Stanley Cup History: 7 NHL Goalies Who Made Fans Forget Their Predecessors
All four of the most recent Stanley Cup champions constitute the last four teams in the hunt for the 2013 championship. Yet only Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles has stayed with his current team as the starting goaltender since winning his first title.
Elsewhere, Marc-Andre Fleury has bobbled his No. 1 duties in Pittsburgh, giving way to Tomas Vokoun. In that sense, if the Penguins win the 2013 title, it could be a remake, goaltending-wise, of the last time the Edmonton Oilers won the Cup.
In Chicago, Corey Crawford is filling the pads of Antti Niemi, who left for San Jose after backstopping the Blackhawks to the title in 2010. Ironically, in the not-too-distant past, another Original Six team collected two Cups in relatively a short span with the help of two different goalies, one of whom became a Shark in the interim.
In Boston, Tuukka Rask is essentially vying to be the latter-day Frank Brimsek, with 2011 Conn Smythe Trophy recipient Tim Thomas cast as Tiny Thompson.
Quick has an opportunity to become the first NHL goaltender to play the majority or entirety of back-to-back championship runs since Tom Barrasso pulled it off with Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992. In addition, there is still a chance that Fleury, the winning stopper from the 2009 tournament, can reclaim his job and help the Pens regain the glory this spring.
Otherwise, odds are fans will see a new masked man patrolling the pipes for a team that had a different ring-bearing goaltender in its crease not so long ago. Crawford, Rask and Vokoun all have a chance to join the historic company of these seven successful successors.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics and playoff results for this report were found via hockey-reference.com.
Frank Brimsek, 1939
For a full decade, beginning with the franchise’s first ever championship in 1928-29, the Boston Bruins turned to no other netminder besides Tiny Thompson in the postseason.
Although Thompson did not win another Cup in that span, his year-to-year output was plenty for anyone to feel skeptical when Boston dealt him to Detroit to clear the crease for Frank Brimsek. At the time of the deal in November of 1938, Thompson was coming off a season in which he led the league in wins (30) for the fifth time in his career and goals-against average (1.80) for the fourth time.
But Brimsek not only succeeded Thompson as the Bruins backstop in 1938-39, he also succeeded him as the league’s wins leader (33) and GAA leader (1.56).
In addition, he all but immediately earned his “Mister Zero” moniker with an unmatched 10 regular-season shutouts. He followed that up by retaining a 1.25 GAA while posting an 8-4 record en route to the 1939 Cup.
Frank McCool, 1945
The Turk Broda era in Toronto did not actually end after his first Cup in 1942, but it did go on hiatus for two years while the future Hall of Famer served in the military.
In the second of those seasons, namely 1944-45, Frank McCool kept Broda’s crease warm by posting a shutout in half of his eight playoff wins en route to the title. Those four shutouts remain a Maple Leafs franchise record for a single postseason run.
That output, along with the 2.23 goals-against average and the hardware that came with it, allowed McCool to underline the “wonder” in “one-year wonder.”
Broda eventually returned to NHL action in 1945-46 and patrolled the crease for four more championships in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951. But the Leafs faithful was indebted to McCool for ensuring that there was at least one title in that five-year gap between 1942 and 1947.
Terry Sawchuk, 1952
Arguably the best netminder from his era, Terry Sawchuk began his career with seven regular-season appearances for the Detroit Red Wings in 1949-50. He settled for backup duties during the postseason while a fellow legend, Harry Lumley, helped the Wings to a title.
By the next autumn, Lumley was a Chicago Blackhawk and Sawchuk had his chance to verify his own celestial skill set.
It did not translate to the postseason right away, as the Wings lost to Montreal in the first round of the 1951 playoffs. But the next year, Sawchuk went a pristine 8-0, giving up only five goals along the way, for his first of three titles in four years as a Red Wing.
Gump Worsley, 1965-66
Jacques Plante claimed credit for all 40 victories over the course of the Montreal Canadiens’ unmatched five-year championship dynasty between 1956 and 1960. Three years later, he partook in his last playoff run with the Habs and gave way to Charlie Hodge for the 1963-64 season.
Hodge would not have uncontested possession of Montreal’s starting job for long. He saw action in five playoff games, going 3-2 in the 1965 tournament, whereas Gump Worsley played the other eight, going 5-3.
As it happened, Worsley backstopped the Canadiens to their first title since the end of that five-year regal reign. He followed that with a run to a repeat in 1966, posting an 8-2 record and 1.99 goals-against average in 10 games.
For his final run as the definitive No. 1 netminder in Montreal, Worsley outdueled Glen Hall and the St. Louis Blues for another Cup in 1968.
Ken Dryden, 1971
At the tail end of his years with the Canadiens, the aforementioned Worsley gradually gave way to Rogie Vachon, who backstopped the better part of another title run in 1969.
But a year after the Habs failed to three-peat in 1970, they resurfaced with a rookie who had all of six games’ worth of professional experience (all wins).
When the 1971 playoffs posed the question, Ken Dryden answered with assertion by helping the Habs vanquish the defending champion Boston Bruins.
The first-round, seven-game triumph emboldened Dryden’s competitiveness status. A subsequent six-game semifinal victory over Minnesota and seven-game championship victory over Chicago, coupled with Conn Smythe accolades, cemented it.
Dryden’s springtime breakout ensured that Montrealers did not have to wait any longer than two years for another title in the post-Vachon/Worsley era. For the remainder of the decade, they would not have to wait any longer than three years at a time as Dryden backstopped every postseason victory during banner campaigns in 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979.
Bill Ranford, 1990
Grant Fuhr was still on the Edmonton Oilers after already winning four Cups in the 1980s, the same way Fleury is still a Penguin. But the dynastic franchise’s first bid for a title in the new decade had Bill Ranford assuming the starting job.
All Ranford did was help to deliver Edmonton’s fifth championship in seven years. His role was accentuated by the Conn Smythe Trophy, which had gone to forward Mark Messier, forward Wayne Gretzky (twice) and opposing goalie Ron Hextall when the Oilers previously claimed the Cup.
Chris Osgood, 1998
Nearly half of a century after the Detroit franchise took Thompson off of Boston’s hands so the Bruins could make room for the goalie of their future, the Red Wings reversed their roles with a similarly gutsy move.
Mike Vernon was barely two months removed from winning the Conn Smythe along with the Cup when the Wings sent him to San Jose.
At that point, Chris Osgood was 24 going on 25 and a veteran of four NHL seasons, including 25 playoff games. But he was not nearly as proven as the two-time champion Vernon, who had won another Cup with Calgary in 1989.
By the next summer, he was proven, posting a 16-6 record, 2.12 GAA and .918 save percentage en route to a repeat for Detroit, the last team to successfully defend the playoff crown.