There have been many heroes in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Stéphane Matteau's Game 7 overtime winning goal versus the New Jersey Devils, along with the Messier guarantee, and Brian Leetch's Conn Smythe trophy winning performance helped the 1994 New York Rangers end a 54 year Cup drought. Martin Gelinas scored three series winning goals to help the Calgary Flames reach the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. Claude Lemieux scored 80 career postseason goals while winning four Stanley Cups with three different teams and will go down in history as one of the greatest playoff performers of all time. Bobby Baun scored an overtime goal with a broken leg. The list goes on and on.
The postseason has made the careers of many, but it has also broken the careers and hearts of many more. So what about those performances on the wrong side of history? For every playoff hero there is a playoff goat. For every Ron Hextall there's a Roman Čechmánek. For every Jean-Sebastien Giguere there's a Robert Esche. For every Antti Niemi there's, well, there's an Antti Niemi.
Subpar playoff performances aren't just limited to bad players. Even the legends of the game have had their missteps. Ten years after winning the Conn Smythe trophy, Brian Leetch allowed a pass to get by him and give way to a Jeremy Roenick series winning goal. Patrick Roy had his statue of liberty goal versus the Red Wings in 2002. Martin Brodeur had his dropped stick goal against the Ducks in 2003. Any player, coach, or even official can have a bad postseason, series, game, period, shift, or singular moment. However, when your gaffe leads to a team's heartbreaking playoff exit, it's hard not to shoulder the blame.
Here are the top 15 goats in Stanley Cup Playoff history.
15. Harold Snepsts
With the Vancouver Canucks up 5-4 with seven minutes to play in the 1982 Stanley Cup Final, Canucks defenceman Harold Snepsts collided with goaltender Richard Brodeur, leading to Mike Bossy tying the game for the New York Islanders. In the dying moments of the first overtime Snepts tried to clear the the zone and put the puck on Bossy's stick. Bossy scored the overtime winner to complete a hat trick with two seconds left. The Islanders went on to sweep the series in four games. While the Canucks were heavy underdogs against the Islanders, one could only imagine what it would have done for the team's psyche had they been able to steal Game 1 in Long Island.
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13 Dan Cloutier
With the score tied at one in Game 3 of the 2002 first round Western Conference matchup between the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings, Canucks goalie Dan Cloutier let in a Nicklas Lidstrom slapshot from centre ice. Along with being the game winning goal in a 3-1 Red Wings victory, the goal would be the turning point of the series. After winning the first two games, Vancouver lost four straight and Detroit took the series in six games. The Red Wings carried that momentum all the way to a Stanley Cup.
12 Ty Conklin
The trade deadline addition of Dwayne Roloson helped the Edmonton Oilers reach the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, but after Roloson suffered a playoff ending injury in Game 1, Ty Conklin came on in relief. With the game tied at four in the final minute, Conklin blindly tried to backhand the puck out of the zone from behind the net. The puck went off the skate of defenceman Jason Smith and straight to Carolina Hurricanes forward Rod Brind'Amour for the game winner. Jussi Markkanen replaced Conklin for the remainder of the series and after the Oilers lost Game 7, the team declined the option on Conklin's contract.
11 Roberto Luongo
Luongo backstopped the 2011 Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final, but it was his performance on the road in the Final that had everyone talking for all of the wrong reasons. Luongo posted two shutouts in the first three games in Vancouver, but in three games in Boston, Luongo allowed eight goals in one game and was pulled in the other two. The Canucks lost the series after Luongo gave up three goals on 20 shots in Game 7. After the Final, Luongo's performance was overshadowed when Canucks' fans proceeded to burn the city to the ground.
10 Patrick Lalime
The 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs marked the fourth meeting in five years between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. In the series deciding seventh game, Senators goaltender Patrick Lalime gave up two questionable goals to the Leafs' Joe Nieuwendyk and was pulled after the first period. The Leafs went on to win the game 4-1 and picked up their third playoff series victory over Lalime. The Senators traded the goaltender the following offseason.
T10. Roman Čechmánek
The Philadelphia Flyers have had many horrific postseason goaltending performances over the years and the play of Roman Čechmánek ranks right up there. In the 2003 playoffs Čechmánek made many questionable decisions. In a first round playoff matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the goaltender let in a goal after bending down to pick up his catching glove while the play was still in his own end. However, it was his play in the second round versus the Ottawa Senators that had Flyers fans pulling out their hair. Čechmánek posted two shutouts, but allowed 16 goals, including a number of soft goals, in the other four games en route to losing the series in six games. Čechmánek was subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Kings.
