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The elusive playoff goals record is under threat again

Julian Catalfo / theScore

For one fabled night in the 1976 postseason, the Bruins couldn't stop Reggie Leach.

The Flyers sharpshooter wheeled down both wings to snap five pucks past Boston's Gilles Gilbert, exploiting the stand-up goaltending method that ruled the era. The flurry of backhands and wristers rifled by Leach off the rush sent the Broad Street Bullies to a third straight Stanley Cup Final. He only needed three rounds - Philadelphia earned an earlier bye as one of the NHL's top teams - to net 19 goals in 16 games, an enduring playoff record.

One explosive series helped Jari Kurri match Leach. The Oilers' Finnish sensation got to 19 goals in 18 outings by humbling the Black Hawks, written as two words at the time, in the 1985 conference finals. Kurri's three hat tricks and 12 tallies over six feverish games - the goal count in the round favored Edmonton 44-25 - caused suffering for Murray Bannerman, Chicago's occasional All-Star netminder.

Leach and Kurri set career highs in goals (61 and 71, respectively) in the years of their playoff outbursts. Swept in the Cup Final by the Canadiens' budding dynasty, Leach was the first and only skater to collect the Conn Smythe Trophy in a losing effort. Kurri's Oilers won their Cup series in five games.

Their durable record, held jointly for almost 40 years, is being pressured this spring. Zach Hyman, the pure finisher on Connor McDavid's wing, scored his 11th playoff goal in Edmonton's winner-take-all defeat of the Canucks. Hyman slipped behind fatigued defenders to tip Evan Bouchard's wrist shot and widen the lead that sealed an Oilers-Stars conference final.

Different Oilers flirt with the goals record annually. In 2022 and 2023, a sniper's blazing start fueled series triumphs but fizzled against a powerhouse opponent, making the mark unattainable. If Dallas shackles Hyman, he'll join Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane as Edmonton forwards who've followed this trajectory.

Derek Cain / Getty Images

The road to 20 playoff goals is a sprint and a marathon. To threaten Leach and Kurri, a scorer's spree has to persist through to the Cup Final. Stumbling blocks crowd the route.

Two snipers exited this postseason for surprising reasons right before their clubs lost in the Western semis. Colorado's Valeri Nichushkin (nine goals) reportedly failed a drug test and was suspended for six months under the terms of the players' assistance program. Vancouver's Brock Boeser (seven goals) developed a blood clot.

Out east, the Rangers were teetering against the Hurricanes until Chris Kreider's natural hat trick in a nine-minute span set up New York's date with the Panthers in Round 3. He whacked in a rebound, redirected a point shot to the top corner, and freed up his stick to tap in a cross-crease feed.

Josh Lavallee / NHL / Getty Images

Kreider and Hyman both dominate near the net. All seven of Kreider's goals and eight of Hyman's 11 have been scored from the low slot or inside the blue paint, per NHL EDGE. Firing in high volume, Hyman leads the postseason in shots on target (50 or 4.2 per game). He buries them at five-on-five and on the power play by keeping his blade on the ice, ready to one-time, graze, or push the puck over the line when the defense fixates on McDavid or Draisaitl.

Combined with some external twists of fate, Leach's relentlessness in 1976 - he scored in 10 straight games, with the ninth being the barrage against the Bruins - strengthened his hold on the record.

A dangerous challenger, Joe Sakic, entered the 1996 Cup Final with 17 goals but added only one more as the Avalanche swept the Panthers. In 1919, the influenza outbreak that killed a teammate and cut short the championship series limited Canadiens legend Newsy Lalonde to 17 goals in 10 appearances.

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

Four fantastic starts to recent postseasons proved unsustainable.

Draisaitl in 2023: Banked 13 goals through eight games, many with his lightning release from sharp angles. Draisaitl looked capable of surpassing Leach within a couple of rounds, only for the Golden Knights to blank him four straight times to hasten Edmonton's downfall.

Kane in 2022: Tallied five multi-goal games, including two hat tricks, for 12 goals through two series before the Oilers were steamrolled by the Avalanche. Kane was suspended for the elimination game for boarding Nazem Kadri.

Mark Scheifele in 2018: Bagged five multi-score games and 14 total goals before the expansion Golden Knights bounced the Jets in Round 3, which stopped him from equaling the high for goals in the salary-cap era (15) set by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin during Cup runs.

Johan Franzen in 2008: Netted nine goals in a four-game demolition of Colorado but was knocked out of the next round with concussion-like symptoms. He ultimately returned in time to finish with 13 as the Red Wings clinched the title.


Another playoff scoring record - Wayne Gretzky's 47 points in 1985, when he dished 14 primary assists to Kurri - has been invincible for decades. Spurred by Gretzky's unstoppability, the Oilers averaged 5.44 goals in that postseason, and he became the last player to complete the Hart Trophy-Conn Smythe Trophy double.

A target to track in the coming weeks is 36 points - the high for this era that Evgeni Malkin achieved in 2009. Almost half of his output came in a six-game span as the young, ascendant Penguins rallied to stun the Capitals and sweep the Hurricanes en route to a Cup breakthrough.

Malkin's mark narrowly survived challenges from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nikita Kucherov when their teams lifted the chalice.

Averaging 1.5 points over 24 games, as Malkin did in '09, makes his milestone matchable. Several stars - McDavid, Draisaitl, Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Nathan MacKinnon, and David Pastrnak - bested that pace in recent years for a couple of rounds before their teams bowed out of the bracket prematurely.

Three Oilers top the current points leaderboard. Draisaitl (24 through 12 games), McDavid (21), and Bouchard (20) produced at ridiculous rates against the Kings and Canucks. If Edmonton beats Dallas to reach the final, they'll be in position to upstage Malkin's banner year.

Nick Faris is a features writer at theScore.

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