This is the final segment in a four-part series. For Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here . For Part 3, click here.
15) KEN DRYDEN
258-57-74, 46 shutouts, 2.24 GAA, .919 save percentage
6 Stanley Cups (1971, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979), 5 Vezina (1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979), 1 Conn Smythe (1971), Calder (1972), 5 First-Team All-Star (1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979), 1 Second-Team All-Star (1972)
Ken Dryden is arguably the smartest intellect to ever play in the NHL. Hell, this is a fellow who earned a law degree, took a season-long break to work as a legal clerk, has authored numerous acclaimed books, was a Member of Parliament for 7 years, former President of the Maple Leafs, and is a member of the Order of Canada (to name only a few of his off-ice accomplishments). As a hockey player, he wasn’t too shabby either. In such a brief career that lasted only 7 full seasons, his achievements are astonishing, as he played with the most dominant dynasty in league history.
Dryden was actually drafted by the Boston Bruins when he was only 17 in 1964, but his rights were traded soon thereafter to Montreal. In fact, Dryden wasn’t even aware that he had been drafted by Boston until he was a few seasons into his tenure with the Habs. Called up late in the 1970-71 regular season, his first action came opposite his brother Dave, who was in goal for the Sabres. Dryden appeared in 6 games, winning them all, and his towering 6’4 frame led to coach Al MacNeil naming him the starter for the playoffs ahead of Rogie Vachon.
Dryden shut down the Bruins, who were without question the best team in the league throughout the regular season, and would lead the Canadiens all the way past the Blackhawks in the finals, winning the Conn Smythe trophy. Because he had only appeared in 6 regular season contests, he wasn’t eligible for Rookie of the Year honours, something he would earn the following season.
After a solid tertiary season that produced another championship and his first of five Vezina Trophies, Dryden sat out the entire 1973-74 campaign, as he felt he wasn’t being paid his worth, choosing to instead work as an aforementioned legal clerk in Toronto.
He returned to the lineup the following year, as the Canadiens had conceded 56 more goals than in 1972-73, and Dryden would remain the starter for five more seasons before retiring in his prime at the age of 31. His final four seasons from 1975 to 1979 resulted in him winning the Vezina in each of those seasons, being named to the First All-Star Team, and most importantly, winning the Cup each time.
The 1976-77 Canadiens, considered to be the greatest team in the history of the National Hockey League by many historians, saw Dryden go 41-6-8, with a 2.14 GAA and 10 shutouts (the only time between 1975 to 1996 that a goaltender posted double digit shutouts). He appeared in fewer than 400 regular season contests, but won an astounding 201 more games than he lost (losing only 57 games in 8 seasons, plus 32 in the playoffs; only 89 total losses in his professional career).
Though some claim that Dryden was overrated in that he had over a dozen Hall of Famers in front of him, resulting in him typically facing fewer than 20 shots a game (also considering the Vezina was awarded to the goaltender who conceded the fewest goals), I will play devil’s advocate and argue that keeping your nerve and being called upon to make a key save after going minutes without any action is far more difficult.
Retiring with many years still ahead of him must also have been difficult, but Dryden has followed his hockey career with accomplishments that make even his highly touted statistics seem subordinate.
Source: HHOF Images
14) CLINT BENEDICT
191-142-28, 58 shutouts, 2.32 GAA
4 Stanley Cups (1920, 1921, 1923, 1926)
If you’ve heard of Clint Benedict at all, it is most likely due to one fact: being the first goaltender to ever wear a mask in a professional hockey game. For five games between February and March of 1930 (his final season in the league), “Praying Benny” wore a crude leather beak-protector for the Montreal Maroons that contained a giant nose piece. It was so robust that it obscured his vision on low shots, and he ultimately had it discarded.
On March 4, he got bumped on the nose during a goal mouth scramble, and was forced the leave the game, blood trickling from his face. It turned out to be his final NHL game.
Aside from the mask fame, Benedict was also a hell of a goalie. Homegrown from Ottawa, he joined the Senators organization in 1912 while they were still a part of the NHA. He was the goaltender during the Sens’ opening-night NHL loss to the Canadiens, dropping a 7-4 contest to Georges Vezina and the Habs. Despite managing only a 9-13 record in the inaugural NHL campaign, Benedict innovated something else; something of the utmost necessity for goalies moving forward.
Prior to January 12th, 1918, goaltenders were forbidden to fall to their knees or rears to stop the puck, having to resort solely to a stand up style in the most literal sense of the name. Benedict would disguise tumbles to look as though they were accidents when he would sprawl out to make a save along the ice. He did it so often, confusing referees and opponents alike, that league president Frank Calder revoked the rule, allowing goaltenders to “stand on their heads” to make saves if they like. Yet another key innovation because of Clint!
The Senators owned the NHL’s first ‘dynasty’, winning three Cups in four seasons. Benedict was at the forefront of their success, becoming the first ever goaltender to post back-to-back shutouts along the way. He led the league in wins and shutouts for six consecutive seasons.
His risqué endeavours continued as well, as he would push the envelope as far as he could, be it throwing the puck down the ice with his bare hands, hanging a horseshoe on the inner webbing of his net, or getting rip-roaring drunk before games. His supposed invincibility caught up with him, and after a legal battle that resulted in the defamation of both he and Senators management, he was traded to the Maroons before their debut season in 1924.
In their second season, the Maroons would hoist the Stanley Cup, the fourth and final title in Benedict’s career. He posted a paltry 0.75 GAA during the final series against the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League. He was the runner up to George Hainsworth for the first ever Vezina trophy awarded in 1927.
He was still durable into his late 30s, as his statistics during the fabled ‘Year of the Shutout’ in 1928-29 included 11 shutouts and a 1.49 GAA. Leaving the league in 1930 after the historic mask undertakings, he had accumulated 58 shutouts in 362 games, and is the main reason for when you hear the expression ‘that goalie stood on their head’.
Source: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images
13) TURK BRODA
302-224-101, 62 shutouts, 2.53 GAA
5 Stanley Cups (1942, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951), 2 Vezina (1941, 1948), 2 First-Team All-Star (1941, 1948), 1 Second-Team All-Star (1942)
This is where the list gets tough. I claim that Broda is the greatest Maple Leaf goaltender of all-time, and he has the stats to back it up. Most games played (150 more than 2nd place), most wins (by 85), most losses (not that it helps this argument, but whatever), and most shutouts (27 more than 2nd place). To own these records is remarkable, given that the Maple Leafs have had 92 individuals tend the goal dating back to 1927.
Broda (born with the given name of Walter), was nicknamed Turk due to the many freckles that adorned his face as a youth. It was originally “Turkey Egg”, then “Turkey”, then “Turk”. He was invited to the Red Wings’ training camp in 1933, though the chances of him cracking the roster were next to none. He still gained valuable experience and surprised a few folks, including Jack Adams.
