Top 10 Most Efficient Playoff Scorers in NHL History

Scoring at a pace of 1.1 points per game or higher is a remarkable feat in today’s NHL, even in the regular season, as only five players are poised to finish at or above that point this season, three of which (Stamkos, Tavares and Malkin) missed significant time due to injuries. Only Sidney Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf will have played at least 75 games and managed the feat, with Getzlaf currently sitting at a pace of 1.14 points per game and Crosby at 1.30. It is therefore astonishing that thirteen players who have played at least 20 career playoff games have managed the feat in the post-season as well.

Seven of the thirteen played many of their best playoff seasons in the 1980s and early 1990s, when scoring in the NHL was at its peak. There are also three current players and even one defenseman on the list. What unites them all, however, is their ability to produce significant offense when it mattered most, proving an ability to thrive under pressure

This list will only focus on the top ten, but for those who are curious, spots eleven through thirteen are taken by Peter Forsberg (171 points in 151 games), Peter Stastny (105 points in 93 career games) and Claude Giroux (55 points in 50 career games). Newsy Lalonde also achieved the feat, scoring 19 points in seven career NHL playoff games with the Montreal Canadiens from 1917-1919, but played fewer than 20 NHL playoff games, as most of his career was spent either in the NHA before the formation of the modern NHL in 1917 or in other professional hockey leagues across Canada.

10 Gilbert Perreault: 103 Points in 90 Games, 1.144 PPG

The career Sabres forward is the only member of the top ten without a Stanley Cup ring, coming closest in 1975 when the Sabres lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Philadelphia Flyers four games to two. Perreault scored 15 points in 17 playoff games that year, but saved his best performance for the 1980 playoffs, recording 21 points in 14 games. That year, the Sabres ousted the Canucks three games to one and swept the Blackhawks in four games, only to lose to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Islanders four games to two in the Conference Finals. Despite never winning a Stanley Cup, the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Perreault in 1990. That year, he also became the first Sabre to have his number retired, and will forever remain the only player in Sabres history to wear the number 11.

9 Jari Kurri: 233 Points in 200 Games, 1.165 PPG

The first of three former 1980s Oilers on this list, Jari Kurri won five Stanley Cups with the Oilers from 1984 to 1990. Kurri led the NHL playoffs in goals during four of the five years the Oilers won the Cup, including a career best 19 goals in 18 playoff games in 1985, which ties him with Reggie Leach for the most goals in a single post-season. Scoring at over a goal-per-game pace, even for only one playoff run, should be considered arguably the most legendary of his many career accomplishments. Kurri finished with over a point per game in all ten seasons he made the playoffs with the Oilers, including a career-best 31 points in 18 games in 1985 (the same year as his 19 goals). Kurri reunited with Wayne Gretzky in Los Angeles for several seasons, and finished with 17 points in 24 playoff games during their playoff run in 1993, which ended in a five-game loss to Montreal in the Stanley Cup Finals. After that season, however, Kurri finished with only 11 points in 26 remaining playoff games from 1996-1998.

8 Evgeni Malkin: 97 Points in 83 Games, 1.169 PPG

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After being drafted second overall in 2004 behind Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin ranks among the all-time greatest playoff scorers in terms of efficiency, with his 1.169 points per game. This elevates him over Ovechkin, who has scored over a point a game in the playoffs so far in his career (61 points in 58 games) but has never made it out of the second round of the playoffs. His best playoff season by far came when Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in 2009. While Crosby bested his goal total by one, fifteen to fourteen, Malkin bested Crosby 22-16 in assists and 36-31 in total points, resulting in Malkin winning the Conn Smythe Trophy that year.

7 Mike Bossy: 160 Points in 129 Games, 1.24 PPG

One of the greatest pure scorers of all-time, Mike Bossy continued his lethal scoring pace in the playoffs. Bossy scored the Stanley-Cup winning goals in 1982 and 1983, and scored the game winners for all four Islanders wins in their 1983 Conference final victory over the Bruins. Bossy is also second all-time in goals per game in the playoffs, with 0.659 goals per game. Bossy sits only sixth all-time in playoff goals, but his achievement becomes clear when his 129 career playoff games are compared with the five men in front of him, each of whom played over 200 career playoff games. He is also the only player on this list to have more career playoff goals than assists, with 85 playoff goals and 75 playoff assists, and the only player in NHL history to score 17 goals or more in three straight playoffs, from 1981-1983. Bossy is furthermore the highest ranked winger on this list.

6 Bobby Orr: 92 points in 74 games, 1.243 PPG

A defenseman scoring over a point per game in the playoffs is nothing less than extraordinary (Paul Coffey is the only other defenseman to do so). Orr, however, reached nearly a point and a quarter per game in the playoffs, cementing his legacy as the greatest defenseman of all-time. Orr scored 20 points in 14 games in 1970 to help the Bruins win the first of their two Cups in the decade, including a league-leading nine playoff goals. The most famous of those goals, to clinch the Stanley Cup in overtime of Game 4 against the St. Louis Blues, has become arguably the most famous hockey photograph of all-time. He followed it up with a league-leading 24 points in 15 games to help them win their second Cup in 1972 and added a further 18 points in 16 games in 1974, when they fell to the Flyers in the Finals in six games. As a defenseman, however, Orr did not neglect the defensive side of his game either, helping the Bruins to keep opponents to 2.27 goals per game in 1972. He also became the first two-time Conn Smythe winner, taking the award in 1970 and 1972.

