 in particular. Potvin, who was deadly on the power play, scored four of his five goals with the man advantage, with his second goal of the final handing the Islanders an overtime victory in Game 1. Overall, Potvin finished with the most goals (eight), assists (17) and points (25) by defensemen en route to New York’s first Stanley Cup. Two years later, Potvin matched his previous total in a four-game Islanders sweep over the Canucks.
Al MacInnis, Calgary (1989) – 9 points
MacInnis’ effort in 1989 was second to none as he led the Calgary Flames to their first and only Stanley Cup. MacInnis became the first defenseman to lead the playoffs in scoring, putting up 31 points and finding the scoresheet in 20 of his 22 games, including all six games of the Cup final. He opened the final with a two-goal performance and continued with two more multi-point efforts as the Flames defeated Montreal. MacInnis shot at an impressive 25 percent, with four goals on 16 shots giving him the best shooting percentage out of any defenseman with at least 15 shots in a Cup final in league history. Not surprisingly, he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for his effort.
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