He made his big league debut three seasons later for the Leafs, who acquired him in 1935 for a handsome sum of $7500. He would go unchallenged for the starter’s role until his penultimate season. Broda would often feature in each of the 48 games during the regular season in the late 1930s and early 1940s, winning his first of two Vezinas in 1940-41. He put up excellent numbers of 28-14-6, with a GAA of exactly 2.00 and 5 shutouts.
The following season, he won another 27 games, and starred in one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history. The Leafs became the first team to ever claw their way back from a 3-0 series deficit in the finals vs. the upstart Red Wings, victorious in the ensuing four games to win the 1942 Stanley Cup. Broda conceded only 1 goal in the final two games as the Leafs remain the only team to accomplish this feat in the finals.
After another impressive season in 1942-43, Broda enlisted in the military and fought in World War II, not returning to the Leafs net until 1945-46. He picked up right where he left off, and would help the Leafs three-peat from 1947 to 1949, putting up a combined 85 wins along the way, with 14 shutouts, plus an amazing playoff GAA of 2.14. His overall playoff goals against average upon his retirement sat at a whopping 1.98, along with 13 goose eggs.
In 1949, Broda was victorious in the famous ‘Battle of the Bulge’ over boss Conn Smythe. At only 5’9, Broda carried around a stocky frame that could top 200 lbs. Smythe ordered Broda to slim down to 190 with little notice, threatening to call in backups Al Rollins and Gil Mayer to replace him long-term if he didn’t achieve the weigh-in. After putting in hard work, he was successful, though he always claimed that the scales must have been rigged in his favour.
Broda’s fifth and final Cup came in 1951, in which he started the majority of playoff games despite starting only 31 in the regular season, as Rollins began slowly phasing out the aging veteran. Broda played half a game in 1951-52 and called it quits at the age of 38, probably not expecting to still have the most crucial franchise goaltending records 70 years later. He died of a heart attack at the age of 58 in 1972, five years after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Source: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images
12) FRANK BRIMSEK
252-182-80, 40 shutouts, 2.70 GAA
2 Stanley Cups (1939, 1941), 2 Vezina (1939, 1942), Calder (1939), 2 First-Team All-Star (1939, 1942), 6 Second-Team All-Star (1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1948)
Brimsek is another example of a phenomenal goalie during the 1940s who gave up his position on the team to enlist and serve overseas. While it could pose as a detriment to their form, it clearly must have been what goaltenders such as Brimsek, Broda, Sugar Jim Henry, and Chuck Rayner thought was right. Shout out to Pat Tillman. Born in Eveleth, Minnesota, Brimsek grew up playing baseball with future NHL goalie Mike Karakas (Brimsek was a pitcher). His career spanned only ten seasons, but he was named to the all-star team eight times, an extraordinary achievement.
Tiny Thompson had been the Bruins star netminder for a decade. Brimsek, like Broda, had attended the Red Wings’ training camp despite knowing that there was no room for him to make the team, though he garnered valuable experience. Brimsek was called up to the Bruins after Thompson suffered an injury during the 1938-39 preseason. He won his debut 3-2 over Broda and the Leafs. He was sent back down after Thompson had healed, but GM Art Ross had seen enough to be swayed that it was time for a change in the Boston goal, and he traded Thompson to Detroit and made Brimsek the full time starter.
The Boston supporters were not quick to welcome Brimsek, as he was jeered and cursed at, for Thompson had been a fan favourite. They were soon turning their jeers into cheers as Brimsek would have a mind-blowing rookie season, earning 6 shutouts in his first 8 games as a full-time starter. This led to him being nicknamed “Mr. Zero”, as well as winning him the Calder, Vezina, First-Team All-Star honours, and the Bruins’ second ever Stanley Cup.
Brimsek would finish the season with 10 shutouts, and a fantastic goals against average of 1.56. The following two seasons, he would feature in every game, keep his GAA at exactly 2.00, and win another Cup in 1941. His second and final Vezina came in 1942, after he went 24-17-6, with 3 shutouts and a GAA of 2.35.
After missing two full seasons during the wartime, Brimsek returned to a Bruins team that didn’t have the same spark and lustre from when he left. His record would hover just above .500, and a 1946 Stanley Cup finals loss to Montreal would be the closest Brimsek would ever come to sipping champagne from Stan again.
He was selected to play in the first annual All-Star game in 1947 (previous ‘all-star’ games were one-offs, typically a benefit game due to tragic circumstances), and was a finalist for the 1948 Hart trophy in thanks to single-handedly keeping the Bruins afloat with 23 wins. His 10 month-old son passed away during the 1948-49 season, and his play would subtly decline as his focus didn’t appear to be all there.
His final season in the league was spent with the lowly Chicago Blackhawks, before retiring from the league in 1950. He twice led the league in wins, shutouts, and goals against average, and is second to Glenn Hall in all-star team appearances. He still ranks 4th in Bruins playoff victories, very impressive given that series were far shorter than they are today, and became the first ever American NHL player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966. Frank Brimsek died in 1998.
11) TINY THOMPSON
284-194-75, 81 shutouts, 2.08 GAA
1 Stanley Cup (1929), 4 Vezina (1930, 1933, 1936, 1938), 2 First-Team All-Star (1936, 1938), 2 Second-Team All-Star (1931, 1935)
You knew it had to happen. I can’t just talk about the fall of Tiny Thompson in Boston and not show him any love for all the success he had in his 12 year career. It’s a shame what time does; those who witnessed Tiny excel (born with the given name Cecil) have long passed, and his legacy has been reduced to statistics and some blessed photos (including that amazing snap above; Thompson sprawling wearing no visible source of shoulder pads, pre-historic playing gloves, and the coolest Bruins jersey in existence).
Born in BC and raised in Alberta, he didn’t make his NHL debut until the age of 25. He was nicknamed “Tiny” during his teenage years, as he was in actuality the tallest player on his hockey team at 5’10. The nickname stuck during his pro days, the meaning being changed to indicate the odds of shooters slotting the puck past him.
His rookie season was the historic and numerously referred to ‘Year of the Shutout’, in which goals against averages were so low and shutouts were so frequent, that the league had to allow forward passing in the offensive zone the following season to put some goals up on the board. Thompson went a scintillating 26-13-5, with 12 shutouts and a jaw-dropping 1.15 GAA.
The Bruins would go all the way, winning their first Stanley Cup in team history. Thompson conceded only 3 goals in 5 playoff matchups, seemingly poised for a long and fruitful career. The following season, he would win his first of four Vezina trophies, setting a league record with 38 wins in 44 games (yes, that’s correct). His .875 winning percentage from that season is still a record to this day.
