This is the third of a four-part series. For Part 1, click here. For part 2, click here.
Sources: HHOF Images
30) GEORGES VEZINA
103-81-5, 13 shutouts, 3.28 GAA
2 Stanley Cups (1916, 1924)
The man the trophy is named after kicks off our third segment of rankings. Georges Vezina was signed by the Club de Hockey Canadiens in only their second year of existence. Les Habitants were on a barnstorming tour, something common of professional teams back in the early 1900s, and their stop way up north in Chicoutimi saw the eventual 24-time Stanley Cup champions lose to a bunch of bumpkins.
Vezina tended goal for the Chicoutimi team, and despite not having played a game in skates until he was 16, thwarted the Canadiens that day, prompting management to offer him a contract the second time they came back on a provincial tour.
For the next fifteen years, Vezina was between the pipes for the Habs, appearing in 327 consecutive matches without missing a minute. While this list focuses solely on NHL goaltenders, his first 7 seasons in which he played in the NHA don’t contribute to this ranking system. The NHL’s first season in 1917-18 had only 4 teams at the beginning, and 3 teams by the end, but Vezina conceded the fewest goals against, and had the league’s very first shutout; a 9-0 thrashing of the Toronto Arenas on February 18, 1918.
Nicknamed the ‘Chicoutimi Cucumber’ for his calm and poised demeanour, the 5’6 Vezina again led the league with the fewest goals against in 1923-24, the first time a goaltender ever had a sub 2.00 GAA (finishing the season with a 1.97 average).
His stellar play would continue throughout the playoffs, and the Canadiens would win their second Cup in franchise history over the Calgary Tigers (NHL playoff champions would face the champions from the Pacific Coast Hockey Association or Western Hockey League for the right to claim the Stanley Cup up until 1926). Vezina (reportedly) turned aside 78 shots in a 1-0 shutout over the Ottawa Senators in the first game of the playoffs that season, finishing the playoffs with a goals against average of exactly 1.00.
Vezina’s career came to a tragic end during the first game of the 1925-26 season. At the age of 38, his durability cracked when he was visibly gaunt throughout training camp, and collapsed in goal during the season opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and was forced into retirement, having lost 35 pounds in six weeks. He took the train home to Chicoutimi, and died in March of 1926. The next year, the Vezina trophy was donated in his honour, and now is a highly prestigious honour bestowed upon the goaltender who is deemed to be ‘the best’ during the culmination of each NHL season.
Source: HHOF Images
29) ROGER CROZIER
205-196-70, 30 shutouts, 3.04 GAA, .903 save percentage
1 Conn Smythe (1966), Calder (1965), 1 First-Team All-Star (1965)
Crozier’s career can be compared to that of an eager enlisted soldier; thrown into the carnage early in their tenure, and retiring from the battlefield a wounded, sullen, respected comrade. Though Eddie Johnston has the honour of being the last goaltender to play every minute of every game in the 1963-64 season, Crozier is the last goaltender to START every game of the season the very next year (playing in all but 32 minutes of Detroit’s 1964-65 campaign).
Despite his diminutive stature at 5’8 and plagued by pancreatitis throughout his career, he managed to take home the Calder as rookie of the year, accumulating an impressive 40 wins, with a 2.42 GAA and 6 shutouts in the first season of Detroit’s post-Terry Sawchuk era. The following season, the Red Wings lost the Cup final to the Canadiens, but Crozier was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy for his superb play between the pipes. It was only the second year that the Playoff MVP trophy was awarded, and Crozier has the honour of being the first of only five recipients who did not come out victorious in the series.
With his health problems worsening throughout his career, Crozier briefly retired during the 1967-68 season, citing severe anxiety and depression. He would return a few weeks after his hasty decision, and was claimed by the expansion Buffalo Sabres before their first season in 1970. Crozier and his adopted butterfly style conceded only 1 goal on 36 shots in Buffalo’s first ever franchise game, a 2-1 victory over the Penguins.
He also earned the first ever shutout in Sabres history, blanking the Minnesota North Stars early in December of that same season. Due to the struggles expansion teams are prone to experiencing, Crozier faced a team-record 2190 shots in 1971-72, further contributing to his anxiety and health issues.
As the Sabres fortunes began to turn around with the success of the French Connection line, Crozier saw his role greatly reduced with the inclusion of Gerry Desjardins in the lineup heading into the 1975 playoffs. However, inconsistent play from the young Desjardins resulted in Crozier being thrown back to guarding the cage against the mighty Philadelphia Flyers in the finals.
