The Stanley Cup Final will be played over Fourth of July weekend for the first time, so NHL.com thought it would be a perfect opportunity to vote on the best starting postseason lineup using American players.
Eleven NHL.com staff writers and editors were asked to name one American goalie, two defensemen and three forwards, past or present, they thought were the best to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the defensemen and forward positions, players were ranked in preferred order to break ties. Defensemen were given two points for first-place votes and one point for second-place votes. Forwards were given three points for first-place votes, two points for second-place votes and one point for third-place votes.
Here is the team:
Mike Richter (six of 11 voting points)
Richter helped lead the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 1994, their first in 54 years. He was named on six ballots to earn the starting nod with ease; no other goalie received more than two votes. Among United States-born goalies, Richter ranks third in Stanley Cup Playoffs games played (74) and wins (41), and his nine shutouts are tied for first with Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings. Richter, who was born in Abington, Pennsylvania, went 16-7 with a 2.07 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and four shutouts in 23 games when the Rangers won the Cup.
Others receiving voting points: Ryan Miller 2; Tim Thomas 2; Jonathan Quick 1
Brian Leetch (21 of 33 voting points)
Like Richter, the smooth-skating Leetch had a huge impact for the Rangers in the 1994 postseason, in which he won the Conn Smyth Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs. Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Leetch led all scorers with 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 23 games that postseason. He scored 14 points on the power play and finished with a plus-19 rating. Leetch was consistently solid in the postseason. In 95 games, he scored 97 points (28 goals, 69 assists), including 50 on the power play. Among American defenseman with at least 20 games played in the playoffs, Leetch is the only one to average more than a point per game (1.02); Dustin Byfuglien is second (0.76). Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009, Leetch was selected first on 10 of 11 ballots.
Chris Chelios (10 voting points)
No American defenseman has played in more games (266), scored more goals (31), assists (113) or points (144) or had more penalty minutes (423) in the postseason than Chelios. Born in Chicago, Chelios played 26 seasons in the NHL and is a three-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman (1988-89, 1992-93, 1995-96). He won the Stanley Cup three times, (Montreal Canadiens, 1996; Detroit Red Wings, 2002, 2008) and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.
Others receiving voting points: Phil Housley 1; Mark Howe 1
Patrick Kane (31 of 66 voting points)
The Chicago Blackhawks right wing has scored 132 points (52 goals, 80 assists) in 136 postseason games and leads all active American players in assists and points. The 32-year-old is third on the all-time list in points among American forwards behind Brett Hull (190) and Mike Modano (146). Kane has scored 11 game-winning goals in the playoffs, including in overtime to win the 2010 Stanley Cup against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6, ending a 49-year championship drought for the Blackhawks. Born in Buffalo, Kane has won the Stanley Cup three times (2010, 2013, 2015) and won the Conn Smythe in 2015 when he tied for the NHL lead in points (23) with Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring 11 goals and 12 assists in 23 games.
Mike Modano (15 voting points)
No American forward has more playoff assists than Modano, who scored 88 in 176 games, one more than Brett Hull scored in 202 games. The center is second in points (146) behind Hull (190) and reached the Stanley Cup Final three teams, with the Minnesota North Stars in 1991 and the Dallas Stars in 1999 and 2000. Born in Livonia, Michigan, Modano scored 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in 23 games to lead the Stars to the Cup in 1999 and scored at least 20 points in each of those three runs to the Final. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014
Pat Lafontaine (12 voting points)
The center had a 0.91 points-per-game average, scoring 63 points (26 goals, 37 assists) in 69 playoff games. Only four American forwards who have appeared in at least 60 NHL postseason games have had a higher average: Kevin Stevens (1.03), Kane (0.97), Hull (0.94) and Craig Janney (0.92). Born in St. Louis, Lafontaine scored 1,013 points (468 goals, 545 assists) in 865 NHL regular-season games during his 15-season NHL career. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.
Others receiving voting points: Brett Hull 2; John LeClair 2; Keith Tkachuk 2; Joe Pavelski 1, Kevin Stevens 1