The Bruins finished 38-5-1, Thompson appearing in every contest, though they ultimately choked in the finals, losing 3-0 and 4-3 to the Canadiens in a best of 3 series. He had accumulated a record 7 straight playoff victories to start his career, but the B’s were baffled by the Habs to begin the 1930s.
Thompson would continue his superb play, earning 9 and then 11 shutouts in 1931-32 and 1932-33, respectively. The latter year would see him take home another Vezina, and he dueled Lorne Chabot and the Maple Leafs in a thrilling six-overtime playoff game until Thompson surrendered a goal to Ken Doraty after blocking an alleged 111 shots.
Despite being eliminated and suffering a losing record in the 1933 postseason, Thompson still posted a GAA of 1.23. He was a competent puck handler, and despite the shoddy equipment back in the 1930s, he seemed to have mastered the glove save. He even was the first goaltender to make a direct pass up the ice that led to a goal, giving him the first ‘true’ assist.
Incredibly durable, Thompson missed only 1 game in his first 10 seasons, that being in 1931-32. As noted in our #12 entry, an untimely injury during the preseason in 1938 and Frank Brimsek’s solid relief performances led to Thompson’s trade to Detroit at the age of 35. He played his final two seasons for the Red Wings, amassing a record slightly below .500, with 7 shutouts and a respectable save percentage.
Upon his 1940 retirement, he had led the league in wins 5 times, shutouts 4 times, fewest goals against 4 times, and games played in all but 2 seasons. He still remains atop the Bruins list for shutouts and goals against average (his career GAA in fact 5th ALL-TIME), and is second to Tuukka Rask in team wins. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1959 and would live until the age of 77.
10) ED BELFOUR
484-320-111-14, 76 shutouts, 2.50 GAA, .906 save percentage
1 Stanley Cup (1999), 2 Vezina (1991, 1993), 4 Jennings (1991, 1993, 1995, 1999), Calder (1991), Save Percentage Award (2000), 2 First-Team All-Star (1991, 1993), 1 Second-Team All-Star (1995)
Just like Curtis Joseph, Ed Belfour was another legendary goaltender during the 1990s who went undrafted. “Eddie the Eagle” is 4th all-time in regular season wins, just sixteen shy of 500. Signed by Chicago, he made 23 appearances during 1988-89 before cementing himself as the starter by the 1990 playoffs.
The following season was still classified as his ‘rookie’ season, and he made good by winning the Calder, Vezina, Jennings, and was a finalist for the Hart. His numbers included 43 wins in 74 games, a .910 save percentage, a shocking 2.47 goals against average (in an era where 3.50s were still the norm), along with four clean sheets. It was the last season until Carey Price’s historical 2014-15 campaign in which a goalie led the league in save percentage, wins, and fewest goals against.
His play throughout the following few seasons ensured that 1990-91 was no fluke. Dominik Hasek was the same age as Belfour, and was his backup throughout the Blackhawks’ run to the 1992 Stanley Cup final. Belfour had a tough start to Game 4, forcing to Hasek to replace him and dazzle, though Chicago was still swept by the likes of Lemieux, Jagr, Stevens, Trottier, Francis and Samuelsson.
Hasek was sent to Buffalo during the ensuing offseason, and Belfour would respond by winning the Vezina and Jennings again, with 7 shutouts and a 2.59 GAA in what is statistically the highest scoring season in league history. Unbelievable!
Another Jennings would follow during the shortened 1994-95 season (an even better 2.28 in 42 games, with 5 shutouts). However, it still seemed as though Belfour never earned his due until he became a Cup winner in 1999 with the Dallas Stars. Most people forget that he spent the final 13 games of 1996-97 with the San Jose Sharks before moving to Texas as a free agent.
Despite an extraordinary 1.88 GAA in 61 games during 1997-98, Belfour was not the recipient of the Jennings, though his 1.99 average the following season gave him his fourth title. During the Stars’ championship playoff run, Belfour kept a brilliant 1.26 GAA, and stood on his head against his former deputy, Hasek, in Game 6 of the finals against the Sabres that ended on Brett Hull’s controversial triple overtime goal.
After three more solid seasons as a Star, the 37-year-old Belfour came to Toronto. In his first two seasons as a Maple Leaf, he kept 17 shutouts (not including the three that he had in the opening round of the 2004 playoffs against the Senators) and a goals against average near 2.20. As he inched closer to age 40 the year after the 2004-05 lockout, the Leafs were beginning a nine-year playoff drought and it was time for Belfour to move aside.
He enjoyed a final season in Florida, playing in 58 contests and winning 27 of them, to bring his total number of victories (including playoffs), to 572. His 304 victories during the 1990s were second to Patrick Roy’s, and he joined Jacques Plante, Turk Broda, and Ken Dryden as the only goaltenders to have a GAA below 2.00 in three consecutive playoffs. His 76 shutouts are tied with Tony Esposito for 10th all-time.
9) BILL DURNAN
208-112-62, 34 shutouts, 2.36 GAA
2 Stanley Cups (1944, 1946), 6 Vezina (1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1950), 6 First-Team All-Star (1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1950)
Here’s the fact of the matter: so many people have been on my case for showing too much love to the old-timers and trying to convince me that average goalies in today’s game would absolutely dominate the game during the 1940s. I respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree.
Barring any modern technology, equipment, training strategies, or athleticism, there’s no chance in hell that someone like Cam Talbot would win 6 Vezinas in 7 years, just like my boy Bill Durnan did. Nobody today has the cojones to do what these barefaced custodians did night in and night out.
Durnan only hung around the league for 7 seasons from 1943 to 1950. His debut season at age 27 seemed as though he had been tending the Canadiens’ net for years. Aside from winning the best goaltender of the year award in all but one of his seasons in the NHL, Durnan was also the only officially recognized ambidextrous goalie, as well as the last authorized goalie to serve as the speaking captain for his team.
Because of him, goalies were forbidden from acting as the team member who sought reasoning from the officials. Durnan would take so much time to leave his crease and debate with his coaches and each referee that the league enforced ‘The Durnan Rule’ to impede goaltenders from dicking around too much.
Eccentricities aside, Durnan was simply the best of the decade. His 208 wins in 383 games surprisingly only brought forth two Stanley Cups, as the Leafs three-peated in the midst of Durnan’s excellence. He had a 4-and-a-half game shutout streak through February and March of 1949, a streak that would last as the longest until Brian Boucher bested it in 2004. Coming in and promptly winning the Vezina in each of his first four seasons, while capturing two championships, is something that will never happen again, regardless of whether there were only 6 teams in the league or not.
He was extremely savvy at studying the game of his opponents, often switching his goal stick to the other hand, convenient for his gloves that possessed both a backside blocker, and a primitive, yet decent trapping mechanism. He apparently was also really good at drinking beers.