Crozier earned the win in the infamous ‘Fog Game’ at the Buffalo Auditorium, and played stupendously in the Cup-clinching game, a tough 2-0 loss. He was hospitalized for his pancreatitis over 30 times by the time he retired in 1977, having played in only 3 contests for the Washington Capitals to close out his rugged, battered career. Crozier passed away in 1996 at the young age of 53.
Sources: HHOF Images
28) ROY WORTERS
171-229-83, 66 shutouts, 2.27 GAA
1 Vezina (1931), 1 Hart (1929), 2 Second-Team All-Star (1932, 1934)
If you are factually the shortest player in the history of the National Hockey League, you better be able to walk the walk and earn your place. In the case of Roy ‘Shrimp’ Worters, he played as if he was double his miniscule 5’3 frame. Barely taller than the cross bar, Worters played 12 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and New York Americans, with a one-game loan for the Canadiens wedged in the middle.
When Pittsburgh was given an NHL team in 1925, Worters and most of the USAHA’s Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets made up the roster. Fellow newcomers to the league, the New York Americans, were heavily impressed with Worters’s performance in a 3-1 win over the Pirates, as the Shrimp turned aside 70 of 73 shots. 1927-28 saw him finish as runner-up for the Hart trophy, as he posted 10 shutouts and had a save percentage of .956.
He was traded to the Americans in 1928, and made his debut a few games into the season. In what is known as ‘The Year of the Shutout’ because of tight defensive play mixed with the despicable rule that disallowed forward passing in the offensive zone, Worters finished the season with an astounding 1.15 GAA and 13 shutouts.
After finishing last the year before, the Americans finished 2nd place in the ‘Canadian Division’, with a record of 19-13-12. In the playoffs, Worters finished with a GAA of 0.40 (yes, you read that correctly). The Americans battled the Rangers in a 2-game total goals series, and the final combined score was 1-0 for the Rangers after a double overtime winner produced the only goal of the entire two matches. Worters was awarded the Hart trophy for his efforts, the first goalie to ever be given the honour.
In 1930-31, he posted a shutout streak of 324:40 (four sequential games without conceding a goal sandwiched between 80 more minutes at the start and end of the streak), and won the Vezina trophy, posting incredible statistics of 8 shutouts and a 1.61 GAA (forward passing was now permitted in the offensive zone, thus making scoring a more common factor). He remained the only goalie in history to win the Vezina for a team that didn’t make the playoffs until Sergei Bobrovsky narrowly missed out on a postseason berth in 2013 with the Blue Jackets.
The Americans struggled heavily in the 1930s, missing the playoffs 7 consecutive years from 1929-1936. Worters nonetheless continued to perform heroically, until a hernia operation forced him to retire in 1937. He died in 1957, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969. He still ranks 14th all-time in career shutouts.
27) ROGIE VACHON
355-291-127, 51 shutouts, 2.99 GAA, .892 save percentage
3 Stanley Cups (1968, 1969, 1971), 1 Vezina (1968), 2 Second-Team All-Star (1975, 1977)
The man from Palmarolle, Quebec grew up in the Canadiens’ farm system and chiseled his way into the lineup in the final season of the Original 6. Originally slated to be Gump Worsley’s backup, he impressed Toe Blake with his superb play and started in the 1967 playoffs. Labelled a ‘Junior B Goalie’ by Toronto coach Punch Imlach to throw him off his game, Vachon still played admirably despite the Leafs taking a 3-2 series lead in the finals. Blake then went with Worsley in Game 6 and the Leafs closed out the series with a 3-1 win.
The following two seasons, Vachon and Worsley would split games fairly evenly, sharing the Vezina trophy in 1968 with Vachon going 23-13-2 with a 2.48 GAA and 4 shutouts. Worsley’s departure to Minnesota in 1969-70 allowed Vachon to start a vast majority of games, but because of the imbalance in the two divisions (the Original 6 teams in the East, and the 6 expansion teams in the West), Montreal actually missed the playoffs despite finishing with a record that would have given them 1st place in the inferior expansion division.
In 1971, the lanky Ken Dryden came into the lineup, got hot, and won the Habs the Cup. Vachon demanded a trade and got one, shipping out to Los Angeles.
The Kings became Vachon’s team in the 1970s. He was declared the team’s MVP four times in a five-year span. He was the runner-up for the Hart trophy in 1975, after he changed the Kings’ fortunes by posting 6 shutouts with a 2.24 GAA, improving the team’s point total by 27 from the season prior. He was included in the Second All-Star Team that season, and repeated this feat in 1977 with another 8 shutouts and 33 wins.
Widely considered to be one of the finest goalies in a 1 on 1 situation, Vachon never allowed a penalty shot goal in his entire 16 year career. He was nearly credited with the first ever goaltender goal in 1977, though upon review it was clear that he was not in fact that last King to touch the puck. In 1978 he became one of the first notable restricted free agents to sign with a new team, heading to Detroit.
