Each year at the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL awards the Conn Smythe Trophy to the player judged most valuable to his team during the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
These are five Conn Smythe-winning performances that stand out from the rest:
Wayne Gretzky | C | Edmonton Oilers 1984-1985
Here’s a question for you. How do you follow up a 73 goal, 208 point, Hart Trophy-winning regular season performance? Answer, set an NHL playoff record for points. Wayne Gretzky, the Great One, sizzled in the 1985 Stanley Cup Playoffs scoring 17 goals and adding 30 assists for a league record 47 points in only 18 playoff games. That’s a whopping 2.61 point per game average to go with a 0.94 goals per game average. Nobody had an answer for #99. The Oilers, on their way to a second straight Cup title, swept the Kings and Jets in rounds one and two and finished the playoffs with a 15-3 record, defeating the Eastern Conference champion Flyers in five games.
Patrick Roy | G | Montreal Canadiens 1985-1986
Montreal won its first Stanley Cup in seven seasons on the strength of goaltender Patrick Roy. Roy sparkled with a 1.92 goals against average winning 15 of 20 games. His two shining performances came in Game 3 of the Conference Finals against the Rangers and Game 4 of the Cup Finals against Calgary. In Game 3 of the Conference Finals, the Rangers dominated the Canadiens in the overtime period but could not overcome the outstanding goaltending of Roy and lost 4-3 on a goal by Claude Lemieux. Roy shut out the Flames in Game 4 of the Cup Final leading his team to a 1-0 victory. Oh, and get this, he was only a rookie.
Bobby Orr | D | Boston Bruins 1969-1970
Bobby Orr played like the reigning Norris Trophy winner in the 1970 Stanley Cup Playoffs. From the defensive position Orr potted 9 goals and added 11 assists in 14 games. He set up Phil Esposito’s game-winning goal in Game 5 of the Conference Finals against New York after stealing the puck at center ice. He then scored the game-winning and series-winning goal in Game 6. Orr’s most famous goal however, came in Game 4 of the Cup Finals against the Blues. He scored the Cup-winning goal 40 seconds into overtime and his subsequent mid-air celebration after being tripped by Blues defenseman Noel Picard is one of the most recognizable images in North American sports history and the most reproduced image in hockey history.
Ken Dryden | G | Montreal Canadiens 1970-1971
The Canadiens sure have been lucky with goaltenders. Ken Dryden, one of the game’s finest, won the 1971 Conn Smythe Trophy leading the Habs to a Cup win over the Chicago Blackhawks. What sticks out is in winning the award, Dryden became the game’s only player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy before winning the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. Dryden had only played six games in the NHL before leading the Canadiens to the first of their six Cup titles in the 1970’s.
Mario Lemieux | C | Pittsburgh Penguins 1990-1991
Super Mario performed like a superhero in the 1991 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Forced to miss 50 games in the regular season due to a herniated disc, Lemieux didn’t miss a beat when it mattered. He scored 16 goals and dished out 28 helpers for 44 points in only 23 games. His 44 points is the second highest total in playoff history. Despite missing a game due to his back injury, Lemieux led all players with 12 points in only 5 games in the Cup Finals. Lemieux scored arguably the most famous goal of his career in Game 2 of the Finals when he sprinted end to end and split between Minnesota’s two defenseman eventually beating goalie Jon Casey backhanded as he was falling down.