All goaltenders have their quirks, some baffling, others understandable. Durnan, like many, was constantly crippled by the insecurities of letting his teammates down by surrendering goals. By the 1950 playoffs, despite having just won his 6th Vezina (to put him two Vezinas clear of Tiny Thompson on the all-time list), Durnan was battling such heavy anxiety and stress, that he had to give way to backup Gerry McNeil once the Rangers took a decisive 3-0 series lead.
Coupled with an extremely close call with Jim Conacher in which the netminder was clipped on the scalp by Conacher’s skate, he never seemed to regain his confidence. He also constantly felt the pressure of being an Anglophone on a Francophone team, and despite his brilliance, never felt a connection to the Montreal fans.
The fear of losing his sharpness extended to such trivial things as refusing to go to the movies so his eyes wouldn’t ruin, or refusing to catch pucks in practice in fear of damaging his hands. This stress would force Durnan into retirement after that series against the Rangers, and he would pass away from kidney failure in 1972 at the age of 56.
Source: The Toronto Star
8) GEORGE HAINSWORTH
246-145-74, 94 shutouts, 1.93 GAA
2 Stanley Cups (1930, 1931), 3 Vezina (1927, 1928, 1929)
If some of these stats I’m about to throw at you don’t impress you, something is seriously wrong. George Hainsworth always felt ashamed that he wasn’t as flashy as other goalies. He was always so composed, always sporting the same stoic expression on his face, always in the right position to make the save and not have it look overly larcenous.
They always said as a stopper, he was second to none, but as a showstopper, he left much to be desired. Would you prefer to have a bit of a reckless keeper play average or less than average, only to make a wildly scintillating save that brings the crowd to their feet, OR a keeper who is always in the right spot, makes the save look routine, more often than not gets the shutout but maybe doesn’t dazzle as much? Hainsworth was the textbook definition of the latter.
He didn’t make his NHL debut until he was 33! It was the first season after Georges Vezina’s passing, and the Canadiens struggled through the season having to fret about finding someone to replace the trophy’s namesake after 15 years. The 5’6, 150 lb Hainsworth came in from Saskatoon, and promptly ensured the Habs faithful that they needn’t stress. With him between the pipes, he managed to earn the Canadiens 49 shutouts in his first 3 seasons, winning the Vezina trophy (which of course had just been donated) in each of those three years.
He is one of three, along with Lorne Chabot and Alec Connell, to have three consecutive seasons of double digit shutouts.
1928-29 alone could put Hainsworth into the Hall of Fame. In the 44-game season, he kept a zero in exactly HALF of them. Today, goalies have a very good season if they manage 6 or 7, and even that is becoming more and more infrequent. This guy had 22 shutouts in 44 games! Sure, it was the final season before the league allowed forward passing in the offensive zone to boost goal scoring, but golly! The next highest amount of shutouts anyone has managed in a single season is 15.
Hainsworth obtained 7 more beyond that! He only conceded 1 goal in 12 other matches. He also played most of that season with a broken nose, refusing to sit out. My favourite part of this stupefying story is that the Canadiens only managed 22 wins on the season, 6 of them were 0-0 ties, all in all meaning Hainsworth only conceded 43 goals on the season, the only regular season goals against average below 1.00 (0.92 to be exact). The Canadiens got on a bit of a roll too, finishing 22-7-15 after a troubling 7-6-6 start.
Even after the rule change led to higher scoring, the aging Hainsworth didn’t slow down. He won back-to-back Cups for the Habs in 1930 and 1931, the former playoff season seeing him keep a shutout streak of 270 minutes.
After surrendering a goal to Murray Murdoch with 5 minutes to go in the first period in a best two-out-of-three series against the Rangers, Hainsworth didn’t allow another goal in the four-overtime thriller, the ensuing game which saw the Canadiens sweep through, and the entire first game of the finals against Boston until Eddie Shore slipped one past George midway through the 2nd period of Game 2.
After the 1933 playoffs, in which he had spent the season as captain, Hainsworth was traded to the Maple Leafs for Chabot, because Montreal management believed having a French-speaking goalie would draw more fans during the troubling times of the Great Depression. He played admirably for the Leafs for three full seasons, appearing in the first ever All-Star game (the Ace Bailey benefit, which pitted the Maple Leafs against a group of all-stars from the rest of the league), and took the Leafs to the 1935 Stanley Cup final, losing to the Montreal Maroons.
Hainsworth, now 43 years old, figured it was time to hang up the pads, but was convinced to play a few more games for Montreal on an emergency basis, retiring a Canadien. He was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident when he was 57, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1961, 11 years after his death. He is 3rd on the all-time shutout list, six shy of 100, and his career 1.93 GAA is second all-time for goaltenders who have played more than 25 games. Let those numbers sink in…..
7) BERNIE PARENT
271-198-121, 54 shutouts, 2.55 GAA, .907 save percentage
2 Stanley Cups (1974, 1975), 2 Vezina (1974, 1975), 2 Conn Smythe (1974, 1975), 2 First-Team All-Star (1974, 1975)
Bumper stickers all across Philadelphia read “Only the Lord saves more than Bernie Parent” during the mid 1970s. It can be argued that the Flyers two Cup winning teams in 1974 and 1975 were successful because of Bernie and Bernie alone. Those two seasons were two of the finest goaltending campaigns there ever were, and the rest of his career from beginning to end further complimented the championship success.
Parent’s debut season with the Bruins in 1965-66, the second final season of the Original 6 era. The Bruins were quite poor during the mid 1960s, and Parent was perhaps gleeful to be selected by the expansion Flyers before their inaugural season.
Teaming up with Doug Favell, Parent and the Flyers faired decently in the expansion division, though they couldn’t get past the St. Louis Blues, as they were eliminated by the foes from Missouri in both of their first two seasons. Despite missing the playoffs altogether in 1970, Parent had managed save percentages of .926, .925, and .921 in his first three seasons in the City of Brotherly Love.
He was traded to Toronto in the middle of the 1970-71 season, teaming up with veteran Jacques Plante, gaining tremendously important insight from the fellow French-Canadian. Though the Leafs were a mid-tier team in the East Division, the duo complimented each other satisfactorily, with Parent starting 47 games the next season and sporting a 2.56 GAA.
He would be the first big signing in the rival World Hockey Association during the 1972 offseason, back in Philadelphia with a team called the Blazers. He immediately desired to return to the NHL, and would in fact have his rights sold back to the Flyers in exchange for his former teammate Favell. Boy, did that ever turn out well for the Flyers.
The 1973-74 season, Parent’s first year back in the orange and black, saw him set a regular season record by winning 47 games. Only Martin Brodeur and Braden Holtby have managed to eclipse that mark by winning 48, though Parent didn’t have the luxury of overtime periods during the regular season back then, whereas Brodeur and Holtby would earn half a dozen wins with the extra frame.