Unfortunately, the Red Wings were absolute ass in the late 70s, and not even Vachon’s strong presence could change their fortunes. He closed out his career with two season in Boston, retiring in 1982 with 355 wins (still 21st all-time), and 51 shutouts (still 27th all-time). He was the first King to have his jersey retired, his number 30 raised to the rafters in 1985. Vachon was finally inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016.
Source: HHOF Images
26) LORNE CHABOT
201-148-62, 73 shutouts, 2.04 GAA
2 Stanley Cups (1928, 1932), 1 Vezina (1935), 1 First-Team All-Star (1935)
Without a doubt, the best goaltender to not be in the Hall of Fame. Having retired nearly 85 years ago, it seems that the door has long closed on Chabot’s opportunity to be enshrined within the Great Hall’s walls. His numbers say it all, regardless of how easy goaltenders may have had it in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In only 10 full seasons in the league, Chabot accumulated 73 shutouts, and won just over 200 games (during seasons that ranged from 44 to 48 regular season contests).
He joined the Rangers during their first season in 1926 and was donning the pads during the 1928 finals. A high Nels Stewart shot of the Montreal Maroons caught him right in the eye in Game 2, causing damage that hindered his sight for the rest of his life, forcing him to miss the rest of the series. The Rangers were victorious and Chabot’s name is on the Cup, but misfortunes such at this seemed to plague him despite his outstanding statistics.
He was traded to the Maple Leafs in exchange for John Ross Roach in 1928, and starred in Conn Smythe’s squad for five years, winning another Cup in 1932 (the first ever under the Maple Leafs name). In the 1933 playoffs against Boston, Chabot was victorious in what was at the time the longest ever NHL match, ending four minutes into the sixth overtime. Chabot is credited to have turned aside 93 shots, though statistics on shooting weren’t as accessible are they are today, thus it is disputed.
After the Canadiens wanted a French-speaking goaltender, he was on the move to Montreal in exchange for George Hainsworth, and then again to Chicago in 1934 after the sudden passing of stalwart Charlie Gardiner. His only full-season in Chicago saw Chabot win the Vezina trophy with 8 shutouts and a GAA of 1.80, but the Blackhawks were stunned in the playoffs after losing a two-game total-goals series 1-0 in overtime to the Maroons (Chabot finishing that series with a 0.48 GAA in the loss).
How fucking annoying is that. In any consolation, Chabot was featured on the cover of Time Magazine, the first ever hockey player to be given that privilege.
What’s even more annoying is that Chabot suffered a knee injury at the beginning of the following season and lost his place in goal to rookie Mike Karakas. He was promptly made expendable and was sent to the Maroons. The Maroons then went on to lose the NEW longest ever NHL game to the Red Wings (12 more minutes than the Leafs-Bruins tilt).
Chabot was featured in the two longest games in league history to this day, once as a winner, and once as a loser. After spending his final seasons seeing action in only 6 games with the New York Americans, Chabot retired and would go on to suffer a miserable death. Riddled with nephritis, he was bedridden the last year of his life, passing away five days after his 46th birthday. This poor man deserves far more credit for his accomplishments in his brief, but inspired life.
Source: HHOF Images
25) GUMP WORSLEY
335-352-150, 43 shutouts, 2.88 GAA, .914 save percentage
4 Stanley Cups (1965, 1966, 1968, 1969), 2 Vezina (1966, 1968), Calder (1953), 1 First-Team All-Star (1968), 1 Second-Team All-Star (1966)
The irony behind being nicknamed after a lanky comic strip character was that Worsley was only 5’7. Ever the outspoken one, Worsley would be sent back to the minors after his rookie season with the Rangers (that had produced a Calder trophy!) because he asked for a pay increase and showed up to training camp overweight. He smartened up and beat out Johnny Bower for the starting spot in 1954, and played brilliantly on a horrible team for the next nine seasons.
His time in New York saw Worsley continuously lose nearly 30 games a year while the Blueshirts floundered by the middle of the season. He never won a playoff series in his ten year tenure in the Big Apple. In 1963, he got in talks with the developing Players Union and was traded to Montreal for Jacques Plante, who himself was having squabbles with coach Toe Blake for the better part of three years. The trade was like a defibrillator; it sparked a surge in Worsley’s career.
He would remain in his home town of Montreal for six-and-a-half seasons, winning four Cups in five years as part of the mid-to-late 60s Habs dynasty. Charlie Hodge started a majority of games in 1963-64, but Worsley battled back from the minors, cementing his place between the pipes during the 1965 Cup triumph over Chicago, posting a 1.68 GAA in 8 playoff games.
