Greatest Goaltender Of All-Time

Matt Eichel@@mattyalloutSenior Writer ISeptember 1, 2008


With the buzzing news of the Montreal Canadiens possibly raising Patrick Roy's immortal #33 to the rafters in the Bell Centre this centennial season, can we start the debate once again?

Who is the best all-time goaltender in NHL history?

Patrick Roy (1985-2003; Montreal Canadiens & Colorado Avalanche)

Roy's numbers speak for themselves - 551 season wins, 66 season shutous, 247 playoff wins, 3 Conn Smythe Trophies, 4 Stanley Cups.  Impressive numbers with both the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche over his 18 year career.

It may not have been Roy's numbers alone that make him a candidate for best goalie of all-time, it may have been his quirks, his remarks, and his monicker on the ice.  Known for being a very cocky, confident netminder, Roy sometimes broke under the very arrogance that he set up for himself.  

When making a glove save during another Western Conference showdown against the Detroit Red Wings, Roy did his signature move to show he had the puck, when the puck was really dribbling behind him into this own net.  The Avalanche never recovered in the series.

Perhaps the most well-known quote from Roy came during the 1996 Playoffs, when Roy denied Chicago Blackhawks Jeremy Roenick on a breakaway in Game 4.  After the game, Roenick commented that there should have been a penalty shot because he was apparently being tackled by a Av defender.  

"I like Patrick's comment when he said he could have stopped me.  I'd like to know where Patrick was in Game 3, probably up trying to get his jock out of the rafters."

Roy responded quickly by stating that "I can't really hear what Jeremy says, because I've got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ear."

Not only did the Avalanche win the series, but went on to win the Stanley Cup in their first season in Denver.


Jacques Plante (1952-1975; Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maples Leafs, Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers [WHA])

The very man's records he passed on his way to 551 career wins, Jacques Plante is another contender for greatest all-time goaltender.  Playing in an era when goaltenders never wore masks and were the most beat-up player on the ice, Plante persevered and became a pioneer for goaltenders for generations after.

The #1 netminder for the Montreal Canadiens starting in 1954-55 NHL season, Plantebecame well entrenched in the NHL as a great goalie.

During a November 1st game in 1959, Andy Bathgate of the New York Rangers hitPlante square in the face with a slapshot causing Plante to have to get stitched up.  Subsequently, Plante came back with a mask on to complete the game.  Since that day, masks made a strong case for many netminders across the game.

Canadiens head coach Toe Blake refused to play Plante with the mask on, but Plantesaid he would not play unless he wore the mask.  Blake agreed only saying that Plantehad to discard the mask when the cut healed.  After the game, Plante wore the mask on an 18-game winning streak.  Plante did not wear the mask at Blake's request against the Detroit Red Wings.  The Canadiens lost the game 3-0 and the mask stayed on Plante's face.

Despite not being the first goalie to wear protective equipment on their head (Montreal Maroon's Clint Benedict wore a leather mask to protect a broken nose), Plante was the first goalie to introduce it into everyday use.

Plante's career was hampered by a chronic bronchitis and varying injuries to his hands and knees, yet Plante was a clutch netminder.  Despite his up-and-down career withMontreal, he won six Vezina Trophies (1955-56, 56-57, 57-58, 58-59, 59-60, 61-62) and became the first netminder to win the Hart and Vezina Trophies in 1961-62.

Plante was dealt to the New York Rangers because of his inconsistent play withMontreal in the early 1960s and retired after a season and a bit with the Rangers.  Plante made a comeback during the 1968-69 season with the expansion St. Louis Blues, splitting time with another goalie great Glenn Hall.  Plante and Hall would share the Vezina Trophy that season and Plante passed Bill Durnan's record of six VezinaTrophies.

Plante would eventually play a few more seasons before finally retiring.  His numbers speak volumes - 434 season wins, 82 shutouts, 71 playoff wins, 7 Vezina Trophies, 6 Stanley Cups, 1 Hart Trophy.