In addition to his record amount of victories, Parent kept 12 shutouts, a GAA of 1.89, and a .932 save percentage. The Flyers became the first team outside of the Original 6 to win the Stanley Cup since 1935. An easy choice for the Vezina, and the Conn Smythe.
The following season, they did it again. Parent, still only 29 years-old throughout the majority of the crusade, obtained another 12 shutouts, with a 2.03 GAA and 44 wins. He once again took home the Vezina and the Conn Smythe, as both of the Cup clinching games were shutouts, against the Bruins and Sabres, respectively.
He suffered a neck injury early into 1975-76 and was handicapped essentially for the entire season, though he would rebound the next year by winning 35 games, and keeping 5 shutouts. He led the league in shutouts the year after that, and kept his GAA to 2.22, though little did he know that it would be his final full year.
In a game against the Rangers on February 17, 1979, Parent suffered a career-ending eye injury after he was accidentally poked through the hole in his mask by Don Maloney’s stick. His injury led to many goaltenders changing to the helmet/cage combination that was common in the 1980s.
Only 34, he claimed that he still wanted to play at least five more seasons. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Parent is widely considered to be one of the last great ‘stand-up’ goalies, and his #1 jersey was retired by the Flyers just eight-months after his injury. He led the NHL in shutouts three times, goals against average twice, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.
Source: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images
6) GLENN HALL
407-326-163, 84 shutouts, 2.50 GAA, .917 save percentage
2 Stanley Cups (1952, 1961), 3 Vezina (1963, 1967, 1969), 1 Conn Smythe (1968), Calder (1956), 7 First-Team All-Star (1957, 1958, 1960, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1969), 4 Second-Team All-Star (1956, 1961, 1962, 1967)
It’ll be a damn shame when Hall finally passes away. He is second to George Armstrong for the current oldest living Hall of Famer. The man they called “Mr. Goalie” played so well for so long, it seems baffling that he didn’t win more than what he already boasts in his trophy cabinet: 2 Cups (with another as a goaltending coach), 3 Vezinas (which could easily have been more if it was presented in the same way as it is today), a Conn Smythe despite not winning the Cup that year (the second time a runner-up was given the award), and a record ELEVEN all-star team selections (7 on the first-team, 4 on the second).
But most impressively, Hall set the record for most consecutive appearances, with a jaw-dropping, head-turning, knee-slapping 502 straight games. Including playoffs, that’s 33,135 minutes without relief.
From 1955 until early into the 1962-63 season, Hall never missed a game, playing in all 70 contests per year until a debilitating back spasm kept him out of the lineup on November 7th. That is something that will never be broken. Signed by the Red Wings in 1949, Hall was two years younger than Terry Sawchuk, who had just made his own debut. Hall became the top prospect in the minors while Sawchuk asserted his dominance in the early 50s, but Hall earned his chance to shine during a couple of call-ups while Sawchuk nursed one of the many injuries he suffered.
Despite not appearing in the 1952 playoffs, the 6 regular season games he appeared in convinced Jack Adams to include his name on the Cup. After appearing in 2 more games during 1954-55, Adams was convinced to do something even bolder; trade Sawchuk to Boston and make Hall the full time starter.
In Hall’s first full season in Detroit, he took home the Calder, winning 30 games, earning 12 shutouts, a GAA of 2.10, and a .922 save percentage. Not bad eh? The next year, he won 38 games, but Adams and Hall would tend to butt heads, and Adams figured he could turn a profit by selling Hall to Chicago, reacquiring Sawchuk, who was miserable in Beantown. Now a Blackhawk, Hall would remain in the Windy City for 10 years, and would help turn the franchise from big losers in the 1950s to eventual champions.
In 1960-61, the Blackhawks won their first Cup in 23 years, as Hall kept 6 shutouts during the regular season and had a .936 save percentage in the playoffs. They were runners-up the following year, losing to the Maple Leafs in 6 games, though Hall still managed to keep an impressive save percentage of .924. He won his first Vezina trophy in 1963, and would share the 1967 Vezina with teammate Denis DeJordy, who took on a stronger role as Hall neared his late 30s. Left unprotected in the 1967 expansion draft, he was claimed by the St. Louis Blues.
Hall figured he had a couple years left in him, and led the Blues all the way to the finals. Despite being swept by the Canadiens, he was given the Conn Smythe trophy for keeping the expansion Blues in a much tighter series than one might expect. They were outshot 151-91 in four games. The next year, Jacques Plante came to provide support for Hall, and the two would share the Vezina, Hall making his 11th and final All-Star appearance.
After once again losing to the Canadiens in the finals, he retired, but decided to come back during the middle of the season. Incredibly, the Blues would once again make the final, and would once again be swept, this time by Boston, as Bobby Orr’s incredibly famous overtime goal was slipped through the five-hole of Hall.
He retired after 1970-71, nearing age 40. He led the league in shutouts five times during his ironman streak. He innovated the butterfly style, not hesitating to drop to his knees with his shorter pads to made the play. His 84 shutouts ranks 4th all-time, and his 407 wins place him 11th.
Source: The Hockey News
5) JACQUES PLANTE
437-247-146, 82 shutouts, 2.38 GAA, .919 save percentage
6 Stanley Cups (1953, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960), 7 Vezina (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1969), 1 Hart (1962), 3 First-Team All-Star (1956, 1959, 1962), 4 Second-Team All-Star (1957, 1958, 1960, 1971)
If Jacques Plante is most synonymous with bringing the mask into the game on a permanent basis, then that alone should be enough to put him in the top 5 on this list. Thankfully, he was a pretty fucking good goalie too. Wouldn’t it be a bit of a shame if the individual who everlastingly introduced this essential piece of gear that all fellow patrons depend on was a horrendous keeper?
That famous evening took place early into the 1959-60 season. Plante had already been in the league for 7 years, and had won 5 Cups. His Montreal Canadiens were the first team to ever win four consecutive championships, and were in the mood to obtain a fifth.
Plante was a bit of a quirky cat; he suffered from asthma and would constantly stress his coach Toe Blake about whether he would be well enough to play each evening. He knit his own toques, tried to wear them during games, and was forbidden. He had also already won 4 Vezina trophies, and he whole-heartedly deserved each one, for he was the reason the Habs had conceded the fewest goals in each of these seasons.
Andy Bathgate of the Rangers took a shot in close and caught Plante flush in the nose. Backup Charlie Hodge wasn’t dressed that night, and David Ayres wasn’t born yet, believe it or not. Plante said he’d tough it out and go back in, but only if he could wear his trusted mask that he had been experimenting with in practice for the past few years. Blake sighed, told him only this once, and Plante returned to the cage, winning the game 3-1.
