The New England Patriots won a fifth Super Bowl title on Sunday night with quarterback Tom Brady earning MVP honors for the fourth time. Brady put himself firmly in the GOAT discussion and also cemented his legacy as one of the best Big Game players of all time. So who is his NHL equivalent?
One man has his name engraved on the Conn Smythe Trophy three times: Patrick Roy. And he did it in three different decades. When Roy won his first two Conn Smythes, with Montreal in 1986 and 1993, he carried both teams to glory. The '93 Habs won an amazing 10 straight overtime games, all with Roy backstopping them at the other end of the ice. Is Roy the purest talent ever to play his position? I say no – that's Dominik Hasek – but if I had to win one game, my first pick at any position is Roy. The man lived for big games. His 151 playoff victories are an NHL record. The most among active goalies: Henrik Lundqvist with just 55. (Matt Larkin)
If I need to win one game, I want Hasek on my side. Time and again, he was one of the most intimidating opponents in NHL history, even though it wasn't in a traditional physical way. Look how far he took the Buffalo Sabres in 1999. Now look at the top scorers on that team: Miro Satan with 66 points, followed by Mike Peca and Michal Grosek. Recall the 1998 Olympics, how he took on the best in the world – including Canada and Russia – and won gold for the Czechs. No one could smother an offense like Hasek and with him on my side, I feel like my team has the game won before it even begins. (Ryan Kennedy)
In a one-game, winner-takes-all showdown, one would want a player who can have an impact at both ends of the ice and has a track record of coming up big at the right time. For that reason, Joe Sakic can’t be overlooked.
Over the course of his Hall of Fame career, Sakic won two Stanley Cups, the Hart Trophy and a Conn Smythe, and he had a knack for scoring big goals. Sakic’s 86 regular season game-winning goals are good for 21st on the all-time list, but he really turned it on the playoffs. His 19 post-season game-winners rank third behind only Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull, and Sakic holds the record with eight playoff overtime goals. Further proof of Sakic’s big-game ability came at the 2002 Olympics. In the final against Team USA, Sakic registered two goals and four points, including the game-winning tally, as Canada captured gold. Sakic was named tournament MVP. (Jared Clinton)
Really? Is this even a discussion? I’ll take the greatest player to ever play the game, thank you very much. Yes, I’ll take the guy who would still be the NHL’s leading scorer even if he had never scored a single goal. I’ll take the guy who has a combined 1,000 NHL goals in the regular season and playoffs and the guy who has 3,369 combined regular-season and NHL points in pro hockey. Because if I’m going into a big game, the thing I want to do more than anything else is strike fear into the hearts of my opponent and there’s nobody who did that more than Gretzky. When Gretzky stepped on the ice during his prime, the Oilers were often already up 2-0 before the puck was even dropped. I’ll take the guy who scored shorthanded in overtime with a slapshot over Mike Vernon’s shoulder in the 1988 playoffs. I’ll take the guy who was the best player on the ice in arguably the best three games in hockey history, the 1987 Canada Cup final. I’ll take the guy who dominated the world juniors at (almost) 17, the WHA at 18 and the NHL at 19. Yes, I’ll take the greatest player there ever was. (Ken Campbell)
No player can singularly influence a game more than a goalie, and no goalie was more clutch in the playoffs more than Patrick Roy. The man holds the records for playoffs wins by a huge margin (151 to Martin Brodeur’s 113), and he almost single-handedly won the Stanley Cup for the Canadiens in both 1986 and 1993 (and added a third Conn Smythe with the Avalanche in 2001 while winning his fourth championship). (Edward Fraser)
Goalie Charlie Gardiner was on his death bed – literally it would turn out a few months later – when he willed the Chicago Black Hawks to the Stanley Cup in 1934. Captain of the team, he was playing with a tonsillar infection that led to his death. His fever was so high in the playoffs, he’d slump against the net during stoppages in play to rest. (Brian Costello)