The old saying goes that in any type of playoffs, especially hockey, the games are harder, more intense, and tighter. Three players, in particular, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins, through eight games this spring didn’t seem to get the memo. The trio has totaled an astounding 41 points as the B’s continue their chase for their first Stanley Cup since 2011. Boston’s second version of the Big Three dominated the regular season, but no one could have predicted what they’ve accomplished in the playoffs so far. The Bruins have a long way to go to get back to the Cup Final, but what Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak are doing is reminiscent of some of the most impressive individual and team performances from years past in NHL history.
But if there was a debate, how would the Bruins first line production in the playoffs be compared to other high playoff runs in the league’s history?
It’s hard to match three players against an entire Stanley Cup winning team, but the run the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings went on was magical.
The Kings would lose just four times on their way to the franchise’s first title. But beyond that incredible stat, they only lost twice in the first three rounds and would sweep the St. Louis Blues in the second round. Los Angeles received contributions from up and down their roster in that dominant run, with their top two performers, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown both recording 20 points each. Behind them, star d-man Drew Doughty produced 16 points.
Referring back to the B’s trio, saying what they’re doing compared to the route the Kings went is a reach.
You can say this though, three players with that amount of points in such a short amount of games up against a team that went 16-4 and had two players combine for only 40 through a whole postseason, does hold some steam. How Boston’s postseason unfolds, and how much more Bergeron-Marchand and Pastrnak continue to have an impact will determine if they could surpass the accomplishment of Los Angeles’s 2012 playoff journey.
The era was a completely different animal, but Hall of Fame goaltender Terry Sawchuk’s showing in the 1952 Stanley Cup Finals is considered by many as the greatest playoff performance in NHL history.
Sawchuk, backstopped his Red Wings club to their fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history in commanding fashion. He would record two shutouts in the Semifinal against the Toronto Maple Leafs, ending in a series sweep for Detroit. In the Cup Final, Sawchuk was again remarkable. His two shutouts of the Canadiens were the backbone of Detroit’s four-game sweep of the Habs. His final numbers from that 51-52′ postseason: 8-0, five goals allowed, four shutouts, and 0.63 goals against average.
See the two differences here — Sawchuk only played eight games and the game back then not even being close to how much faster and tighter it is now — makes it a tough case for how the Bruins top-line performance measures up.
First off, comparing forward to goalie production holds very little in this type of debate. However, Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak are doing what they’re doing as a line, which is striking in its own nature. And yes they have already matched the number of games that Sawchuk played that entire playoff, but individually, four shutouts and sweep both playoff series resulting in a Stanley Cup for him and his team. Sorry, the B’s have a long way to go to reach that type of pillar Sawchuk is on top of.
Speaking of another greatest of all time, Wayne Gretzky’s body of work in the 1985 Stanley Cup Playoffs sits right up there in the annals of the sport.
There’s no doubting The Great One was surrounded by a Hall of Fame cast on the Oilers, but this performance was the best he had ever performed in the postseason. Leading Edmonton to their second straight Stanley Cup title, Gretzky registered 17 goals and 30 assists for a breathtaking 47 points. Those 47 points set a new NHL record for the most points by a single player in the history of the playoffs. That record, remarkably, still stands to this very day. The closest player to the mark, Mario Lemieux, came three points shy of tying the record in the 1991 postseason.
Contrary to belief, behind him, Gretzky owns third, fourth, and fifth most points in the second season.
When you’re going up against arguably the greatest player in hockey history, and second greatest playoff performer in the game’s storied past, you better be playing at a level no one can come close to.
The fact is though, the Bruins threesome doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. 41 points in such a short amount of time, and the possibility that they could add even more to those numbers depending on how much farther they Bruins go into the spring. Gretzky’s 47 points came in only 19 games, with teammate Paul Coffey finishing ten points behind him with 37. This one could come down to the individual against line aspect, but again Wayne had Kurri, Messier, and Glenn Anderson. Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak have David Krejci.
As the playoffs march on, the Bruins top line does have the same feel to it, as the play of two New York Rangers on their 94′ Cup-winning squad. Mark Messier and Brian Leetch.
Messier and Leetch were the cornerstones of the Rangers winning their first championship in 54 years. Leetch, a defenseman, posted 34 points in 23 playoff games for the Blueshirts. His 11 goals and 23 assists were worthy enough for Leetch to be named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy. His fellow teammate, Messier, the captain, notched 12 goals and 18 assists for a splendid 30 points. His Hall of Fame performance in game six of the Conference Quarterfinal and game seven of the Stanley Cup Final were awe-inspiring. Messier and Leetch combined for 64 points, staggering, considering the third-best in point production in that 94′ run to the Cup, was Alexei Kovalev with 21.
Considering the Rangers were trying to break a half-century-long drought, the amount of importance of Messier’s and Leetch’s play valued versus what The Bruins big three have accomplished to this point could be thrown into the same category.
Both trios had a somewhat strong group behind them, but they were the sole reason the teams got to the position they were in. For Leetch in that playoff to total 34 points from the blueline, does shift the argument. Boston’s Big Three does do it at both ends of the ice, just as Leetch did through those 23 games. Three players against two still plays a role here, but there’s a lot of similarities that both trios showcase.