Raising their game: unsung playoff scorers

Each playoff season produces surprising trigger men. Take a look at 20 players over the past 70 years of NHL playoff hockey who rose to the occasion, including Fernando Pisani with Edmonton in 2006.
Fernando Pisani scored often and up to the very end for the Edmonton Oilers in their bid for the Stanley Cup in 2006. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

The likes of Sean Bergenheim, Chris Kelly and Joel Ward are making a push to be forever linked with the great playoff surprise stories in NHL history.

Bergenheim has helped the Lightning to a seven-game winning streak with seven goals, Ward has five on a rather anemic Nashville squad, and Kelly has pitched in with four goals for the Bruins.

What follows is a look at 20 surprising playoff goal totals over the past 70 years of playoff hockey. There are some good players on the list, some highly regarded prospects and some journeymen. or didn't go on to have fine NHL careers. It's a list concerning players who exceeded goal scoring expectations.

Matthew Barnaby, Buffalo Sabres, 1998: 15GP, 7G, 6A, 13PTS

This one is more surprising years later than it was at the time. Barnaby had showed promise with 43 points in 68 games in his second season (although he dipped to 25 points in 1997-98, the year that followed). He never reached such offensive heights again, settling for a career spent mainly as a provocateur. Or in hockey parlance, a pest.

The evidence? Just one goal on average per every 10 regular season games after these halcyon days, and zero goals in the remaining 35 NHL playoff games he played. The Sabres reached the Cup final the following season, but by that time Barnaby had been shipped to Pittsburgh.

Dustin Byfuglien, Chicago Blackhawks, 2010: 11G, 5A, 16 PTS

Byfuglien seems such a known and sizable presence at present that it's easy to forget that his performance last year did astound a lot of people. Something else lost to time because his final output was so impressive — through eight playoff games, he had no go goals, no assists. All of his points came in the final 14 games. The Canucks and Sharks must have popped bottles when he was traded out of conference last summer.

Jim Campbell, St. Louis Blues, 1998: 10GP, 7G, 3A, 10PTS

Campbell had scored 45 goals in the previous two seasons, so at the time it wasn't a huge leap in production. What was surprising was that it was essentially the last gasp for the 24-year-old as far as the NHL was concerned. Campbell scored just 14 goals after that, his last 68 games spread out over four different big league cities.

Floyd Curry, Montreal Canadiens 1955: 12GP, 8G, 4A, 12 PTS

Curry notched between 21 to 38 points for Montreal in the early 1950's, the equivalent of about 50 to 60 today. So he was definitely no slouch. A productive scorer as a junior, "Busher" had to settle into a different role on a team with Rocket Richard, Boom Boom Geoffrion and Jean Beliveau, but for one spring at least he was a go-to guy. The Habs didn't win in 1955, but Curry was on four Cup teams with Montreal when all was said and done.

John Druce, Washington Capitals, 1990: 15GP, 14G, 3A, 17PTS

Inspiring several "Druce is loose" headlines, the former Peterborough Pete helped the Capitals to their first conference final berth. He had scored just eight goals in 45 games in the season, but notched four game winners in the postseason, proving particularly adept at deflecting shots. Included in his total were eight power-play goals and a shortie. Druce had a couple of decent offensive seasons to follow, but eventually settled into a role as a grinder.

Alex Faulkner, Detroit Red Wings, 1963: 8GP, 5G, 0A, 5PTS

The Bishop Falls, N.L., native had a decent 10 goals and 10 assists in 71 previous NHL games. He played just one game in Toronto before he was cut loose and picked up by the Wings.

"Obviously I didn't think Faulkner was a National Leaguer," said Leafs GM Punch Imlach before the '63 final between the clubs. "Otherwise I would have protected him."

Ultimately, Toronto would win in five games, but Faulkner was the main reason for Detroit's lone win. Faulkner played just 34 more NHL games, eventually returning to his home province where he remained popular.

Ruslan Fedotenko, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2004: 24GP, 12G, 2A, 14PTS

Undoubtedly much reviled still by some Calgary fans, Fedotenko was a talented third-year pro who'd topped out at 39 points. He didn't find the net until the fourth game of the 2004 playoffs, but roared at the end with eight goals in the last 11, including both for the Lightning in their 2-1 Cup clinching win over the Flames.

Pat Flatley, New York Islanders, 1984: 21G, 9G, 6A, 15 pts

In retrospect, it's not too surprising that Flatley was a top sniper for the Isles in 1984. The veteran Isles had won the Stanley Cup the previous four years, and guys like Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin and Bob Bourne had played in a whopping 25 playoff series over the previous seven years. But the first round pick Flatley didn't have the ledger in just 16 previous NHL games (two goals, seven assists) to suggest he'd finish with more playoff goals than Trottier or Mike Bossy.

Flatley's regular season best in 13 years of play was 20 goals.

Larry Keenan, St. Louis Blues, 1970: 16GP, 7G, 6A, 13PTS

The numbers clearly illustrate that Keenan was a clutch player: 38 goals in 234 NHL regular season games, but 15 in 46 playoff contests, essentially double the production.

Keenan was waived by St. Louis early in 1970, but unclaimed by all other clubs. He was instrumental in the franchise's first Cup final appearance, scoring the deciding goal in the West final to get them there. 