He didn’t discard the mask like Blake had told him to, and when the winning streak hit double digits, Blake sort of relented. The Habs would go on to five-peat, and Plante himself would five-peat in Vezinas. He missed nearly half the season the following year with a knee injury, but rebounded by becoming the fourth goalie to ever win the Hart trophy, compiling statistics of 42 wins, a .923 save percentage, and a 2.37 GAA.
His sour relationship with Toe Blake deteriorated further, and it reached a point where the coach claimed that either he or Plante had to go. Plante was sent to New York in 1963, who at the time were still in the bottom half of the league. He called it quits on his career in 1965, but hung around the game, offering analysis on television. Then in 1968, he made his return to the NHL at age 39, splitting duties with Glenn Hall in St. Louis.
He shared the 1969 Vezina with Hall, making it the record 7th time he was declared the best goaltender. To this day, it has not been surpassed. After two years in St. Louis, Plante was still hungry to compete and ended up in Toronto, where he would earn Second-Team All-Star honours by keeping a GAA of 1.88 with 4 shutouts and a remarkable .942 save percentage in 40 contests at age 42!
His final transaction came at the 1973 trade deadline, as the Bruins traded away a 1st round pick to land the 44 year-old Plante. Plante didn’t disappoint, going 7-1 during his time in Boston, keeping 2 shutouts, bringing his career total to 82 (5th all-time).
After one final season in the WHA, Plante retired at age 46, moved to Switzerland, and died of terminal stomach cancer in 1986. In addition to his record amount of Vezina trophies, he appeared in 8 consecutive finals, led the league in goals against average on nine occasions, and wrote an acclaimed book in 1972 called “Goaltending”.
4) TERRY SAWCHUK
447-337-171, 103 shutouts, 2.50 GAA, .910 save percentage
4 Stanley Cups (1952, 1954, 1955, 1967), 4 Vezina (1952, 1953, 1955, 1965), Calder (1951), 3 First-Team All-Star (1951, 1952, 1953), 4 Second-Team All-Star (1954, 1955, 1959, 1963)
The greatest goalie of the Original 6. Terry Sawchuk lived the tragic life of a hockey goalie, and endorsed the profession on his face. At the time of his death, he was well ahead of everyone in shutouts and wins. Still 2nd and 8th in those respective rankings today, Sawchuk is often times perceived to be the greatest goalie who ever lived.
I’ll admit, I was tempted to put him at the top of the list. Very close indeed. Maybe that horrible biopic that came out about his life last year is the reason why he had to be bumped a few places. What a terrible film.
Sawchuk had his two older brothers die while he was young, which had a profound effect on his psyche. He was signed as an 18 year-old by the Red Wings, and had his big league inauguration in 1949-50. Harry Lumley was the man in charge between the pipes for Detroit, but even after they won the Cup that year, he was traded to make way for Sawchuk.
From 1950 to 1955, there simply was no one on the planet that was better than the Winnipeg-born Ukrainian. In that span, he registered 195 wins, blanked his opponents 56 times, won 3 Vezinas, the Calder, and 3 Cups of his own. That Calder season showcased Sawchuk winning a league record 44 games (something he duplicated the following year), keeping his GAA to a paltry 1.99 with 11 shutouts.
The following year, he had 12 shutouts and the GAA ripened to 1.90. In fact, that 1.99 GAA during his Calder year was the highest of his first five full seasons. In the 1952 playoffs, the Wings didn’t lose a game, with Sawchuk never surrendering goal on home ice during his romp through the postseason. He finished with a 0.63 GAA in 8 playoff games. So, upon winning the 1955 Cup, why in the hell would Jack Adams trade him to the Bruins?
Sawchuk was only 25 years-old, and was baffled by the decision. He had always looked up to Adams, even going through a tumultuous weight-loss upon the boss’s request that rendered him weak throughout the entire 1952-53 season. Sawchuk would often play through extreme pain and drink his discomfort away after each match.
Throughout his career, he would suffer from sway-back, derived from his stand-up, crouching style to see through defenders’ legs. He had three operations on his right elbow (which was shorter than his left arm due to an injury as a child that never healed properly), ruptured discs in his back that prevented him from sleeping more than a couple hours at a time, severed tendons in his hand, stitches in his eyeball, an appendectomy, and another 400+ stitches to his face that left him with grimacing scars. That’s not even half of the injury report. Simply put, his two years in Boston with the last-place Bruins drove him to depression and he wanted to retire in 1957.
Adams would reacquire Sawchuk in the 1957 offseason, dealing away his replacement Glenn Hall to Chicago, allowing Terry to regain his place between the pipes for Detroit throughout the next seven years. Though he never won another championship with the Red Wings, Sawchuk still had personal success, earning Second-Team honours in 1959 and 1963.
In 1964, he broke George Hainsworth’s record of 94 shutouts by notching his 95th against the Canadiens. He was left unprotected in the 1964 intraleague draft, and was claimed by Toronto. He was to share the net with 40 year-old Johnny Bower, and though the irritable Sawchuk initially wasn’t pleased, he relaxed into his new position, sharing the Vezina with Bower in their first year together.
The pressure eased off a little bit, and when it came time for the 1967 playoffs, neither Sawchuk or Bower cared who was to start for the long-run, should one of them get hot. Though Bower had his moments, Sawchuk stole games for the Leafs, including the Cup-clinching Game 6 against the Habs, in which he saved all but one of 41 shots. He even went so far as to say it was his greatest performance.
During the 1967 expansion draft, Bower was saved, Sawchuk was not. He was the first selection by the Los Angeles Kings, where he would play for one year before being sent back for a third stint in Detroit. He wore the Rangers colours during the 1969-70 season, unknowingly his last year. Sawchuk suffered fatal internal injuries during a freak wrestling accident with teammate Ron Stewart, including a bleeding liver that led to the forced removal of his gallbladder. He died in the hospital at the age of 40 after suffering a pulmonary embolism.
His waiting period to enter the Hall of Fame was waived, the only goalie to be given this solemn honour. Combining regular season and playoffs, Sawchuk won 501 games, and kept 115 shutouts. It took Martin Brodeur 39 years to break the shutout record, and Patrick Roy 30 years to pass him in wins. Though the kids of today might have absolutely no knowledge of this, Sawchuk is the reason that jersey numbers in the 30s became so common for goaltenders to wear. Let’s pour one out for Terry.