The following year, he started in 51 games and all throughout the playoffs, keeping his save percentage above .920 as the Habs were victorious yet again. Despite the emerging presence of Rogie Vachon as Worsley approached his late 30s, the two shared the 1968 Vezina trophy in another championship campaign, the Gumper shining with a 1.98 GAA and 6 shutouts in 40 games.
Worsley had a terrible fear of flying, and after a bumpy flight en route to Los Angeles that was forced to land prematurely in Chicago, he suffered a massive panic attack. Now in his 40s, Worsley ended up in a central city, Minnesota, as they travelled the fewest miles in the league based off their schedule. Worsley would play until 1974, retiring shortly before his 45th birthday, which would have tied him with Johnny Bower for the oldest goalie to play in a NHL game.
He wouldn’t don a mask until his final season, on record being the second-last professional goaltender in North America to remain barefaced. He had the most career losses for the longest time, though he has since been surpassed by Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, and Curtis Joseph (it isn’t clear whether or not Worsley accrued 352 or 348 career regular season losses, as the latter would also push Gilles Meloche ahead of Worsley in Ls). Worsley was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980 and died at age 77 in 2007.
24) HARRY LUMLEY
330-329-142, 71 shutouts, 2.75 GAA, .911 save percentage
1 Stanley Cup (1950), 1 Vezina (1954), 2 First-Team All-Star (1954, 1955)
‘Apple Cheeks’ will most likely forever have the distinction of being the youngest goaltender to ever play in an NHL contest, suiting up during the roster-depleting WWII years at the age of 17. Property of Detroit, his NHL debut was a one-game loan to the Rangers before he assumed the starting job in Motor City from Johnny Mowers. The Red Wings made the finals in 1945, and Lumley started in goal, still only 18-and-a-half years old, as the Wings dropped a 7 game series to the Maple Leafs.
His sole Cup ring would come in 1950, as the Wings won the first ever final to go into overtime during Game 7. Both of the Wings’ playoff series that year went the full 7 games, and Lumley appeared in all 14 contests, posting 3 shutouts and a GAA of 1.85.
With Terry Sawchuk rapidly advancing up the farm system, Lumley was traded by Jack Adams to the woeful Blackhawks, where he spent two years toiling in one of the worst periods in Chicago’s history. After compiling a record of 29-85-19, he must have been relieved to be traded to Toronto for Al Rollins, where for the next 4 seasons, he would play terrific hockey.
In 1953-54, he set a franchise record with 13 shutouts and a 1.86 GAA, along with 32 wins. It would stand as the most shutouts recorded by a goaltender between 1929 to 1970, assuring Lumley’s place on the First All-Star Team, along with the Vezina trophy. In fact, Lumley would record 31 shutouts during his first three seasons with the Leafs, which contributed handsomely to his total of 71 throughout the course of his career (still 12th all time).
Unfortunately, the Leafs couldn’t go all the way, and Lumley was traded back to Chicago in 1956, though he refused to report. He spent the next couple seasons in the minors until Boston claimed him after their failed experiment with Terry Sawchuk (my, how things have come full circle), and Lumley played admirably until he left the NHL in 1960.
He played at least one game for every Original 6 team except Montreal, and became the first goaltender to win 300 games, and lose 300. He was also known for tinkering with his equipment to control rebounds, and would not be shy about swinging his stick to clear his crease, sometimes even at his own players. Red Kelly also claimed that Lumley loved lobster. That’s right. Lobsters. What a guy. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980 and died at the age of 71 in 1998.
23) ROBERTO LUONGO
489-392-33-91, 77 shutouts, 2.52 GAA, .919 save percentage
1 Jennings (2011), 2 Second-Team All-Star (2004, 2007)
The half-Italian, half-Irish, Montreal-born Luongo was a full-blooded goaltender. When he was drafted by the Islanders with the fourth overall pick in 1997, it was the highest any goaltender had every been picked, though this has since been surpassed. He actually could have been property of the Leafs had the Islanders not traded Wendel Clark back to Toronto for the fourth selection.
His debut came on November 28, 1999, stopping all but one of the 44 shots hurled his way, in a 2-1 victory over Boston. The Islanders were a pretty poor team during the late 90s, but Luongo thought he would be the guy that they could build the franchise around into the new millennium. However, they drafted Rick DiPietro with the first pick in 2000 and Luongo was traded to Florida in quite the change of plans. It was with the Panthers that Luongo would begin to carve out his legacy.
