Montreal Canadiens: 15 Best Goaltenders in Franchise History
Goalies are often the backbone of any team.
In this year's playoffs, Jonathan Quick is leading the Los Angeles Kings into the Stanley Cup Final after beating out Phoenix Coyotes stud goaltender Mike Smith. Both players were instrumental in their teams' success.
In the East, we have the New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur, one of the greatest goalies of all time, as the backbone to his Devils. On the other side, Henrik Lundqvist is the brand that is the New York Rangers. Without these goaltenders in net on their respective sides, the teams would probably not be where they are today. Goalies like this give teams a chance to win every night.
In the past, the Montreal Canadiens have had goalies who have led the Habs to success (or close to), just look at the 24 Stanley Cups and countless finals appearances.
Carey Price is the backbone of the team right now. Look at Jaroslav Halak just a few years ago in the playoffs. How about Jose Theodore in the early 2000s? We can span back many years and remember the likes of George Hainsworth and Wilf Cude. The list goes on and on.
So let's take a look at that list and countdown the top 15 best goaltenders in Montreal Canadiens history.
1. Jacques Plante
Jacques Plante may be the best goalie of all-time in the NHL, let alone the Montreal Canadiens.
He might also be the most important too.
Remembered for "inventing the goalie mask" and his "innovative" goaltending, Plante was such an important element for the Montreal Canadiens.
He first played for the Canadiens in 1952 but it was in 1956 where he really emerged as the star goaltender that he soon became. He backstopped the Habs to five consecutive Stanley Cups from 1956-1961, while winning five Vezina trophies for being the NHL's top goaltender.
It was in 1959, after being hit in the face by a puck shot by the New York Rangers Andy Bathgate, who some believe aimed for Plante's face, that the goalie left the ice for repairs and came out wearing a mask, something that the NHL had never seen its goalies wear before.
At the time, Habs' coach Toe Blake didn't like the idea of Plante wearing a mask and ordered him to take it off. Plante refused, so Blake let him wear it until the cut healed. Afterwards, Plante still refused to take it off.
Blake was upset, but the Habs were winning, so he complied, and the team went on to win 18 consecutive games in that stretch and the goalie mask stuck.
He is also remembered for being the first goalie to skate out of the crease and go behind the net to stop the puck for defensemen. It is also believed he was the first goalie to raise his arm to indicate an icing for his defensemen, something that almost all goalies do today.
Plante played for the Habs from 1952-1963. He won six Stanley Cups with the team, including the record five in a row. He has the record for most wins by a Habs goaltender with 314.
2. Patrick Roy
Patrick Roy is also one of those goalies considered to be one of the best of all time.
Roy broke into the league with the Canadiens in 1985-86. He appeared in 47 games and ended up with the starting job in the playoffs during his rookie year.
Roy, with all his heroics, led the Habs to a Stanley Cup victory and his legacy as a star was born. He was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy for most valuable player in the playoffs and at 20 years of age, was the youngest player to ever accept the award.
He also won back-to-back Vezinas in 1989 and 1990. In 1993, Roy was the backbone for another Habs playoff run, as his heroics yet again led the Habs to their 24th Stanley Cup. That year the Habs won 10 games in overtime and Roy was the centrepiece.
After a dispute with the owners and coaches after being left in the net for 9 goals in a 1995 game against Detroit, Roy demanded he be traded. The Habs then dealt him and Mike Keane to the Colorado Avalanche for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Ruchinsky and Andrei Kovalenko.
He went on to become one of the greatest goalies of all time until his retirement in 2003, and finished his Habs career second on the wins list, just behind Plante, with 289.
3. Ken Dryden
Ken Dryden was a goalie monumental to the Habs' success in the 1970s.
Dryden was drafted by the Boston Bruins 14th overall in 1964 but traded to the Canadiens that same day.
He went to Cornell university and got a degree before he began his NHL career in 1971. He made his debut that year, playing in only six games, but with a 1.65 goals-against-average. This earned him the starting job over All-Star Rogie Vachon going into the playoffs despite his lack of experience.
This choice paid off for the Habs, as they rode Dryden to a Stanley Cup victory. Dryden won the Conn Smythe trophy that year and was the Habs new star in net. He actually won the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year the following season. Over the next eight years, Dryden backstopped the Habs to five more Cups until 1979.
Dryden actually sat out the 1973-74 season because he was unhappy with the contract offer he received from owner Sam Pollock. Dryden didn't budge all year and the Habs lost in the first round of the playoffs. During that year, Dryden actually finished his law degree and articled for a law firm.
