During last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin made had a spot-on take with regards to the difference between the regular season and the playoffs.
"There are players that get you in the playoffs, and players that get you through the playoffs."
Bergevin was talking about the late season trade deadline additions he had made at the trade deadline, but he could have been talking about any sport, at any level. The history of sport has shown us time and time again that once the postseason rolls around, the usual suspects are often pushed aside by the surprise emergence of relatively unknown players who strive under the brightest of spotlights to solidify their place in the annals of their sport's history.
But then, there are the players who come out of absolutely nowhere to steal the show once the postseason rolls around.
A "surprise" playoff hero can emerge over several days or weeks, making their mark over an entire postseason, but most make their mark in one impactful swoop - a buzzer-beating three-pointer, a shocking overtime winning goal, or a 14th inning walk-off home-run. Either way, there's no denying their shockingly massive contribution to their teams' success.
As the playoffs go on in the NHL and NBA, we're already seeing the emergence of new heroes to add to the list of nobodies who become somebodies overnight. It's easy to root for the superstars of your favorite teams, but there's nothing quite like watching a role player step up in crunch time and give their team the boost needed to get over the hump during the most important time of the year.
20 Malcolm Butler
What are the chances that two guys named Malcolm would make such significant impacts in back-to-back Super Bowls?
The first was linebacker Malcolm Smith, who was the MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII in the Seahawks blowout of the Denver Broncos two years ago. This past February it was Malcolm Butler who stole the show - and the Hawks chance at a repeat - with an incredible interception of Russell Wilson in the final seconds of the Patriots fourth Super Bowl victory since 2001. Butler was an undrafted free-agent playing in the shadow of Darrelle Revis and the rest of the vaunted New England defense, but it was Butler who stepped up to make the pivotal play that effectively won the game for New England.
19 Dale Weise
Midway through the 2013-2014 regular season, Dale Weise felt like a paper bag drifting through the wind in Vancouver. Head coach John Tortorella had relegated Weise to press-box hotdog-eating duty, and it didn't look like he was going to get a chance soon. Weise ended up being moved to Montreal for Raphael Diaz, which prompted many Habs fans to ask "who the heck is Dale Weise?"
Fast forward to today, and Weise is a household name in Montreal. He's solidified his status as a playoff performer with a Game 1 overtime winner in last season's first-round and followed that up with a virtuoso two-goal performance in Game 3 of the Canadiens first-round defeat of the Ottawa Senators.
18 Ozzie Smith
Ozzie Smith might seem like a peculiar name for this list, considering Smith played 19 seasons in the Major Leagues and is a member of the Hall of Fame. Smith lands on this list because this moment of glory may have been more improbable than many of the others on this list.
17 John Paxson
16 Jean-Sebastien Giguere
15 Gar Heard
14 Martin Gelinas
Martin Gelinas is never the first name that comes to mind when you think of big-time NHL scorers, but it should be one of the first that comes up when talking about the top playoff heroes of the past two decades.
13 Sterling Hitchcock
12 Ron Artest
11 Francisco Cabrera
10 Maxime Talbot
Maxime Talbot is a well-respected NHL grinder, but there's a reason he's bounced around from team-to-team over the past couple of seasons - he's nothing more than a role player on the majority of NHL rosters.
9 Fernando Pisani
8 Aaron Boone
For a younger of generation of Yankee fans, Aaron Boone is one the names on a list of recent heroes that includes Derek Jeter, Mariano Riviera and several other Bronx Bombers who've helped carry The Evil Empire into the new millennium. Boone was never on the level of the aforementioned Hall of Famers, but for one fleeting moment in 2003, Aaron Boone was the king of New York.
7 Cam Ward
6 Larry Brown
5 Ken Dryden
4 Vernon Perry
3 Timmy Smith
2 David Tyree
1 Patrick Roy
Patrick Roy did plenty to solidify his reputation as an NHL legend over the course of his Hall of Fame career, but it all began with his incredible performance during the 1986 playoffs as a rookie with the Montreal Canadiens.
Roy had been average at best during the regular season, finishing his rookie campaign with 23 wins and a 3.35 GAA, but he stonewalled everyone in his path during the postseason with 15 wins and 1.92 GAA, helping the Canadiens to their 23rd Stanley Cup in perhaps the most unlikeliest of ways.
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