Cam Ward was a big reason the Carolina Hurricanes won the 2006 Stanley Cup.
Throughout the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there have been heroes who have scored the big goals and brought their team the ultimate glory of hockey's holy grail.
Then there are the puck stoppers who stood 200 feet down the ice who made the big saves when their teams needed it and brought their team the Stanley Cup by shutting down the opponent's most deadly snipers.
When compiling a list of this magnitude over the span of over 100 years of NHL history, there are, of course, those performances that will only garner an honourable mention. Even to get such an honourable mention means that the performance had what it took to win the Stanley Cup or help that team garner a long playoff run.
Let it be known that there are some goaltending performances that did not win a Stanley Cup but helped bring a team to the brink of a possible Cup. These performances must be credited to those teams and their netminders as well.
Without any further ado, here are the Top 15 Playoff Goalie Performances of All-Time!
Olaf Kolzig was a large part of a feisty Washington Capitals team that surprised everyone in 1998.
Martin Brodeur (New Jersey Devils) - 2000 & 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Martin Broduer is known for great playoff goaltending and he had stellar numbers when the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2000 (16-7, 1.61 GAA, .927 SV%) and 2003 (16-8, 1.65 GAA, .934 SV%). Brodeur is one of the greatest goalies of all time, but despite these great numbers, they weren't enough to crack the top 15.
Olaf Kolzig (Washington Capitals) - 1998 Stanley Cup Playoffs
The 1998 version of the Washington Capitals were not supposed to be favourites, especially when they faced a Buffalo Sabres team anchored by Olympic champion Dominik Hasek in the Eastern Conference Finals. Kolzig's numbers back up his success as the Capitals ran to the Stanley Cup Finals. He sported a 12-9 record with a 1.95 GAA and a .941 SV percentage.
Glenn Hall (Chicago Blackhawks & St. Louis Blues) - 1961 & 1968 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Hall's play in 1961 was indicative of a Stanley Cup champion. He sported a 8-4 record with an unheard of 2.02 GAA during the Blackhawks third Stanley Cup championship run. Hall would replicate another long run in 1968 with the St. Louis Blues in the twilight of his career, taking the expansion Blues to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season with an 8-10 record and a 2.43 GAA, garnering the Conn Smythe Trophy along the way.
Roger Crozier (Detroit Red Wings) - 1966 Stanley Cup Playoffs
In only his second season as the Detroit Red Wings starting goalie, the young Roger Crozier helped the fourth placed Detroit Red Wings past the second place Chicago Blackhawks, who were eight points ahead in the standings, in six games. Crozier helped take the eventual Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens to six games, despite the Canadiens finishing 16 points in front of the Red Wings that season. His performance earned him the 1966 Conn Smythe Trophy
Jaroslav Halak (Montreal Canadiens) - 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Having been the backup in Montreal behind Cristobal Huet and then Carey Price for a few years, Jaroslav Halak seized the opportunity to be the number one goalie in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. His play in the Montreal net helped the Canadiens overcome a 3-1 series deficit to the President Trophy winning Washington Capitals in seven games in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. That play continued as he helped the Canadiens upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. His play helped Montreal reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1993. He posted a 9-9 record with a 2.55 GAA and a .923 SV percentage, which was the best save percentage in the playoffs.
Michael Leighton (Philadelphia Flyers) - 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Rarely do we see a backup come onto the scene in the middle of a playoff drive and help a team reverse their fortunes. In the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Michael Leighton's play helped the Flyers overcome a 3-0 series deficit to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals. He wasn't done there, as he posted three shutouts in the Eastern Conference Finals to help the Flyers win the Eastern Conference crown. He helped take the Chicago Blackhawks to six games before eventually falling in overtime. His numbers were 8-3 with a 2.46 GAA and a .916 SV percentage with three shutouts.
Dwayne Roloson (Edmonton Oilers) - 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Give this guy alot of credit for the eighth seeded Edmonton Oilers making the Stanley Cup Finals. Roloson's numbers were great during their playoff run: 12-5 with a 2.33 GAA and a .927 SV percentage. Many believe if it wasn't for the MCL injury to Roloson in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Oilers would have had a better chance in the seven game championship series.