Following the 1979 season, Dryden retired at the age of 31. He had played just over seven seasons, winning five Vezina trophies. In just 397 games, Dryden won 258 of those and only lost 57. He recorded 46 shutouts and had a 2.24 GAA.
He ranks third on the Habs' all-time wins list with 258.
4. George Hainsworth
George Hainsworth made his Habs debut in 1926, after a stint with the Saskatoon Crescents.
He won the Vezina trophy in his first three seasons with the team. In 1928-29, Hainsworth set an all-time record with 22 shutouts and a 0.92 GAA in 44 games. He backstopped the Canadiens to Stanley Cups in 1930 and 1931.
Hainsworth served as the Habs' captain in 1932-33 and was then traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Lorne Chabot. Habs' part-owner Leo Dandurand traded Hainsworth for Chabot in order to get more French-Canadian players on the Habs' roster to make fans happy.
Hainsworth won a Cup with the Leafs in 1935 and then lost the starting job to Turk Broda. He joined the Habs for a short stint in 1936 after Wilf Cude was injured, but retired a short time later.
Hainsworth's records of 22 shutouts in 44 games will likely never be matched. In his time, Hainsworth was one of the greatest goalies to ever play the game.
He is sixth on the Habs' all time wins list with 167 and first in shutouts with 75.
5. Georges Vezina
Georges Vezina was the Habs only goaltender to play from 1910 to 1925.
He played 327 consecutive games and a further 39 playoff games before leaving a game early in 1925 due to an apparent illness. Vezina was diagnosed with tuberculosis and died on March 27, 1926
Vezina backstopped the Habs to two Stanley Cups in 1910 and 1924. In 1918, he became the first goalie to record a shutout and an assist in the same game.
Following his death, the Canadiens donated the Vezina trophy, to be awarded to the NHL's most outstanding goaltender voted by the general managers. Vezina was one of the original nine inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945.
He ranks fourth on the Habs' all-time wins list with 175 and his name will forever be remembered by the trophy dedicated after him, which is still awarded today.
5. Bill Durnan
Bill Durnan won the Vezina trophy in each of his first four seasons starting in 1943-44.
He was named the Canadiens captain in 1947-48 but, after that season, the NHL would no longer allow goalies to be captains. Durnan came out of the net so many times to talk to officials and argue calls, that other teams complained. So the "Durnan Rule" was created and no goalie was to be given the captaincy.
Durnan won two more Vezina trophies but retired after just seven years in the NHL at the age of 35. He said he retired because he could not stand the stress of playing professional hockey. He later went into coaching.
He set a record of four consecutive shutouts, spanning over 309 minutes, in 1949, but that record was broken in 2004 by Brian Boucher.
Durnan died of kidney failure in 1972 and finished fourth on the Habs' all-time wins list with 208 wins.
7. Carey Price
Although Carey Price hasn't won as much as the previous six men in the list, he is well on his way.
Price, the current Canadiens goaltender, is the face of the franchise. He is the backbone and the centrepiece.
Price was drafted fifth overall in 2005 by the Habs. He finished his junior career and then joined the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League and led them to a Calder Cup in 2007.
The next year, he was on the Habs' roster. Price played 41 games in his first year, showing signs of brilliance, but also endured some typical rookie struggles. The following year, he started 53 games and it became known that he was here to stay.
Price has been the Habs' No. 1 goalie for the last two years, playing 72 and 65 games respectively. He looks to be the future of the franchise since he is just 24 years old. Although he has yet to win a Stanley Cup or a Vezina, he has already been an NHL All-Star three times.
Price currently sits ninth on the all-time wins list with 124.
8. Lorne "Gump" Worsley
Lorne "Gump" Worsley was born and raised in Montreal and was the Habs' goaltender from 1963 to 1970.
He was a member of four Stanley Cup winning teams after being traded from the New York Rangers in the summer of 1963. He went on to play with the Habs until 1970, when he got in a dispute with owner Sam Pollock about being sent down to the minors.
Worsely won two Vezina trophies with the Habs in 1966 and 1968 and was one of the last two goaltenders to play without a mask.
Worsley is 13th on the Habs' all-time wins list with 92.
9. Michel "Bunny" Larocque
Michel "Bunny" Larocque started his NHL career in 1974 as a backup to Ken Dryden.
He was considered a top backup and likely could have been a No. 1 on any other NHL team, but he stuck with it. He became co-winner of four Vezina trophies, which, during that era, were awarded to the team's goalie(s) who let the fewest goals in.
He won a total of four Stanley Cups as a member of the Canadiens, but was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1981 for defenseman Robert Picard. He eventually retired in 1985 after stints with a few other teams.
