Is Joe Pavelski the greatest ‘Old Man’ playoff performer of all time?

For now, I doubt Joe Pavelski had any idea what he had just accomplished on an individual level. It was probably a blur when he buried one-time power-play goaltender Adin Hill to win Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals in overtime for the Dallas Stars on Thursday night. Pavelski’s team reduced a 3-0 deficit to 3-1. It’s a beginning.

But putting aside the team’s result: Pavelski accomplished something quite remarkable on Thursday night. More than one thing, actually. The goal was 73rd of his playoff career, passing him Alex Ovechkin for the career lead among active players. At 38, Pavelski also became the oldest player to score a knockout game winner to avoid elimination.

But perhaps most impressive of all: Pavelski scored his ninth goal of the 2023 playoffs in just his 12e game. That pushed him past Johnny Buyck in 1973-74 and Martin St. Louis in 2013-14 for the most playoff numbers ever by a player 38 or older. With two more goals, Pavelski would pass 2001-02 Brett Hull for the most playoff goals by anyone 37 or older.

The postseason record for playoff goals by anyone 35 or older? It is also that of Pavelski. He was 13 in Dallas’ run to the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Finals. With four playoff game winners, Pavelski ranks fifth in NHL playoff history with 18 – but he’s scored 11 after turning 30. Earlier this month, he became the second-oldest player to score a postseason hat-trick, falling 49 days short of Bucyk’s mark. Pavelski also had a hat trick in the 2020 playoffs and joins Bucyk, Wayne Gretzky and Maurice Richard as the only players to record multiple postseason hat tricks after turning 35.

Pavelski’s late-career resurgence with the Dallas Stars began to give him Hall of Fame momentum based on his regular-season accomplishments. He broke the 1,000 point mark this season and needs 51 more goals for 500. But if we also factor in what he did in the playoffs, his case becomes much more interesting.

Goaltenders Tim Thomas, Glenn Hall and Patrick Roy and defenseman Scott Stevens won the Conn Smythe Trophy at age 35 or older. Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom was instrumental in the Wings’ 2007-08 Stanley Cup run when he was in his thirties. They possess the greatest playoff efforts of the “Old Guys”. But you could argue that, given multiple seasons of excellence after turning 35, Pavelski is the greatest “former” playoff player in NHL history. At worst, he’s in the top two, right there with Buyck’s Boston Bruins heyday. The one thing Bucyk has done after 35 years that Pavelski has yet to do, of course: win the Stanley Cup.



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