Ken Dryden (Montreal Canadiens) - 1977-1979 Stanley Cup Playoffs
The only reason Dryden is not on this list for these seasons is the pure domination of the Canadiens during this period. This honourable mention is due to his numbers in the playoffs, with GAA well under two for three of the four Stanley Cup championships.
Mike Vernon's numbers were surreal during the 1997 Playoffs that ended Detroit's Stanley Cup drought.
Imagine being the goalie who brings the Stanley Cup to an original six team after 42 years of waiting. Mike Vernon did just that and did it with remarkable numbers in the process.
Vernon posted a 16-6 record with a 2.12 GAA and a .918 SV percentage en route to earning the Conn Smythe Trophy. The Red Wings overcame adversity during the playoffs by winning a hard fought six game tilt with the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals.
On March 26, 1997, the infamous Red Wings-Avalanche brawls occurred during one of the most infamous playoff battles that sparked the two teams' rivalry of the late nineties.
The Red Wings would take out the Philadelphia Flyers "Legion of Doom" in the Stanley Cup Finals in four straight games as Vernon allowed only six goals en route to the Stanley Cup.
Patrick Roy was unstoppable in 2001 for the Colorado Avalanche.
Throughout Patrick Roy's hall of fame career, many said he was in the "zone."
He was in the "zone" in 2001 in a big way and helped a stacked Colorado Avalanche team to the Stanley Cup over the Martin Brodeur-led New Jersey Devils in seven games in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Despite the Avalanche's deep roster, which included Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Rob Blake, and of course Ray Bourque, Roy posted ridiculous numbers. Roy went 16-7 with a 1.70 GAA and a .934 SV percentage, the best playoff performance of his career.
Roy garnered his third career Conn Smythe Trophy and helped the Avalanche to their second Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Cam Ward became a hero when replaced in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals. He never looked back.
In 2006, the Carolina Hurricanes were down 2-0 to the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Martin Gerber wasn't getting the job done after allowing six goals in Game 1. Ward came in with a confident team in front of him only to lose 6-5 in overtime in Carolina.
Cue the hot streak. The Hurricanes would sweep the series from there on out, take out the New Jersey Devils in five games before battling the Buffalo Sabres to a seventh and deciding game.
In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Hurricanes would take the Edmonton Oilers all the way to Game 7, winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup and while Ward captured the Conn Smythe Trophy for his play.
Ward posted a 15-8 record with a 2.14 GAA and a .920 SV percentage in the Hurricanes march to the Stanley Cup.
The iconic Mike Richter stop on Pavel Bure in Game Four of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals.
Another Stanley Cup drought ended in 1994 with the Rangers erasing 54 years of coming close and never winning. The Rangers had come close in the 1970s many times only to lose out.
In 1994, the Rangers were a team of destiny led by captain and five-time Stanley Cup champion Mark Messier. Brian Leetch anchored the blueline and Mike Richter was their solid All-American goaltender.
In 1993-94, Richter presumed full starting duties in the Rangers' net after sharing with John Vanbiesbrouck, who went to the Florida Panthers.
During the 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Richter was sensational as the Rangers cruised through the New York Islanders in four and the Washington Capitals in five. Then came the New Jersey Devils, who went up 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals before Messier assured a Ranger win in Game 6. Messier delivered and Richter helped the cause.
The Rangers would meet the upstart Vancouver Canucks in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. Richter's save of a Pavel Bure penalty shot in Game 4 signified the Rangers relentless pursuit of the Stanley Cup in a 4-2 win which gave the Rangers a 3-1 series lead.
The Canucks would fight back to force Game 7 in New York before the Rangers would take a close one, 3-2.
Richter posted a 16-7 record with a 2.07 GAA and a .921 SV percentage.
With the Edmonton Oilers dynasty slowing going into the twilight years, Bill Ranford made sure that no one forgot about the Oilers too soon. In the first Stanley Cup Playoffs of the nineties, Ranford made his mark on playoff history, despite the rough start.
