Montreal Canadiens: What Was the Greatest Goaltending Performance of All Time?

Matt EichelSenior Writer IFebruary 18, 2011

Patrick Roy won 289 games of 551 games played in Montreal.
Patrick Roy won 289 games of 551 games played in Montreal.Rick Stewart/Getty Images

In Montreal, it's the same old story: goaltending is how they win.

It's pure fact in most instances of a championship team parading down Ste. Catherine's Street.  From Jacques Plante to Ken Dryden to Patrick Roy, goaltending has saved this team time and time again.

Even after one hundred years, goaltending is still saving them (in the form of Jaroslav Halak in the 2010 Playoffs and Carey Price this season).

The top three winningest goaltenders in Canadiens history (Plante, Roy, Dryden respectively) have all, in their own respective generations, garnered a Stanley Cup win with a team that had no right to win. 

They took an essentially underdog team to ultimate glory.

Case in point, the Montreal Canadiens of 1985-86; Patrick Roy's rookie season.  Roy went 23-18-3 with an above average 3.35 GAA while splitting time with Doug Soetaert (11-7-2) and Steve Penney (6-8-2), whom he usurped the role of starter.

But it was the playoffs that defined Roy's rookie season as he led the Canadiens past the Bruins in three games, the Whalers in seven (thanks to Claude Lemieux's overtime winner in Game Seven), and most impressively, the New York Rangers in five games. 

After losing Game One of the 1986 Stanley Cup Finals 5-3 to Calgary, Roy caught fire again as the Canadiens won the next four straight with Roy allowing only eight goals in those four contests, including a Game Five shutout at the Montreal Forum.

And, at the end of it all, Roy won his first of three Conn Smythe Trophies.

In his era, Ken Dryden won a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe Trophy before he even won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

During the 1971 playoffs, the Canadiens were matched up with the first place Boston Bruins, who were 24 points ahead of the Canadiens and had a powerhouse with the likes of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk, and Ken Hodge (all who had 100+ point seasons).

Dryden's efforts in goal helped the Canadiens overcome a 3-2 series deficit to win the final two games of the best-of-seven Quarter-Finals to upset the powerhouse Bruins.

Throughout Round Two against the Minnesota North Stars he played well, allowing 19 goals in the six game set before outduelling Tony Esposito in the 1971 Stanley Cup Final.

And, of course, who can forget Jacques Plante, who anchored the Canadiens net during their dynasty years. It may not have been his stellar play or his five straight Vezina Trophies, but Plante revolutionized the position with the mask.

Plante also leads all Canadiens goalies with 314 career wins in bleu, blanc, et rogue.

Today's netminder Carey Price has continued that tradition with a comeback year that sees him ready to attack the 30 win plateau for the first time in his young career and possibly compete for the Vezina.

Price (currently sitting 13th all time in wins with 87) has helped the Canadiens to 27 of their 31 wins thus far this season thrusting the goaltending of the Canadiens into the spotlight again, just as much as it was the case for Roy is 1986 and in 1993 and for Dryden in 1971.

Eleven goaltenders in Canadiens history have won over 100 games in a Montreal uniform (four more than Toronto and Chicago, three more than Boston, Detroit, and New York Rangers), the most goalies to win 100+ games with a single team.

Goaltending has saved the Habs in the past and will save them again in the future, which leads me to ask the question: What was the most impressive goaltending performance in Canadiens history?