Chris Kontos, Los Angeles, 1989: 11GP, 9G, 0A, 9PTS.

Nothing about Kontos was typical. He was selected 15th overall, but the Rangers and Penguins eventually each gave up on him. He finished his career with 11 playoff goals, no assists, all with Los Angeles. His best regular season was his last (1992-93 with Tampa Bay), as he decided to forgo the NHL to play Olympic hockey with Canada in 1994. He then played in Europe for a number of years and back to the minors to finish.

The Toronto native scored six power-play goals during his magical spring, which came after just playing seven regular season games with the Kings. He scored more goals overall than any of his teammates, including Wayne Gretzky, Bernie Nicholls and Luc Robitaille.

'He had two goals and no shots.'—Pittsburgh coach Eddie Johnston on Dave Lowry, 1995

Dave Lowry, Florida Panthers, 1995: 22GP, 10G, 7A, 17PTS

Is there a Curse of Lowry on the Panthers? They've never won a playoff game since he left, and have appeared in just one playoff series.

Lowry, who never cracked the 20-goal mark in a lengthy career, admitted he was in the midst of a "garbage goal" spurt in the spring of 1996.

Pittsburgh coach Eddie Johnston was more succinct after a defeat to the Panthers: "He had two goals and no shots."

Milan Marcetta, Minnesota North Stars, 1968: 14 GP, 7G, 7A, 14 PTS

The epochal expansion that doubled the league in size provided opportunity for a number of good minor league pros, such as the 31-year-old Marcetta, whose previous three NHL games were enough to get his name on Toronto's last Cup entry in 1967. After his playoff performance with the North Stars in 1968, he was back in the minors by the midway point of the following season.

Don Metz, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1942: 4GP, 4G, 3A, 7PTS

Most hockey fans of a certain age know that the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs were the first to come back from a 3-0 deficit, winning the Cup against Detroit in the process. Many less know it was in no small part to Metz, who was inserted in the lineup ahead of the fourth game. He had scored just eight goals in 75 previous games for the blue and white, but scored a hat trick and two assists in the fifth game of the final against the Wings, and notched the winner in the sixth.

Like many others, he enlisted for World War II, which hindered his hockey momentum. He played just about two seasons worth of NHL hockey after that, but spread out over six seasons.

Ken Mosdell, Montreal Canadiens, 1946: 9GP, 4G, 1A, 5PTS

Mosdell, with 14 goals in 44 career games at the time, helped the Canadiens storm through Chicago and Boston to win the Cup, scoring key goals in both series. Mosdell would get his name on the Cup three more times in an NHL career that spanned over a decade.

Greg Paslawski, St. Louis Blues, 1986: 17GP, 10G, 7A, 17PTS

On a points per game basis, Paslawski was eighth in scoring on the deep Blues during the regular season, but he found the net more than any teammate in the playoffs, a list that included Doug Gilmour, Bernie Federko and Brian Sutter.

Fernando Pisani, Edmonton Oilers, 2006: 24GP, 14G, 4A, 18 PTS

Pisani has never cracked the 20-goal mark in his NHL career but after his third season with the Oilers was completed he banged home 14 goals in 24 playoff games, double the amount of the next highest Edmonton goal scorer. His longest drought that spring was four games, and he scored four of the team's last nine, including the lone Oiler goal in the Game 7 Stanley Cup nailbiter against Carolina.

Phil Roberto, St. Louis Blues, 1972: 11GP, 7G, 6A, 13 PTS

The Niagara Falls, Ont. native got his name on the Cup with Montreal in 1971 but was strictly a depth player on that stacked bunch. He averaged about a point every two games in a 385 game NHL career, but blossomed with Blues in the 1972 playoffs after a late season trade from the Canadiens.

Greg Sheppard, Boston Bruins, 1974: 16 GP, 11 G, 8 A, 19 PTS

Sheppard had racked up points in the Central Hockey League and would score over 200 goals in a solid NHL career, but at the time of his achievement was just a sophomore NHL player. He was already good, but not so good to think he'd finish ahead of Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, Johnny Bucyk and Wayne Cashman in playoff goals, and lead all Bruins, including Bobby Orr, in postseason points in 1974.

Wes Walz, Minnesota Wild, 2002-03: 18GP, 7G, 6A, 13PTS

Known for his speed, face-off ability and defensive acumen, Walz let the goal tap flow as the Wild reached the Western Conference final in just their third year of existence. The local favourite scored two game winners and twice while his team was short handed. Like Lowry, he never scored 20 before or after. In his other 14 career playoff games, he managed a more typical total of three goals.

Johnny Wilson, Detroit Red Wings, 1952: 8GP, 4G, 1A, 5 PTS

Wilson was a prolific scorer at all levels, but had just 28 games of NHL experience ahead of the 1952 playoffs. Only Ted Lindsay had more goals for Detroit in that postseason, the first of three championship teams Wilson played on. He would go on to play over 700 regular season and playoff games.


Chris Iorfida

Senior Writer

Chris Iorfida, based in Toronto, has been with CBC since 2002 and written on subjects as diverse as politics, business, health, sports, arts and entertainment, science and technology.