In the Smythe Division semifinal, the Oilers found themselves down 3-1 to the feisty Winnipeg Jets after Dave Ellet's overtime goal in Game 4. The Oilers would not quit. Led by captain Mark Messier and anchored by Ranford, the Oilers overcame the 3-1 deficit to move on to sweep the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings in the Smyth Division Final.
The Oilers took out another feisty team in the Chicago Blackhawks in six games before meeting the Boston Bruins, a familiar Stanley Cup Final opponent. The Oilers took the 1988 Stanley Cup Final in four straight games.
In the 1990 Stanley Cup Finals, nothing would seem to change as the Bruins lost Games 1 and 2 at home, including a triple overtime loss in Game 1 on a Petr Klima goal. Boston managed to win Game 3 in Edmonton, but Ranford shut the door in Games 4 and 5, allowing two goals combined to help the Oilers win their fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Ranford went 16-6 with a 2.53 GAA and a .912 SV percentage to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
In 1952, Detroit Red Wings goalie Terry Sawchuk posted the best GAA in playoff history as the Red Wings went on to sweep both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens for the 1952 Stanley Cup.
Sawchuk went 8-0 with a 0.63 GAA, giving up only five goals in eight games!
It would be Sawchuk's first of four Stanley Cups and he would go on to win the Vezina in 1952 as well.
JS Giguere's playoff performance in 2003 single-handedly helped the Might Ducks to the Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Before 2003, JS Giguere had no previous NHL playoff experience at all. None.
That changed in a hurry as the Anaheim Might Ducks began a run with Giguere as the anchor in net during the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Anaheim finished seventh in the Western Conference and were stacked up against the heavily favoured and defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
To the shock of the hockey world, the Ducks swept the Red Wings in four straight games with Giguere only allowing six goals. The series included a triple overtime win in Game 1 with captain Paul Kariya scoring the winner. Steve Rucchin would score the series winning goal in overtime of Game 4 to complete the upset.
The Ducks weren't done there. They went on to take out the Dallas Stars in six games in the Western Conference semifinals. That series included a quintuple overtime game with Petr Sykora finally scoring the winner in the fourth longest overtime game in NHL playoff history.
Giguere continued his stellar play, allowing only one goal and earning three shutouts in a sweep of the upstart Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference Finals.
The Ducks went down 2-0 after two 3-0 losses in New Jersey, only to win back-to-back overtime games to even the series at 2-2. New Jersey and Anaheim split the next two games before Jersey won the deciding Game 7, 3-0.
Despite losing the Stanley Cup, Giguere captured the Conn Smythe Trophy with an incredible 15-6 record including a 1.62 GAA and a .945 SV percentage.
Imagine your team has already won three consecutive Stanley Cups. Now you're looking at adding a fourth to it. At the time, it's a feat that has only been accomplished twice: by the Montreal Canadiens of the late 1950s and late 1970s.
You've been in the New York Islanders net for three of those and now want a fourth. But it's not as easy as it was before. This time, you're playing the best young team in the NHL and they've got a kid named Gretzky on their team.
For Billy Smith, the 1983 Stanley Cup Playoffs were not just another walk in the park. Or was it?
Smith had an urge to upset and anger his opponents to no end with his active stick and active mouth.
Splitting duties with Rollie Melanson much of the season, Smith became the main go-to goalie in the playoffs for obvious reasons: he was the starter for much of the previous three Stanley Cups.
In 1983, the Islanders beat the Washington Capitals in four, the cross town rival New York Rangers in six, and the Boston Bruins in six.
Then came an upstart Edmonton Oilers team in their first Stanley Cup Final. The Oilers had only lost one game en route to the Stanley Cup Finals, taking out the Winnipeg Jets, their provincial rival Calgary Flames, and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Smith and the Islanders frustrated the Oilers and Gretzky to no end, sweeping the young team and teaching them a hard lesson in the process. The Oilers only scored six goals all series while the Islanders scored at will with 17 in the series.
Smith went 13-3 with a 2.68 GAA to capture the Conn Smythe Trophy.