5 Mark Messier: 295 points in 236 games, 1.25 PPG

Mark Messier was such a famed leader in the NHL that the league named its leadership award after him in 2006. His legendary performance to lead the New York Rangers to Stanley Cup victory in 1994, highlighted by his guaranteed win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Devils and subsequent third period hat trick in the game, often dominates the discussion of his playoff performances. His five Stanley Cups with the Oilers, however, also included a Conn Smythe Trophy in 1984, the first year the Oilers won the Cup. Messier finished with 26 points in 19 playoff games that season, and yet that total stands as only his fifth best playoff point total. He later bested it with his 28 points in 1987, 30 points in 1994, 31 points in 1990 and 34 points in 1988. While his 1994 and 1990 performances are highlighted most often because of his role as the focal point for his team’s offense in those seasons, his earlier playoff performances were no less important to the Oilers’ success and deserve greater attention.

4 Sidney Crosby: 105 points in 82 games, 1.28 PPG

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Never finishing below a point a game in any of his six career NHL post-seasons, Crosby led the 2008 playoffs with 21 assists and 27 points in 20 games, before falling to Detroit in the Finals. The following year, he led the league with 15 playoff goals, and added 16 assists, to help the Penguins avenge their loss to Detroit the year before and win the Stanley Cup in 2009. After scoring the Olympic gold-medal winning goal in 2010, he followed it up with 19 points in 13 playoff games. Crosby is the youngest captain to win a Stanley Cup and has consistently proven himself to be one of hockey’s greatest all-time clutch performers.

3 Barry Pederson: 52 points in 34 games, 1.529 PPG

On this list, Barry Pederson would be the answer to the classic Sesame Street song "One of These Things (Is Not Like the Others)." Pederson was drafted 18th overall to the Boston Bruins in 1980 and scored 44 goals and 92 points, both still Bruins rookie records, in 1982, but lost the Calder to Dale Hawerchuk. That year in the playoffs, Pederson scored 18 points in 11 games, helping Boston defeat the Sabres in the first round, three games to one before falling to the Quebec Nordiques in a close seven-game series. The following year, he put up 46 goals and 107 points in the regular season and an MVP-caliber 32 points in 17 games. The Bruins gained their revenge by defeating the Nordiques in the first round 3-1, and defeated the Sabres for the second consecutive year to win the second round by four games to three, before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champions New York Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. He then set a new career high with 116 points in 1984, but recorded only one point in three playoff games, as the Canadiens swept the Bruins 3-0. That summer, Pederson was diagnosed with a benign tumour in his shoulder that was surgically removed and only played 22 games the next year before needing further surgery. The second surgery required part of his shoulder muscle to be removed, and afterwards he was never able to fully bounce back.

He recorded 76 points with Boston in 1986, but again only scored one point in three playoff games. Boston then sent Pederson to Vancouver for Cam Neely, while Pederson never played another playoff game again. After back-to-back seasons of over 70 points with the Canucks in 1987 and 1988, Pederson only scored 41 points in 1988-1989, and then never managed more than 22 points in a season again. He did win a Stanley Cup ring with Pittsburgh in 1991, however, after playing 46 regular season games with the team that year.

2 Mario Lemieux: 172 points in 107 games, 1.61 PPG

Despite his injury-plagued career, Mario Lemieux remained not only one of the NHL playoff’s greatest performers, but also its most efficient goal scorer. Lemieux scored 76 goals in 107 playoff games to average a record 0.71 goals per game, and shares the playoff records for most goals in a period (4), most goals in a game (5), most points in a period (4) and most points in a game (8). Lemieux consistently performed well in the playoffs but saved his two greatest performances for the Penguins’ Stanley Cup victories in 1991 and 1992. Lemieux scored 16 goals and 28 assists in 23 games in 1991, before reaching 16 goals and 18 assists in just 15 games in 1992. The 1991 total was higher, and stands as the second-highest single post-season points total ever, but the 1992 post-season led to him having a staggering 2.27 points per game average. His combined 78 points in those two years is the second highest number in a two-year period by any NHL player, bested only by the number one figure on this list.

1 Wayne Gretzky: 382 points in 208 games, 1.837 PPG

To the surprise of few, highest career points-per-game average in the post-season is one of Wayne Gretzky’s many records. Gretzky scored at least 34 points in six different post-seasons, a total only 510 players have reached for their entire playoff careers. Gretzky set the single post-season assist record in 1988 with 31, but enjoyed his best post-season in 1985. After scoring 38 points in 1983 and 35 in 1984, Gretzky scored an almost inconceivable 17 goals and 30 assists for 47 points in just 18 games, or 2.61 points per game in 1985. The 47 points is an NHL single-season playoff record and his 120 points in those three post-seasons alone would have put him amongst the top 50 playoff scorers of all-time. He also scored 40 points in 24 playoff games with the Kings in their 1993 playoff run. Even in 1997, at the age of 36, Gretzky was still able to score 20 points in 15 playoff games with the New York Rangers in his final playoff run. Along with having the highest post-season points per game total, his 382 career playoff points also leave him far ahead of Messier’s second-place 295 career playoff points. Winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1985 and 1988, Gretzky truly proved himself as “The Great One” in the playoffs, making him the greatest and most efficient playoff scorer of all-time.

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