Jake Guentzel sure is making a name for himself as a post-season performer.
Though he was held off the scoresheet in Game 5 — and it was a potentially tide-turning game, so not the best time to be shut down offensively — Guentzel’s performance through the first 11 games of this post-season is quickly becoming one for the ages. To wit, Guentzel has 10 goals and a playoff-leading 21 points, which means he has matched his output from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ run to the 2017 Stanley Cup in 14 fewer games. More than match his personal output, though, Guentzel has passed and blasted his way into some elite company.
With his two-goal performance in Game 4, Guentzel became one of only five players to score two points per game across his team’s first 10 games of the playoffs. Better yet, his 10 goals give him the third-best 10-game post-season start in NHL history — he was one back of Wayne Gretzky and four behind Mark Messier, both of whom had their scoring sprees during the 1983 post-season. And on points, Guentzel’s 21 are tied for the fourth-most through 10 games in NHL history, matching a mark shared by Gretzky, Messier, Mike Bossy, Darryl Sittler and Barry Pederson. Only Gretzky’s 1983 and 1985 starts, in which he scored 29 points and 25 points, respectively, were better, as was Rick Middleton’s 23-point start during the 1983 playoffs.
Of course, Guentzel’s playoff heroics go beyond this season, as he has a remarkable 42 points through the first 36 post-season games of his career. That’s quite a start for the 23-year-old, and one that actually put him fairly close to cracking the top 10 when it comes to production through the first three-dozen games of a player’s playoff career. How close? Here are the 10-best all-time playoff performers through 36 games:
Joe Sakic — 48 points
We can talk about Sakic’s points or his playoff success, but the best thing about Sakic in the post-season was that he had a knack for scoring big goals. He had seven game-winning goals — seven! — in his first three-dozen playoff games. He also had four multi-goal games, including two hat tricks.
Maurice Richard — 48 points
Want to know why Richard is the namesake for the NHL’s goal-scoring crown? How about the fact he scored five goals in his second career playoff game, or that he had two hat tricks in his first seven playoff games? Amazingly, Richard had a third post-season hat trick by the time he played his 15th playoff game. He was a pure scorer before there were pure scorers.
Elmer Lach — 48 points
Given the post-season was shorter, Lach’s first 36 games stretch over a span of seven years, but that doesn’t change the fact he was scoring one and a half points per game against the other top talents of the time. In 36 games, he scored 15 goals and 48 points for the Canadiens, including a playoff overtime winner against the New York Rangers in 1950.
Sidney Crosby — 48 points
Fittingly, Guentzel’s famous linemate knows a thing or two about having a lot of early post-season success. Crosby was downright dominant out of the gates, too. He scored in each of his first three games, had a four-point night within his first 10 playoff appearances and dotted the scoresheet in basically every game of every series in which he played.
Alex Ovechkin — 49 points
It doesn’t stand out in quite the same way because Guentzel is pumping up his point total as a sophomore and Ovechkin’s points were compiled over the course of several seasons, but the Capitals captain has always been lethal in the playoffs. Fun fact: it took Ovechkin all of 16 post-season games to register his first playoff hat trick.
Jean Beliveau — 50 points
The Canadiens’ dynasty had so many weapons, but few were as deadly as Beliveau, and it was evident early that he was going to be a monster in the post-season. His second career playoff game, during a series against the rival Bruins, saw Beliveau fire home two goals and five points, and he registered a point in every single game as Montreal swept Boston.
Ken Linseman — 50 points
Linseman is most often associated with being a bit pesky to play against, but he was the type of player who could turn it on when the playoffs rolled around. Case in point: half of his first 36 playoff games were multi-point outings. That includes a monster four-assist game against the Flames during the 1980-81 campaign.
Jari Kurri — 51 points
Being Wayne Gretzky’s wingman is a good way to make a living, and Kurri certainly fit the role. He played off of No. 99 to near perfection and Kurri’s playoff performance is all the proof one needs. He had 20 goals in the post-season playing alongside ‘The Great One’, and six of his first 36 games saw him score three or more points.
Peter Stastny — 52 points
Stastny seemingly didn’t need more than a game or two to adjust to life in the big league, so it should come as no surprise that his transition to the post-season was just as easy. He had three points in his first playoff game and went six games before he was held off the scoresheet, and he was only held off the board seven times in his first 36 games.
Barry Pederson — 52 points
Pederson seems an odd fit, but his astounding playoff numbers came during the first few seasons of his career, a time when he scored 129 goals and 315 points in 237 regular season games. Unfortunately, Pederson’s incredible performance early in his post-season career make up his entire playoff resume. He failed to see a post-season game in the final six seasons of his career and retired with 52 points in 34 playoff games.
Mario Lemieux — 71 points
Lemieux managed 31 goals in his first three-dozen post-season appearances and his game log is a treat. He failed to score in his first career playoff game, then proceeded to go on a six-game scoring streak before another goalless outing. Don’t worry, though, Lemieux made up for failing to score in Game 4 of his second career post-season series by firing home five goals the next time out.
Wayne Gretzky — 79 points
There’s a reason the headline suggests Guentzel’s flirting with the top 10 and not the best mark all-time. In a lot of scoring categories, there’s basically no touching Gretzky, and it should come as no surprise that he holds the NHL’s all-time playoff scoring lead with 382 post-season points. Almost more impressive than Gretzky’s career total, though, is that he pulled himself within 100 points of Jean Beliveau, the all-time leader when ‘The Great One’ made his NHL debut, inside 40 career playoff games. His 79 points, including 27 goals, are the most any player has scored in his first 36 post-season games.