In the moment, I doubt Joe Pavelski had any idea what he’d just accomplished on an individual level. It was probably a blur when he buried a power-play one-timer past goaltender Adin Hill to win Game 4 of the Western Conference Final in overtime for the Dallas Stars Thursday night. Pavelski’s team cut a 3-0 series deficit to 3-1. It’s a start.
But once we set aside the team result: Pavelski accomplished something pretty remarkable Thursday night. More than one thing, actually. The goal was the 73rd of his playoff career, vaulting him past Alex Ovechkin for the career lead among active players. At 38, Pavelski also became the oldest player ever to score an elimination-game winner to stave off elimination.
But perhaps most impressive of all: Pavelski scored his ninth goal of the 2023 playoffs in just his 12th game. That pushed him past Johnny Buyck in 1973-74 and Martin St. Louis in 2013-14 for the most ever in a postseason 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 single-postseason record for playoff goals by anyone 35 or older? That’s Pavelski’s too. He had 13 during Dallas’ run to the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Final. With four game-winners this postseason, Pavelski sits fifth in NHL playoff history with 18 – but he’s scored 11 of those after turning 30. Earlier this month, he became the second-oldest player ever to record a playoff hat trick, falling 49 days short of Bucyk’s mark. Pavelski also had a hat trick during the 2020 playoffs and joins Bucyk, Wayne Gretzky and Maurice Richard as the only players ever to record multiple playoff hat tricks after turning 35.
Pavelski’s late-career resurgence with the Dallas Stars has started to build him some Hall of Fame momentum based on his regular-season accomplishments. He crossed the 1,000-point mark this season and needs 51 more goals for 500. But if we factor in what he’s done in the playoffs, too, his case gets far more interesting.
Goaltenders Tim Thomas, Glenn Hall and Patrick Roy and defenseman Scott Stevens won the Conn Smythe Trophy at 35 or older. Blueliner Nicklas Lidstrom was instrumental in the Wings’ 2007-08 Stanley Cup run in his mid-30s. They own the greatest single-playoff efforts by ‘Old Guys.’ But you could make a case that, factoring in multiple seasons of excellence after turning 35, Pavelski is the greatest overall “old” playoff performer in NHL history. At worst, he’s top two, right there with Buyck’s Boston Bruins heyday. The one thing Bucyk did after 35 that Pavelski hasn’t yet, of course: win a Stanley Cup.
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