In 2003-04, he kept a save percentage of .931, though the Panthers continued to be rubbish, continuously missing the playoffs. In only his fifth season in Florida, Luongo set the franchise record for goaltending wins at 107, passing the great John Vanbiesbrouck. That same season, he faced a record of shots in a single year, facing rubber 2475 times in 72 games.
It came of great surprise to Luongo that he was traded to Vancouver in 2006 for a lucrative sum. His first season in Vancouver could arguably have been his best; 47 wins, a 2.29 GAA, a 9.21 save percentage, and his first ever trip to the postseason. His playoff debut resulted in a 72 save, quadruple overtime win over the Dallas Stars.
In 2010-11, he won his 300th career game, and the Canucks would win the Presidents Trophy for the first time in franchise history. Luongo was awarded the Jennings trophy by keeping his goals against average to 2.11. The Canucks would go all the way to the finals, though they would be shutout in Game 7 to Boston while at home, prompting an ugly showing of rioting by fans in downtown Vancouver.
From that point forward, a goaltending controversy seemed to emerge between Luongo and Cory Schneider. Luongo became the winningest goalie in Canucks history, as well as setting their shutout record, passing Kirk McLean. Schneider was ultimately dealt to New Jersey, though Luongo wouldn’t last much longer, heading back to Florida at the deadline in 2014.
During his final season in 2018-19, he passed Patrick Roy for 2nd on the all-time games played list, and unseated Ed Belfour for 3rd in all-time wins. He retired at the age of 40, just shy of 500 regular season wins and 400 losses. It’s a shame his cupboard isn’t full of more hardware to coincide with his longevity.
22) BILLY SMITH
305-233-105, 22 shutouts, 3.17 GAA, .891 save percentage
4 Stanley Cups (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983), 1 Vezina (1982), 1 Jennings (1983), 1 Conn Smythe (1983), 1 First-Team All-Star (1982)
Battlin’ Billy had a little bit of everything. He was an imposing goaltender who struck fear into forwards who would dare crash his crease. He, like Ron Hextall, could sure use that stick to both play the puck and chop at ankles. Best of all, he was the supreme money goaltender that you could call upon to will his team to victory in the playoffs, despite having played the majority of regular season games in only 9 of his 18 seasons. In fact, he only appeared in more than 50 regular season games just once.
It was his deep concentration and focus that ensured his Islander teammates that he would be up to the test, even if he hadn’t been playing in every single match. Smith was a 5th round pick by the LA Kings in 1970, and would play in only 5 games as a backup in 1971-72 before the Islanders claimed him in the expansion draft. He was the second player ever selected by the team.
For the next 17 years, Smith was synonymous with the franchise that enjoyed four consecutive Stanley Cups in the early 1980s, and set the record with 19 straight playoff series victories. They nearly earned a fifth consecutive Cup had it not been for the blistering Oilers offence. Smith had split goaltending duties with Chico Resch in the mid-to-late 1970s, but earned the starting job in the 1980 postseason, proving he was focused when it came time for the big games. He won the Vezina in 1982 by posting a 2.97 GAA and a record of 32-9-4.
The following year, he won the Jennings with comrade Roland Melanson, as Smith kept his GAA to 2.87, a remarkable feat during the explosive scoring output of the 1980s. His play in the postseason as the Islanders won their 4th straight Cup earned Smith the Conn Smythe, having gone 13-3 with 3 shutouts. Smith kept the surging Oilers to only 6 goals in the 4 game sweep.
Smith is also the first NHL goaltender to receive credit for scoring a goal, as he was the last Islanders player to touch the puck in a 1979 game against the Colorado Rockies before a blind pass from the corner resulted in an own goal. Smith also had the swag of the century, being one of the innovators of the cage-mask combo, something extremely common for goaltenders during the 1980s. He retired in 1989, having been the last original Islander from 1972 that remained. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.
21) CURTIS JOSEPH
454-352-90-6, 51 shutouts, 2.79 GAA, .906 save percentage
1 King Clancy (2000)
Some will think this is overly generous, putting CuJo near the top 20. Others might think that he deserves to be a little bit further down the list. This is a guy who was a regular in the league for nearly 20 years, sits 7th all-time in wins, 3rd in losses, and 26th in shutouts. Yet, he never won a Cup, never won an individual trophy except the Clancy for humanitarian and off-ice contributions, and played for six different clubs. To whom does his main allegiance lie? Does it even matter?
Having been undrafted, his debut in 1989-90 with St. Louis is nothing short of spectacular. Not to mention the personal hardships he endured growing up, placed up for adoption by unmarried teenage parents. He is the only goaltender to have 30 or more wins with 5 different teams (St. Louis, Edmonton, Toronto, Detroit, and Phoenix). By 1991, the starting job was all his in St. Louis, and he was a runner up for the Vezina in 1993 after taking a shellacking between the pipes, facing an incredible amount of shots and keeping his GAA near 3.00.