Source: Getty Images
3) MARTIN BRODEUR
691-397-105-49, 125 shutouts, 2.24 GAA, .912 save percentage
3 Stanley Cups (1995, 2000, 2003), 4 Vezina (2003, 2004, 2007, 2008), 5 Jennings (1997, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2010), Calder (1994), 3 First-Team All-Star (2003, 2004, 2007), 4 Second-Team All-Star (1997, 1998, 2006, 2008)
Taking the bronze medal is the all-time shutout leader and winningest goalie by a landslide. Martin Brodeur was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1990 and would go on to have a career that stretched into his 40s. Brodeur was already on the scene when I was born, and he wouldn’t announce his definitive retirement until I was in my 20s.
While he made 4 appearances during the 1991-92 season, it wasn’t until midway through 1993-94 that he took the reigns to guide the Devils on the path to the Conference Finals. He kept his GAA below 2.00 as the Devils were eliminated in a heart-wrenching 7 games by their border state rivals, the Rangers. His play would be enough to earn him the Calder trophy, the first of many accolades down the road.
The next season, Brodeur was poised to lead his team all the way, and was successful in securing the Devils their first Cup in franchise history. So began a sequence of extreme reliability and durability, as Brodeur started at least 67 games in 13 of the next 14 seasons. He won back to back Jennings trophies in 1997 and 1998 by posting GAAs of 1.88 and 1.89, while capturing 10 shutouts in each of those years.
The Devils were an extremely defensive-minded team, emphasizing the trap style of play, tantamount to the low scoring that personified the late 1990s. Brodeur and the Devils took home their second Cup in 2000, further honing to their defensive dominance. In the decisive game against the Leafs, they held the likes of Sundin, Thomas, Kolorev, Adams and Khristich to just 6 shots and Brodeur earned an easy shutout.
As his career progressed, Brodeur developed more of a butterfly style, as he was slightly more prone to standing up at the beginning of his vocation. It wasn’t until 2003 that he finally won his first Vezina trophy (with a third Cup to boot), repeating as best goaltender in 2004 right before the season-long lockout.
He had such strong puck-handling skills, that when the league resumed play in the fall of 2005, new confines were set up behind the net to limit goaltenders from playing the rubber so often. He had been known to act as a third defencemen during the 1990s and early 2000s, but now his skills had been compromised!
He won back to back Vezinas again in 2007 and 2008, the former seeing him set the record of 48 wins in the regular season, breaking Bernie Parent’s mark. He also kept 12 shutouts, a remarkable feat in this era, as well as keeping his GAA below 2.20 in both years.
He won his 500th game early into the 2007-08 season, inching closer to Patrick Roy for the record. In March of 2009, he achieved two major milestones: his 100th shutout, moving three away from Terry Sawchuk, as well as passing Roy for the most wins with 552.
His 1030th appearance in December of that year set a new mark for goaltenders, as did the new shutout total that same month. He won his 600th game and earned his 110th shutout in the same match against the Atlanta Thrashers near the tail of the 2009-10 season. He led the league in GAA, wins, shutouts, and appearances that year at the age of 37. At age 40, he was still starting every game for the Devils during their 2012 finals loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
He split duties with Cory Schneider during his final season in New Jersey, before signing a contract in December of 2014 with the St. Louis Blues on a somewhat emergency basis. He appeared in seven games, registering his 125th and final career shutout, before retiring at age 42. It will take one special athlete to conquer some of his records, as his wins, appearances, and shutouts are head and shoulders above anyone else. Hell, he even scored three goals during his career, the most of any NHL goaltender.
Source: Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images
2) PATRICK ROY
551-315-131, 66 shutouts, 2.54 GAA, .910 save percentage
4 Stanley Cups (1986, 1993, 1996, 2001), 3 Vezina (1989, 1990, 1992), 5 Jennings (1987, 1988, 1989, 1992, 2002), 3 Conn Smythe (1986, 1993, 2001), 4 First-Team All-Star (1989, 1990, 1992, 2002), 2 Second-Team All-Star (1988, 1991)
What a character. “St. Patrick” was bold, outspoken, aggressive, temperamental, incredibly competitive, and it all paid off. He was born in Quebec City, and when he was seven, the Nordiques began their franchise, playing in the WHA. Roy was 14 when they merged into the NHL, and the year he was drafted by the rival Canadiens, the two French clubs had just gone through a vicious political playoff series with a massive bench brawl in the decisive game.
Once Roy weaseled his way into the lineup in 1985-86, the Montreal fans were on his side as he took over starting duties from Steve Penney and guided the Habs all the way to the finals, winning their 23rd Cup in franchise history. Roy went 15-5 in the playoffs, with a 1.93 GAA and a shutout to win the Conn Smythe trophy at the age of 20.
Brian Hayward joined the Habs in 1986-87, and he and Roy would enjoy a Jennings trophy three-peat, though Roy would play the majority of games. In a highly offensive era, Roy’s 3rd Jennings in 1989 saw him produce a GAA of 2.47, astonishing for the time. He also had a record of 33-5-6, though the Habs would fall to the Flames in the finals, a rematch of the 1986 conquest.
Roy was easily considered the best goalie in the world as the 1990s began, and his brand of the butterfly took root in the techniques of all goaltenders who excel today. He won three Vezinas in four seasons, the last of which came in 1992, though he would still dominate the game for another decade.
The Canadiens won their 24th and final Cup (as of now), and Roy was the definition of clutch as the Habs managed 10 out of their 16 playoff wins during overtime periods. By now, he was starting 60+ games a year, and was the honorary captain of the squad, intricately tinkering with how to perfect his craft, as well as the team’s unity.
Unfortunately, Mario Tremblay’s hiring as Head Coach in 1995 brought Roy’s time in Montreal to an end. We all know how it went; Roy was left in the net during a Detroit romp over the Habs at the Forum (during the final season in the historic ice rink), Tremblay refusing to pull Roy until he had conceded 9 goals on 26 shots.
Due to his history with Tremblay as a teammate in the mid 1980s, Roy blew his lid, and announced to Tremblay and President Ronald Corey that this was his last game as a Canadien. 4 days later, he was traded to Colorado, who in fact had just relocated from Quebec City, his favourite team as a child.
Roy was only 30 when he landed in Denver, and that season, they would go all the way and capture a historic championship. In his 8 years with the Avalanche, Roy was still at the top of the best goaltenders discussion, as his veteran status brought immense confidence. The Avalanche would win another Cup in 2001, Roy’s 4th overall, and he would win his third Conn Smythe trophy.
He now had one in the 80s, one in the 90s, and one in the 2000s. His penultimate season saw him capture his fifth Jennings trophy with a 1.94 GAA and .925 save percentage.
After a tough Game 7 loss to the Minnesota Wild in 2003, Roy chose to call it quits, still only 37 years-old. His jersey was promptly retired by the Avalanche the season after he left, and the malice between he and the Canadiens would subside in time, as they retired his number 33 sweater in 2008.