Larocque actually finished seventh on the Habs' all-time goalie wins list with 144, despite being a backup most of his life.
10. Jose Theodore
Jose Theodore will be remembered most for his star performance in the 2001-02 season.
Theodore was drafted by the Habs in 1994 and played with the team sparingly until 2000-01, when he was the main starter, playing 59 games. In that year, he also became the eighth goalie to ever score a goal by shooting the puck directly into the net. He also had a shutout in that game.
Theodore played a total of eight seasons in Montreal, but his most memorable season was in 2001-02, when he was awarded the Vezina Trophy as well as the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.
He led the Canadiens as the eighth seed into the playoffs, where they upset the top-seeded Boston Bruins. Theodore was the star of that series and suddenly of Montreal.
The Canadiens lost out to the Carolina Hurricanes in the next round in six games, but Theodore's heroics still resonated with fans, who praised him.
He would never return to that form (well, briefly in 2003-04) and was eventually run out of town and traded to the Colorado Avalanche in 2006.
Theodore ranks eighth on the Habs' all-time wins list with 141. He played last season with the Florida Panthers.
11. Rogatien Vachon
Rogatien "Rogie" Vachon broke into the league as a backup to Gump Worsley in 1967.
He played 11 games that season, but got an opportunity to shine in the playoffs. He played the majority of the games and led the Habs to the Cup Finals, only to lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He started the next season, winning 23 of 39 games played, and capturing the Vezina trophy with Worsley. The Habs went on to win the Cup that year.
The following year, Worsley was traded, leaving Vachon with the No. 1 job. but the Habs would end up missing the playoffs. In 1971, Vachon lost the starting job to Ken Dryden and subsequently demanded a trade out of Montreal.
He was dealt to Los Angeles after winning three Cups in Montreal. He currently sits 12th on the Habs' all-time wins list with 110.
12. Charlie Hodge
Charlie Hodge had three different stints with the Montreal Canadiens: 1954-55, 1957-61 and 1963-67.
He played his first game in 1954, but Jacques Plante was the Habs No. 1 guy at that time, so Hodge was only used in emergency situations. He played a lot of games in the American Hockey League until Plante was traded in 1962.
He finally got the chance to play and captured two Vezina trophies for allowing the least number of goals, once outright, and once shared with Gump Worsley.
Hodge's name appears on the Stanley Cup six times, but he only played in one of those finals. After young goaltender Rogie Vachon emerged in 1967, Hodge was deemed expendable and was let go.
He currently sits 11th on the Habs' all-time wins list with 115.
13. Gerry McNeil
Gerry McNeil led the Habs to the Stanley Cup Finals in four seasons in a row from 1950 to 1954.
The team won the Cup in two of those years where McNeil was the goalie.
He actually signed with the Habs in 1943 as a 17 year old and practiced with the team whenever they were in Montreal, since teams only carried one goalie.
Then in 1950, Bill Durnan was hit in the head with a skate blade and McNeil was called up. Goalies were expected to play every minute of every game in those days, and they did not wear masks. McNeil played six games in relief of Durnan and finished with a 1.50 GAA.
Durnan returned, but didn't return to his same form, and the torch was passed to McNeil. At first, McNeil didn't want to accept the role since he idolized Durnan, but Durnan convinced him and he was left no choice.
McNeil played with the Habs from that point on until 1954, when he suffered a Stanley Cup overtime loss and retired. (He returned for a nine-game stint with the Habs in 1956-57)
He currently sits 10th on the Habs' all-time wins list with 119.
14. Wilf Cude
Wilf Cude played for the Habs from 1933 to 1941.
He first broke into the NHL with the Philadelphia Quakers, but was traded to the Habs in 1933. The Habs already had George Hainsworth but, before the 1933-34 season, Hainsworth was traded to Toronto for Lorne Chabot.
Cude played one game for the Habs and was then "loaned" to Detroit, where he posted an outstanding year, leading the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to Chicago.
The Canadiens saw this work by Cude and traded Chabot. Cude returned to the Habs and was handed the No. 1 spot. Although the Habs' and Cude didn't win a Stanley Cup together, he ranks 14th on the all-time Habs' wins list with 82.
15. Brian Haywayrd
Although Brian Hayward was most known as Patrick Roy's backup, he still rounds out the top-15 Habs goalies of all time.
Hayward played with the Habs from 1986 to 1990, where he split the William M. Jennings Trophy with Patrick Roy for fewest goals against three times. He was then traded to the Minnesota North Stars in 1990.
Hayward sits 16th on the Habs all-time wins list, just one behind Rick Wamsley, with 71.
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