In 1986-87, Ron Hextall became the new face of the Philadelphia Flyer net. The rookie came in and was impressive, going 37-21-6 in his rookie season en route to a Calder Trophy and the Vezina Trophy. Hextall set the record for most wins by a rookie goalie that season.
But Hextall wasn't done when the season was. The Flyers were only two years removed from a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, that came against the Edmonton Oilers in 1985.
In the 1987 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Flyers took out the New York Rangers in six games, battled the feisty and not ready to die New York Islanders in seven games, before taking out the defending Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens in six games. The only thing waiting for the Flyers after their win was the same Edmonton Oiler team that had beaten them two years prior.
Edmonton took control of the series early winning Games 1, 2, and 4 before the Flyers took Games 5 and 6. The Oilers were too much for the Flyers as the Oilers won their third Stanley Cup with a 3-1 win in Game 7.
Despite the loss, Hextall was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for his play. He posted a 15-11 record with a 2.77 GAA and a .908 SV percentage. His numbers were not stellar, but the Flyers were without their leading scorers Tim Kerr (97 points) and Dave Poulin (70 points) during most of the playoffs.
Something magical happened in the spring of 1993 that will never be duplicated in one Stanley Cup Playoff run ever again.
The Montreal Canadiens of 1993 were nowhere near a favourite to win the Stanley Cup. They even lost the first two games of the Adams Division semifinals to their provincial rival Quebec Nordiques.
Then something happened in Game 3. An overtime goal by Vincent Damphousse sparked a remarkable Canadiens comeback that helped them sweep the rest of the series, including two overtime wins and only nine goals that escaped Roy.
The Adams Division Final between the Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres was an overtime grudge match with every single game decided by a 4-3 score, the final three in overtime as the Canadiens swept the series.
The New York Islanders felt the Canadiens momentum as the Canadiens reeled off a 3-0 series lead, having won 11 games in a row before losing Game 4. The Canadiens would dispatch the Islanders in five games, including two overtime wins to meet the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings in the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals.
Roy had only allowed 11 goals in five games against the Islanders and had a GAA of just over two. But in Game 1, the Kings took control with a 4-1 win and had control with a 2-1 lead until another break happened. Marty McSorley used an illegal stick, which Canadiens head coach Jacques Demers called him on, to give the Canadiens a power play goal they so needed to send it to overtime, where they would win and change the series tide.
Roy allowed six goals in the final three games, with another two overtime wins. He would capture his second Conn Smythe Trophy with a 16-4 record, a 2.13 GAA and a .929 SV percentage.
Martin Brodeur was only in his second season with New Jersey when he helped them win their first Stanley Cup.
It was only Martin Brodeur's second Stanley Cup Playoffs. The previous season, the Devils fell to the New York Rangers in seven games, despite being up 3-2 in the series.
Stephane Matteau's overtime goal in Game 7 was still fresh in Brodeur's mind as the 1995 Stanley Cup Playoffs opened against the Boston Bruins.
Brodeur and the Devils cruised through the Bruins in five, the Pittsburgh Penguins in five, and the Philadelphia Flyers in six games.
In the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals, they met the powerful and heavily favoured Detroit Red Wings. The Wings had finished the shortened NHL season with 70 points, tops in the NHL and 10 points in front of any other team.
The series opened in Detroit on June 17th. It was the Wings first trip to the Cup Finals since 1966 and it was the Devils first trip to the Finals ever.
The Wings were a perfect 8-0 at home in the playoffs to boot. Stephane Richer opened the scoring before Claude Lemieux would seal the deal for the Devils in a 2-1 win. The Devils would upset the Wings in Game 2 with a 4-2 win, giving them a 2-0 series lead.
Back in New Jersey, things only got worse for Detroit as the Devils won back to back 5-2 games en route to a sweep and the Devils' first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Brodeur went 16-4 with a 1.67 GAA and a .927 SV percentage, both marks he would better later on in his career.
Bernie Parent takes two spots on the list for a reason. He was spectacular in back-to-back Stanley Cup Playoffs, leading the Philadelphia Flyers to back-to-back Stanley Cups as the first expansion team to do so.