Terry Sawchuk (1949-1970; Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, LA Kings)

Terry Sawchuk played along with Plante in the era of unmasked netminders, yet as didPlante, Sawchuk donned his own mask.  In his career, Sawchuk won 501 games (since broken by Roy) and added 115 career shutouts (103 during the season, 12 in the playoffs)

Sawchuk's career primarily consisted of playing for the Detroit Red Wings where he became the staple #1 netminder for 13 seasons, winning 4 Stanley Cups, three withDetroit and one with the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs.  Sawchuk's 103 career season shutouts is a record that still stands to this day.

By the end of his career, Sawchuk played his career with Detroit, Toronto, Boston (where he didn't fit in well and was traded back to Detroit in 1957), Los Angeles, and with the New York Rangers.

Sawchuk's 501 win record was broken by Roy and subsequently raised to Roy's 551 wins, yet Sawchuk's records speak for themselves - Calder Trophy (1951), 4 VezinaTrophies (1952, 53, 55, 65), Lester Patrick Trophy (1971), and 4 Stanley Cups (1952, 54, 55, 67).


Dominik Hasek (1981-2008; HC Pardubice [CSEx], Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings)

During his 18 year career, Dominik Hasek became known as "the Dominator".  Known for his unorthodox way of keeping the puck out of the net, Hasek frustrated players and fans of opposing teams numerous times.

Drafted by Chicago in 1983, Hasek never got to the NHL until the 1990-91 season where the Blackhawks made their way to the Stanley Cup finals only to fall to the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Hasek was dealt to Buffalo and started his great career there.

In Buffalo, Hasek would acquire over 25 franchise records including most single season shutouts with 13 (1997-98) and lowest GAA with 1.87 (1998-99).

Hasek's numbers do not lie - 389 season wins, .922 career SV%, 2.20 career GAA, 81 career season shutouts, 2 Hart Trophies (1997, 98), Lester B. Pearson Award (1997, 98), 6 Vezina Trophies (1994, 95, 97, 98, 99, 2001), 3 William M. Jennings Trophies (1994, 2001, 2008), and 2 Stanley Cups (2002, 2008).

Hasek finally retired for good following this last season after playing 18 years with Chicago, Buffalo, Ottawa, and Detroit.


Vladislav Tretiak (1968-1984; CCCP - 138th Overall Pick in 1983 [Montreal Canadiens])

The greatest Soviet/Russian netminder of all-time, Vladislav Tretiak is the idol that many other netmidners, both Russian and Canadian look up to.  Goaltenders such as EdBelfour, Evgeni Nabokov, and others still wear Tretiak's #20 in honour of the great Soviet netminder.

Tretiak moved into the hockey spotlight during the 1972 Summit Series in which the Soviets lost in a close-knit eight game series.  His play in that series brought the entire hockey world to the attention that Tretiak was one of the best netminders of that era.  His duels with Ken Dryden and Tony Esposito during the 1972 series was the stuff of legends.

Despite losing the series in 1972, Tretiak's record is impressive - 2 Olympic Medals (Gold - 1984, Silver - 1980), 13 World Championship Medals (Gold - 1970, 71, 73, 74, 75, 79, 81, 82, 83; Silver - 1972, 76, 78; Bronze - 1977), and 2 Canada Cup Medals (Gold - 1981; Bronze - 1976).

Despite being drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1983, Tretiak was not allowed to go over to North America to play in the NHL.  Due to his relationship with Soviet coachViktor Tikhonov, Tretiak did not want to play anymore for the Soviet national team and retired in 1984 only at the age of 32, with many possible years to play some more hockey.

Imagine Tretiak in the NHL with the Canadiens during their rebuilding years.  It could have been possible Tretiak could have been the starting netminder, but if that had havehappened, would Patrick Roy have got his start in the Canadiens net?


Now that I've given you my top netminders of all-time, let's here yours.

Maybe it's the shutout king Mike Liut or good ole Gump Worsley.  Maybe Grant Fuhr, Mike Vernon, or even Ed Belfour.  

Maybe it is Ken Dryden, Tony Esposito, or Johnny Bower.  Maybe it's a current netminder such as Martin Brodeur or Miika Kiprusoff.

Let the debate rage on.



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