His rights were traded to Edmonton in 1995, and for three years, he was a formidable presence in goal, twice upsetting much better seeds in the playoffs. His stupendous save on Joe Nieuwendyk in Game 7 of the 1997 opening playoff round was iced with an Oilers victory to give CuJo a pleasant 30th birthday present.
Most would claim that his time in Toronto was the prime of his career. From 1998-2002, he twice took the Leafs to the Eastern Conference Final, posting 30+ wins in his first 3 years with the Buds, and was once again the runner-up for the Vezina in both 1999 and 2000. He was on the move yet again to Detroit in 2002, something that temporarily tainted his tenure in Toronto.
After the lockout season, he spent 2 years in Phoenix under the coaching of Wayne Gretzky before his age began catching up with him. He was Miikka Kiprusoff’s backup in 2007-08 with the Flames, and performed custodial heroics in Game 3 of their first round series against the Sharks by coming in and leading Calgary to a comeback. This made him the first goaltender to be victorious in a playoff game with 5 different clubs.
He closed out his illustrious career with one more season in Toronto, retiring in the 2009 offseason at the age of 42. His 63 playoff victories are the most of any goaltender to have not won a Cup.
Source: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
20) MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF
319-213-7-64, 44 shutouts, 2.49 GAA, .912 save percentage
1 Vezina (2006), 1 Jennings (2006), 1 First-Team All-Star (2006)
The fine Finnish goaltender began his career as part of a European trio in San Jose. Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov, and Vesa Toskala all had their hand on the steering wheel in the early 2000s, but one of them obviously had to be the odd man out. Kiprusoff seemed to have a promising future, but couldn’t get in gear in San Jose by the beginning of the 2003-04 campaign.
He was traded to Calgary, where for the next 9 seasons, he was consistently at the top of all active netminders. His first season in Calgary saw them nearly go all the way (I still say they were robbed in Game 6), losing to Tampa Bay in a heartbreaking seventh game. Kiprusoff set a modern record by posting a 1.69 GAA, yet an injury in the middle of the season kept him from qualifying for the Jennings trophy, as he only played in 38 games, still obtaining 4 shutouts and a save percentage of .933.
The year following the lockout, Kiprusoff was the undisputed best goalie in the world, as he set a franchise record for wins with 42 (breaking that record by winning 45 games in 2008-09), and posted 10 shutouts with a 2.07 GAA. In many other seasons, he could have won the Hart, but Joe Thornton’s immaculate 125-point season made the difference. He was one of the busiest goalies of the past few decades, appearing in 70+ games in 7 consecutive seasons.
While the Flames could never duplicate the playoff run that they had in 2004, Kipper still managed at least 35 wins in each season but his last. He easily overtook Mike Vernon on the all-time franchise wins list, and his 21st shutout on March 27, 2007 passed Dan Bouchard for the Flames record for goose eggs.
In a game against the Blue Jackets in 2011, he became the first goaltender in 25 years to stop two penalty shots in the same match. He joined the 300 win club in February of 2012, the 27th tendy to ever reach this milestone.
The shortened 2012-13 was Kiprusoff’s final dance. Despite seemingly still having a few years left, the strenuous work load he bore for almost a decade led to his retirement at the age of 36. It is likely that he will hold the Flames records for games played, wins and shutouts for many years to come. He still remains in 30th place in all-time league wins, and 37th in shutouts.
Source: Graphic Artists/HHOF Images
19) JOHNNY BOWER
250-194-89, 37 shutouts, 2.51 GAA, .921 save percentage
4 Stanley Cups (1962, 1963, 1964, 1967), 2 Vezina (1961, 1965), 1 First-Team All-Star (1961)
Johnny Bower was one of 9 children to parents who separated when he was 10 years old. This created a bit of a stigma that young Johnny (nee John Kiszkan) strove to shake off. He created a makeshift stick from a tree branch and pads made of mattress fabric when he tended goal on the frozen ponds of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
After returning from the war, where he had enlisted as a minor, he legally changed his name to Bower when he began playing minor professional hockey in the mid 1940s. For years he toiled in the AHL with the Cleveland Barons, until he earned his chance to stake his place in the NHL with the Rangers during the 1953-54 season. The Rangers weren’t so hot in the 1950s, but Bower played in all 70 games, going 29-31-10, with a formidable 2.60 GAA and 5 shutouts as New York finished just 6 points out of a playoff spot.