9 T10. Ilya Bryzgalov
As bad as Roman Čechmánek's played in the postseason, Ilya Bryzgalov was equally as bad. Bryzgalov posted an abysmal .887 SV% and 3.46 GAA in the 2012 playoffs on the way to a second round loss to the New Jersey Devils. Bryzgalov put the nail in his own team's coffin in a 3-1 Game 5 loss when he put a clearing attempt off Devils forward David Clarkson and into his own net resulting in the series winning goal. The Flyers missed the playoffs the following season and Bryzgalov was bought out. Bryzgalov was terrible in the first round against Pittsburgh as well that year, but luckily for him, Marc-Andre Fleury was worse. Unfortunately for him, his counterpart in the next round was Martin Brodeur.
8 Daniel Alfredsson
In the closing seconds of the second period of Game 4 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Final with the score tied at two and the Ottawa Senators trailing the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in the series, Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson shot the puck at Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer. Niedermayer was not injured nor was Alfredsson penalized, but the incident awoke the Ducks. Niedermayer gave an inspiring locker room speech that helped the Ducks win the game 3-2. They then returned to Anaheim and the Ducks closed the series in five games.
7 Chris Phillips
The Ottawa Senators have the unique distinction of having two goats in the same playoff series. Trailing 2-1 in the second period of Game 5 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, Senators defenceman Chris Phillips got the puck tangled up in the feet of goalie Ray Emery and put it into his own net. The Ducks would win the game 6-2 to clinch the Cup and Phillips's own goal would go down as the series winner. It's rumored that Travis Moen, credited with the goal, sent Phillips a fruit basket after the game, but that's unconfirmed.
6 NHL Replay Room
The Tampa Bay Lightning won the 2004 Stanley Cup Final in seven games, but many Calgary Flames fans maintain that the Cup should have been theirs. With the score tied at two in game six, Martin Gelinas redirected the puck towards the net and Nikolai Khabibulin attempted to kick the puck out before it crossed the goal line. Instant replay was inconclusive in determining whether the puck had crossed the line, and the goal was never allowed, but Flames fans remain strong in their belief that the call cost them the Stanley Cup.
5 Marty McSorley
The Los Angeles Kings took Game 1 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final and were ahead 2-1 in the dying minutes of the second game before Kings defenceman Marty McSorley was penalized for playing with an illegal curve on his stick. On the power play that followed, Montreal Canadiens defenceman Eric Desjardins scored the tying goal. Desjardins would then score the overtime winner and complete a hat trick. The Kings never recovered as the Habs continued to work their 1993 overtime magic. The Habs went on to win the Stanley Cup in five games.
4 NHL Rulebook
When Brett Hull scored the Dallas Stars Cup winning goal in triple overtime of Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final, many fans of the Buffalo Sabres were left screaming "no goal!" Hull's foot was in the crease and under a rule at that time the goal should have been disallowed. The NHL claimed to have sent a memo to the teams clarifying that a player could be in the crease if he had control of the puck, but many fans were still upset. The NHL abolished the rule for the following season.
3 Steve Smith
With 14:46 to play in Game 7 of the 1986 Smythe Division Final between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, Oilers rookie defenceman Steve Smith tried to clear the puck out of his own zone. The puck went off goaltender Grant Fuhr and into his own net giving the Calgary Flames a 3-2 lead. The mistake would end up being the game and series winning goal, sending the Flames to the Stanley Cup Final and ending the Oilers' shot at three consecutive Cups.
2 Don Cherry
The Don Cherry coached Boston Bruins were up 4-3 with 2:34 to go in Game 7 of the 1979 Stanley Cup semi-finals when the team was caught with too many men on the ice. On the ensuing power play Montreal Canadiens forward Guy Lafleur tied the game and 9:33 into overtime, Yvon Lambert scored the game winning goal to send the Canadiens to their fourth straight Stanley Cup Final. Don Cherry took the blame for the costly penalty and was fired before the next season.
1 Kerry Fraser
In overtime of Game 6 of the 1993 Clarence Campbell Conference Final, with the Toronto Maple Leafs up 3-2 on the Los Angeles Kings, Doug Gilmour took a high stick from Wayne Gretzky that cut his chin open. Referee Kerry Fraser declined to call a penalty on the Great One and moments later Gretzky scored the game winner forcing a seventh and deciding game. Gretzky would score a hat trick in game seven to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup Final and Leaf fans have never forgiven Kerry Fraser for costing them a shot at the Cup. The fact that this call became the defining moment of Fraser's career and remains a sore spot for Leaf fans, more than 20 years after the fact, makes it the clear cut - pun intended - number one on our list.
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