In 1973-74, Parent returned to the NHL and to the Flyers, the team he had previously been with in the the late 1960s. During the season he posted a 47-13-12 record with a 1.89 GAA and a .933 SV percentage, surreal numbers for goalies of that time!
During the 1974 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Parent kept up his stellar play posting a 12-5 record with a 2.02 GAA and a .933 SV percentage en route to the Flyers 1974 Stanley Cup championship, which saw the Flyers take out the Atlanta Flames in four, the New York Rangers in a hard fought seven games series, and the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in six games.
In 1974-75, Parent proved that the previous season was no fluke and posted even better playoff numbers! During the 1975 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Parent went 10-5 with a 1.89 GAA and a .922 SV percentage as the Flyers took out the Toronto Maple Leafs in four, the upstart New York Islanders in seven, and the feisty Buffalo Sabres in six games.
In both playoffs, Parent earned the Conn Smythe Trophy, becoming the first player to win back-to-back Conn Smythe Trophys and only one of two to do so (Mario Lemieux was the other in 1991 and 1992).
Rookie goalies are always a great story. Cam Ward was a great story and so was Ron Hextall. But Patrick Roy's rookie story is one of the greatest in the history of the most successful franchise in professional sports.
In 1986, Patrick Roy took over as the number one goalie in Montreal. His play proved to be the glue that held the Canadiens together. He was the first goalie since Ken Dryden to be consistent and helped keep the Canadiens competitive in the 1980s.
Despite a decent rookie season, Roy led the Canadiens past arch rival Boston in three games, past the Hartford Whalers in seven games, and almost single-handedly eliminated the New York Rangers in five games to help the Canadiens to the 1986 Stanley Cup Final.
However, there was a shift in the NHL on the other side too. The dynasty in Edmonton was no longer playing as the Canadiens met the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup Finals. Calgary won Game 1, in Calgary, 5-2. Then Roy took over, allowing only 8 goals in the remaining four games, including a 1-0 shutout in Game 4 in Montreal to secure the Canadiens 23rd Stanley Cup championship, which was the most unlikely in team history.
Roy won the Conn Smythe with a 15-5 record including a 1.93 GAA. It still remains one of the greatest rookie goalie performances of all-time.
The 1971 Stanley Cup Playoffs were supposed to be another white wash for the mighty Boston Bruins. The Bruins had finished with 121 points, 24 more points than their first round opponents, the Montreal Canadiens. Add to that, the Bruins were coming off a Stanley Cup win, their first since 1941, with a team filled with superstars Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, and Johnny Bucyk, who finished in the top four of scoring that season.
Enter Ken Dryden.
Dryden had only played six games that season, splitting time in the AHL and the NHL. Dryden had won those six games with a 1.65 GAA. Rookie head coach Al MacNeil decided to go with Dryden in the playoffs over Rogetien Vachon and Phil Myre.
The Bruins opened with a modest 3-1 win in Game 1 at the Boston Gardens. In Game 2, the teams exploded for 12 goals as Montreal came out on top with a 7-5 win. Game 3 at the Montreal Forum shocked the Bruins, as they were beaten 3-1 and struggled to score. In Game 4, the Bruins tied the series with a resounding 5-2 win. The Bruins would then take control of the series with a 7-3 drubbing of the Canadiens.
Back in Montreal for Game 6, Dryden stood on his head and his teammates responded with a 7-3 win to set up a deciding Game 7 in Boston. Dryden stood tall again as the Bruins fell to the Canadiens 4-2 in the biggest upset of the 1970s and possibly of all-time.
The Canadiens got past the Minnesota North Stars in six games before outlasting the Chicago Blackhawks on a goal by Henri Richard in Game 7 at Chicago Stadium for the Stanley Cup.
Dryden earned the Conn Smythe Trophy with a 12-8 record and a 3.00 GAA. Dryden's biggest accomplishment was his play against the Bruins during the Canadiens miraculous upset. Dryden would be the first player to win the Conn Smythe and then win the Calder Trophy the following season.