Roy remains the all-time leader in playoff wins with 151, comfortably in 2nd for regulation wins, 15th in shutouts, and was the first goaltender to ever appear in 1000 games. Most importantly, he still can’t hear what Jeremy Roenick said, because he now has 4 Stanley Cups plugged in his ears.
Source: Graig Abel/Getty Images
1) DOMINIK HASEK
389-223-82-13, 81 shutouts, 2.20 GAA, .922 save percentage
2 Stanley Cups (2002, 2008), 6 Vezina (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001), 3 Jennings (1994, 2001, 2008), 2 Hart (1997, 1998), 2 Lester Pearson (1997, 1998), 6 First-Team All-Star (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001)
These few paragraphs simply won’t be able to articulate how phenomenal “The Dominator” was during his tenure in the NHL. He spent the entire 1980s in the Czech League, though he was the 199th overall selection by the Blackhawks in 1983. He didn’t come over to play until 1990, just as Ed Belfour was breaking onto the scene himself.
Most didn’t expect Hasek to excel at the North American game, as his unorthodox flopping style in his slender frame probably wouldn’t survive the physicality. What makes Hasek the best, is that he was a consummate performer, making the most exhilarating saves that no one had ever seen before, coupled with his stats that would just be off the charts. It wasn’t until his 2001 trade to Detroit that he truly played on a team that had stars to match the likes of himself. He was simply head and shoulders above the rest.
In his second year in Chicago, the Blackhawks went all the way to the finals, where they were matched up with the defending champions, the Penguins. Hasek had seen action in 20 regular season games, but when Belfour was benched early during Game 4 in what appeared to be the onset of a sweep, Hasek stepped in and turned some heads, despite losing the contest and ultimately the Cup.
That convinced management that they could accrue a bit of a profit by selling him, as Hasek was already 27 and showed great maturity. He landed in Buffalo, where for the next 9 years, did things that no other goaltender has managed to do. His second season in Buffalo is where he edged Grant Fuhr for the starting job, and would win his first of six Vezina trophies by winning 30 games, collecting 7 shutouts, and keeping a 1.95 GAA, earning him the Jennings as well.
He further impressed in the lockout year, and the Sabres were starting to mount some hype as the decade wore on. In 1996-97, Hasek put together a Hart trophy campaign, winning 37 games, posting a 2.27 GAA with a .930 save percentage. Most of these 37 wins were absolute steals on Hasek’s part. The next year, he became the first goaltender to win multiple Hart trophies, let alone doing it back-to-back. He had 13 shutouts, something that no goaltender has managed to match or better since. His save percentage also slightly increased to .932, and then to .937 in 1998-99, a superb rate.
His play in the 1999 playoffs was revered and heavily acclaimed, despite ending on a sour note after Brett Hull of the Stars buried a goal with his foot in the crease during triple overtime in the decisive game. Hasek had made 50 saves in the loss. By the turn of the millennium, Hasek had won 5 Vezinas, 2 Harts, 2 Lester Pearsons (MVP of the league as decided by his fellow peers), and a Jennings. In 2000-01, he would win the Vezina and Jennings yet again, by going 37-24-4, with 11 shutouts, a 2.11 GAA and a .921 save %. You can’t just make this stuff up.
The possibilities to win the Cup seemed to be slipping so long as he remained in Buffalo, and he was traded to the star-studded Red Wings in the 2001 offseason. With the likes of Yzerman, Robitaille, Fedorov, Shanahan, Hull (isn’t that funny), Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Larionov and Chelios, Hasek managed to win a career-high 41 games with a 2.17 GAA while the Red Wings laughed their way to a Presidents Trophy/Stanley Cup winning season.
Hasek had achieved everything he set out for, though his retirement announcements still came as a bit of a shock. He was still 37, the same age as Patrick Roy when he retired, but was without a doubt still at the top of his game. Sure enough, he missed competing and returned in 2003-04, though the Red Wings were deep with goaltenders Curtis Joseph and Manny Legace. Hasek was still called up for 14 games before a nagging groin injury gave primary duties back to Joseph.
After the lockout season, he signed with the Ottawa Senators, where at age 40, had a dumbfounding 2.09 GAA through 43 games as the Sens won the Eastern Conference. Hasek then returned for two more seasons with the Red Wings, this time with Chris Osgood as his main source of competition. He started 56 games in 2006-07, keeping 8 shutouts, before he and Osgood split duties down the line in 2007-08.
Hasek’s 2.14 GAA earned him his third and final Jennings trophy, as the Red Wings would win another Cup, though Osgood was given the green light during most of that playoff run. Now 43, Hasek chose to leave the NHL for good, despite returning to the Czech League and KHL in his mid 40s.
He simply did it all: won championships, won numerous awards, was a league MVP in consecutive seasons, and made the position look so painful with his flabbergasting flexibility that produced extraordinary saves that seem unfathomable. He also rocked one of the last cage/helmet masks, and looked like a beauty while doing so.
A Hall of Famer since 2014, Hasek is 14th all-time in wins, 24th all-time in games played, 6th in shutouts, and 8th in goals against average for any goaltender who has played more than 25 games. Simply superb for the era in which he played. He rightfully earns the number one spot on this list.
As of this moment, a total of 789 unique goaltenders have appeared in an NHL game. 633 of them have had a taste of victory. 187 of them have won at least 100 games, 36 have won over 300, and only 13 have won over 400. Exactly 450 of those 789 have earned a shutout. 210 have had over 10 goose eggs, 95 have shut opponents out 25 or more times, and 32 have had over 50.
Each decade has produced different margins of scoring, from the early years of fast scoring, to the late 1920s with essentially no scoring, to the Original 6 with relatively comparative scoring to the modern era, to the 1980s with absurd offensive outbursts, and back to infrequent scoring near the turn of the millennium. In what began with 4 starting goalies from Canada in 1917, the league currently boasts goalies from 10 different countries on current rosters, with an additional 7 countries having had representation over the league’s history.
To come up with a list ranking the top 60 of all-time was much more daunting than expected. Those who made the cut account for just 0.08% of all goalies who have protected the cage during a competitive NHL match. This list could look different next year, and perhaps drastically different in 10 years. It was no easy selection.
Nonetheless, it shouldn’t be entirely unrealistic. There were winners (both from a team and individual standpoint), those who had promise, those who were innovators, those who were under-appreciated and almost forgotten, those who were bizarre, those who were tragic heroes, those who had a significant influence on the goalies of today, and those who possessed multiple facets of the above-listed criteria.
There is no other position like it. You have to be somewhat off your nut to enjoy being the last line of defence in a game where skating speed can reach almost 40 kilometers an hour, shot speeds eclipse 160 kilometers an hour, and have the constant torment of fans and opponents in each and every game. We appreciate you goaltenders, and I hope you’ve appreciated some wacky stats and tales throughout this top 60 countdown.