When you think of the NHL’s dominant playmakers, Joe Pavelski is likely the first name that comes to mind.
The veteran spent most of his career with the San Jose Sharks, a franchise notorious for falling short of postseason expectations. The Dallas Stars have had playoff success since Pavelski joined, but they haven’t won it all.
On Thursday night, Pavelski secured his chance to do so this year with an overtime win.
That was Pavelski’s 73rd career game goal, the highest total among NHL players. Some of those totals can be attributed to the 38-year-old’s longevity, but he has two more goals than Sidney Crosby in the same number of playoff games (180). He has six more hits than Evgeni Malkin in three more contests.
Pavelski’s 73 season goals are tied for 13th in NHL history.
Of the 12 players before him, only two are not in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Jaromir Jagr and Claude Lemieux. When Jagr was eligible, Lemieux played for three different Stanley Cup champions and appeared in 234 playoff games.
Pavelski not only filled the net at the most important time of the year, but also made crucial moments for the team. His 18 game-winning goals in the playoffs are tied for fourth all-time.
The all-time leaders (Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hall) won’t reach 24, but unless Pavelski retires after this season, there’s a good chance he’ll break his current tie with Maurice “Rocket” Richards and draw even with Lamieux and Joe Sakic at 19.
Basically, we’re talking about statistical issues here because no one has considered Pavelski an NHL legend. That said, the results of the competition are impressive and worthy of recognition.
They are highly unlikely given his career history. Pavelski ranks 66th on the NHL’s all-time regular season goals list. He has just one 40-goal haul to his name and has conceded 30 in 12 of 17 campaigns. He was a former 205th-overall pick, never had a point-per-game streak, and usually played second-to-biggest stars.
In San Jose, that was Joe Thornton, Brett Burns and Patrick Marleau. Along with the stars, Jason Robertson and Miro Heiskanen beat the troubled veteran. Pavelski is the type of player that a Sharks or Stars fan will never forget, but he’s not an era-defining star.
However, when it comes to winning games, he ranks among the players who fit that description. In 50 years, hockey fans have always looked at NHL postseason leaderboards like Connor McDavid, Connor Bedard, Connor McDavid Jr. – and perhaps another male name Connor – Pavelski will be placed between them.
Those fans asked, “Who was Joe Pavelski?” They ask the question. And the answer will be someone who finds a way when it matters, even if his teammates can’t.