With the 2017 Stanley Cup final almost over, it looks likely that either Yevgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby will lead the playoffs in scoring. For whichever one prevails, it’ll be his second time atop the list, and another landmark in NHL history.
As we prepare to see Lord Stanley’s mug hoisted again, here are 10 interesting facts about NHL playoff points leaders – several with an international twist.
1) In the last 30 years, only eight players have succeeded in topping the playoff points derby without previously playing at an IIHF World Junior Championship. They are Al MacInnis (Calgary, 1989), Craig Simpson and Mark Messier (Edmonton, 1990), Brett Hull (Dallas, 2000), Eric Staal (Carolina, 2006), Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa, 2007), Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles, 2012, 2014), and Logan Couture (San Jose, 2016).
2) The only nation that has won an Olympic gold medal in hockey but has never produced a number-one overall NHL playoff scorer is Great Britain (1936).
3) Among nations that have won an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship gold medal, the only two that have not produced number-one overall NHL playoff scorers both born and trained abroad are Finland (1995, 2011) and Slovakia (2002).
4) Triple Gold Club member Peter Forsberg is the only player in NHL history to top the playoffs points derby twice without making the Stanley Cup final either time. In 1999, the ultra-competitive Swede had 24 points in 19 games, but his Colorado Avalanche lost the Western Conference final to the eventual champion Dallas Stars. In 2002, Forsberg got 27 points in 20 games, but this time the Avs fell in the conference final to the Detroit Red Wings.
5) Nobody has led the playoffs in scoring in back-to-back years since Mario Lemieux captained the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Cup in 1990-91 (44 points) and 1991-92 (34 points).
6) Just four players have scored 35 or more points to lead the playoffs: Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Yevgeni Malkin. However, when the NHL announced its top 100 players of all time this season, Malkin, who earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP in 2009 with 36 points, was the only one of the four that did not make the cut.
7) The only man ever to win the playoff scoring title and the Conn Smythe in a losing cause was Philadelphia’s Reggie Leach. Although the Flyers were swept 4-0 by Montreal in the 1976 final, Leach, nicknamed the “Riverton Rifle,” racked up 19 goals (a post-season record he still shares with Edmonton’s Jari Kurri from 1985) and five assists.
8) The only player ever to retire immediately after leading the playoff scoring race was Jacques Lemaire of the Montreal Canadiens. The 34-year-old centre tied linemate Guy Lafleur with 23 points as the Habs captured their fourth consecutive by defeating the New York Rangers in five games. Montreal offered Lemaire a three-year contract extension worth $225,000 a season, but instead, he surprised the hockey world by signing to become the general manager and player-coach of HC Sierre in the Swiss B-league.
9) Only once in the modern playoff format (i.e. four rounds) has the leading point total been under 20. That was in 2003 when the New Jersey Devils won their second Stanley Cup during the so-called “Dead Puck Era.” After defeating the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in a seven-game series, teammates Jamie Langenbrunner and Scott Niedermayer led the way with 18 points apiece.
10) Only once in history has there been a four-way tie for the playoff scoring lead. In 1952, Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Metro Prystai of the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings and Floyd Curry of the losing finalist Montreal Canadiens tallied seven points apiece.