He couldn’t maintain his place in the lineup, as the Rangers preferred to go with Gump Worsley instead, and for the next four years, aside from appearing in 7 games to cover various Worsley injuries, he was content with staying in the AHL. That all changed in 1958 when interim GM Stafford Smythe sought out Bower to take over the starting job for the Maple Leafs. It was a role that Bower fulfilled for nearly 12 seasons, playing until the remarkable age of 45.
He took the Leafs to the finals in his first two season in Toronto, and won the Vezina in his third season, going 33-15-10 with a 2.50 GAA. Having dreamt it for many years, Bower finally achieved his goal of winning the Stanley Cup, as his Leafs triumphed in three consecutive years from 1962 to 1964. Nearly 40 years of age, Toronto brought in unprotected Terry Sawchuk to share duties with Bower, Sawchuk himself nearing 35.
They split the Vezina in their first year together, Bower posting a 2.38 GAA with 3 shutouts in 34 games of action. The tandem would split duties in the 1967 playoffs, the fourth and final time that Bower would have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. Bower’s sensational goaltending in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals against Montreal, where he stopped 61 shots in a double overtime success is what arguably paved the way to them closing out the series in six games.
His final game was the only one in which he played in 1969-70, unfortunately surrendering five goals in a loss, but the hell with it; Johnny Bower is one of the most inspiring goaltenders in NHL history. Despite passing away in 2017 at the age of 93, it still seemed like he was taken too soon. A Hall of Famer since 1976, Bower remains 2nd on the all-time Leafs win list and 3rd in team shutouts.
Source: Le Studio du Hockey/HHOF Images
18) CHARLIE GARDINER
112-152-52, 42 shutouts, 2.02 GAA
1 Stanley Cup (1934), 2 Vezina (1932, 1934), 3 First-Team All-Star (1931, 1932, 1934), 1 Second-Team All-Star (1933)
Gardiner is the epitome of a tragic hero. Born in Scotland in 1904, he and his family moved to Winnipeg when he was 7 years old. He learned the skate a year after settling in the country, and endured some family hardships when his father passed when Gardiner was 12, and his older brother developed a chronic illness suffered during World War I at the hands of poisonous gas. Gardiner was a gifted athlete, and broke into professional hockey in the early 1920s, playing in various leagues. He earned his spot in the NHL during the Chicago Blackhawks’ second season in franchise history.
The Blackhawks struggled early in their existence as most new teams do, but Gardiner could steal them the occasional game, despite winning only 6 out of 40 contests in 1927-28. While many goaltenders on good teams enjoyed ‘The Year of the Shutout’ in 1928-29, Gardiner claimed ‘only’ 5 clean sheets, and boasted a dismal record of 7-29-8. The Blackhawks scored only 33 goals throughout the entire 44 game schedule, and were shutout in 8 consecutive matches. Good golly.
Things began coming together in Gardiner’s fourth season in 1930-31, as he earned First All-Star Team honours and took the Blackhawks to the finals, where they lost to the Canadiens. Gardiner’s record of 24-17-3 with 12 shutouts and a 1.73 GAA proved that the patience management showed had paid off, and the Scottish-born goalkeeper was their long-term guy.
He won his first of two Vezina’s the next year, with another sub 2.00 GAA season (1.85 in 48 games), though the Blackhawks slumped a bit and finished just below .500. He was the first right-handed catcher to win the Vezina. The next year, he began developing a tonsil infection, something that he kept hidden from his teammates and coaches.
Chicago won their first ever Cup in 1934, Gardiner’s seventh and final season. He posted 10 shutouts, and a remarkable 1.63 GAA, though his infection had altered his mood. He was more prone to outbursts in the dressing room, and would slump over the crossbar when the puck was in the other team’s zone. He was bestowed the captaincy of the team during the campaign, earning the distinction of being the first goaltending captain to lead their team to the title.
Sadly, the unreported tonsil infection proved fatal in the offseason, as Gardiner suffered a brain hemorrhage on his way to a singing lesson. He was honoured amongst the first class of inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945.
Source: Montreal Gazette
17) ALEC CONNELL
193-156-67, 81 shutouts, 1.91 GAA
2 Stanley Cups (1927, 1935)
Connell was a renaissance man. When not shutting down attackers like Howie Morenz or Nels Stewart, he would perform his duties as secretary of the Ottawa Fire Department during the offseason. In addition to that, he has a few claims to fame that might take decades to better. He joined the Ottawa Senators in 1924 after their star netminder of the past dozen years, Clint Benedict, was traded to the Montreal Maroons. While 7 shutouts in 30 games as a rookie is incredible, his sophomore season was one for the ages: 15 shutouts, a 1.12 GAA (that’s correct, that’s not a typo) and 24 wins in 36 contests.
His third season in 1926-27 resulted in a Stanley Cup, the last title Ottawa has ever won. That season, he became the first goaltender to ever win 30 regular season games, finishing 30-10-4, adding another 13 shutouts in the process. He conceded only 4 goals in 6 playoff games, as the Sens cruised past the Bruins to close out their little dynasty of the 1920s that resulted in 4 total Cups in 8 years. While the Sens would never be this successful again, Connell himself did not deteriorate whatsoever in 1927-28.
He set what is still to this day, the longest shutout streak in league history: 461 minutes, 29 seconds. That’s 6 straight clean sheets sandwiched between 25 minutes at the beginning of the streak and another 41 minutes at the end before finally being beaten by Chicago’s Duke Keats. 25 days between goals! He would finish the season having blanked 15 opponents, giving him exactly 50 shutouts in 4 years (only 32 goalies have ever managed that many clean sheets, Connell did this in 154 games). He also had a 1.24 GAA in case you weren’t impressed yet.
If you’ve read these articles in order, you might recall that 1928-29 was known as ‘The Year of the Shutout’. While aforementioned goalies like Lorne Chabot, Roy Worters and John Ross Roach enjoyed career numbers, how did Connell stack up given his already impressive resume? Kinda poorly in comparison to be honest. He managed only 7 shutouts, and his 1.43 GAA was just sixth best in the league that year as the Senators began succumbing to poor play and financial difficulties. They couldn’t afford to compete in the 1931-32 season, and Connell was thus loaned to the Detroit Falcons for the campaign, still playing quite well.
After one more year with the returning Senators in 1932-33, he retired, only to be called in as an emergency goaltender by the New York Americans for one game in 1933-34. He must have missed playing, for he returned the year after that to play for the Maroons, posting another 9 shutouts and a 1.86 GAA in 48 games, taking the Maroons to the finals and winning his second Cup of his career.
After retiring once again after that triumph, he returned for one last hurrah in 1936-37 with the Maroons, appearing in 27 games before retiring for good. His 1.91 GAA is the best of any goalie who has played more than 25 career games, and given the nature of the game today, it is likely that it won’t be broken anytime soon. He lived long enough to hear his name included for induction to the Hall of Fame in 1958, dying before he was officially enshrined. His 81 shutouts in only 417 games puts him in a tie for sixth all-time.
16) TONY ESPOSITO
423-306-151, 76 shutouts, 2.93 GAA, .903 save percentage
1 Stanley Cup (1969), 3 Vezina (1970, 1972, 1974), Calder (1970), 3 First-Team All-Star (1970, 1972, 1980), 2 Second-Team All-Star (1973, 1974)
One of the pioneers of the hybrid style, ‘Tony O’ had one of the single greatest goaltending seasons in the modern era. 50 years ago at this time, he was coming off of a 15 shutout, 2.17 GAA, 38-win effort with the Blackhawks. No netminder has managed that many shutouts in a single season since. A late bloomer, Esposito was 27 when he was awarded the Calder and Vezina trophy for his heroics that season.
His first official season in the league happened the year prior in 1968-69, where he was originally slated to be the third-string goalie for Montreal behind Rogie Vachon and Gump Worsley. Due to each suffering injuries, Esposito saw action in 13 regular season games, failing to meet the minimum number to qualify for the Calder. Hence, he was awarded rookie of the year honours for his unparalleled numbers the following year after he was claimed off waivers by the Blackhawks.
Esposito would continue to serve as the Blackhawks starting netminder until he was 40. His second Vezina came two years after his first, as he posted a career best 1.77 GAA with 9 shutouts in just 48 contests. His workload increased substantially throughout the rest of the decade, as he appeared in at least 63 games throughout the next 8 seasons.
His third and final Vezina was shared with Bernie Parent in 1974; another 10 shutouts and a 2.04 GAA. Not too shabby. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks could never win a Cup during Esposito’s tenure, coming closest in both 1971 and 1973, when they were defeated by Montreal on both occasions.
Esposito was one of the first goalies to popularize the jersey number 35, and remains one of only 8 goaltenders who caught right-handed to win the Vezina. He was also known to tamper with his equipment obsessively, not talk to his family on game day, and would request that his trainers rub horse liniment all over his arms to loosen him up.
In 1980, he enjoyed his final First-Team All-Star selection, as he kept opponents to no goals on 6 junctures. As he grew closer to 40, the high offensive speed of the 1980s passed him by, and his final few years weren’t as flattering as they could be. He was nonetheless immortalized as one of the best goaltenders to ever play at the time of his 1984 retirement. He still ranks 10th in all-time wins and 11th in shutouts.