NHL goaltenders might have the most difficult job in sports.
Ready position. Mind your angles. Anticipate the next pass. Anticipate the next three. Eyes on the puck. Eyes always on the puck. Talk to your defensemen. Play the puck, but never too often. Know when to freeze it. Take away the shot, but anticipate the pass. Have a short memory. Be thick-skinned. Keep your calm when ten players descend on your ice. Don't let them get into your head.
Sounds easy enough.
Goalies often end up on the wrong side of hockey highlights, which is perhaps why a spectacular save—especially one made under spectacular circumstances—is one of the most breathtaking moments in sports.
In no particular order, we offer 25 of the illest saves in NHL history.
A highlight reel save against a rival team in the waning moments of a tie game? Good enough for this list.
Sebastien Caron's Pittsburgh tenure may be forgotten, but this save won't be. All you need to know about it was spelled out by Sidney Crosby's reaction.
The Kid may play 20 more seasons and never see a save like that again.
The NHL was introduced to Semyon Varlamov in this series.
While the Russian netminder has now reportedly agreed to return to the KHL, his brief time with Washington will be highlighted by this save.
That he managed to keep his stick in front of the goal line is more absurd than the feat of acrobatics he needed just to get himself into position for the save.
Varlamov helped the Capitals jump out to a 2-0 series lead over the Penguins. Pittsburgh eventually advanced with a 6-2 victory in Game 7.
"Oh, brother—we are not worthy."
The call is nearly as good as the save.
The playoffs tend to bring out the best in a player, but this save is about par for the Dominator's course. Dropping the stick to extend the blocker? Only Dominik Hasek.
I promise to be careful. Hasek could command each of the 25 saves on this list.
I know, I said I'd be careful, but I also said these were the 25 most insane saves we could find. Insane, thy name is Hasek.
Few goaltenders would skate 60 feet out of their crease to stave off a breakaway in the waning moments of a game when his team leads by five goals.
That's part of what makes Hasek the Dominator and what makes him insane enough to make the list twice in a row.
Frankly, though, I just love watching Marian Gaborik flip like a stuntman.
Getting lost looking for a puck is a goalie's worst nightmare. Henrik Lundqvist managed to find it just in time to squash Mike Mottau's dreams.
Positioning and reflexes. Lundqvist had them both in spades with this save.
Being in the butterfly and having his glove hand up showed good positioning on his part and allowed him to make the save, but finding and reacting to the puck in less than a second was pure reflexes.
Excellent technique on the windmill motion, as well.
Brodeur has too many great saves to list. So have 10.
Brodeur has come up with some of the wildest saves in hockey history, thanks largely to a nearly-unmatched athleticism in net and a style that is somewhere between butterfly and stand-up goaltending.
The best of this list? Check out save six against the New York Rangers. The stick save at the end is pure madness.
New Jersey is going to be in trouble when the NHL's winningest goaltender finally retires.
Two all-time greats. Ed Belfour commits larceny against Detroit's Sergei Fedorov.
Sprawling glove saves require a little luck (the shot usually is headed right for the glove,) but boy, do they look good.
Belfour is another candidate to take over the list, but given the teams and players involved, this save gets the nod.
Also, enjoy the 90s VHS steeze to open the clip.
Well, the circumstances can't get much bigger, can they?
With 6.5 seconds remaining in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, the Penguins clung to a one-goal lead with the final face-off in their defensive zone.
Marc-Andre Fleury made the first save in the butterfly, then had to shift hard to his right to body down a shot from the stick of Nicklas Lidstrom, maybe the greatest defenseman of all time.
The save was pretty good—not spectacular, in terms of difficulty, but maybe the biggest save given the circumstances.
Fleury has a list of incredible, athletic saves that could make this list, but none more memorable than this Game 7.
Last Penguins highlight, I promise.
For Pittsburgh fans, this is known simply as "The Save."
The save by Frank Pietrangelo helped lead the Penguins to wins in Games 6 and 7 of the Devils series. The Pens won their first Stanley Cup that year.
Not bad for a spot start behind regular Tom Barrasso.
It's hard to beat a good stick save.
Roberto Luongo robbed Ben Eager of a sure goal by throwing the equipment into all the empty space he could.
Notice the full-body extension. Fantastic work in not only getting the stick on the puck, but having the strength to keep the stick straight and avoid having the puck blow right through it.
Tim Thomas may have just had the single best season in modern goaltending history.
Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP. Stanley Cup winner. Vezina Trophy winner as best regular season goaltender. The best single-season save percentage in any season since the stat has been officially kept.
Not bad for the guy who almost lost his job to Tuukka Rask.
The save against Steve Downie is pure magic. Thomas is one of the most acrobatic (unorthodox?) goalies in the game today. Once in a while, his style rewards us with saves like that.
One of the highlight saves of this year's playoffs, Pekka Rinne made a diving stick save and robbed Kevin Bieksa of a wide-open one-timer.
Rinne not only got the inside of his blocker arm but even managed to cover the puck after knocking it down with his forearm.
Of the stick saves listed here, none is quite like Carey Price's over-the-back stick save made against the Detroit Red Wings.
Price had a breakout season in 2010-11. He'll have another chance at the Vezina this season if Montreal can get him a serviceable backup to help shoulder the load.
It was close enough to confuse the play-by-play guys, but Brathwaite managed to get his stick on the puck just soon enough to hold the lead over Detroit.
The most amazing part of the save? Keeping the puck just along the goal line while making such a desperate move.
The 2011 playoffs brought more memorable Game 7s than any in recent history.
The Canucks-Blackhawks series was the first to make me jump off my couch. Crawford's glove save to keep the Blackhawks alive in Game 7 nearly made me jump through my ceiling.
From his stomach, Crawford manages to make two or three great saves, the best of which stops play on a low shot from Ryan Kesler.
Crawford had an up-and-down rookie season, but the Canucks series was a bit of a coming-out party for the youngster. If his playoff performance predicts what he's going to do in the coming regular season, Chicago's goaltending situation will be solved for years to come.
Sometimes its better to be lucky than good.
That's what happened to Brian Elliott, as he got caught badly out of position and made a stabbing attempt at a save most goalies may have not even bothered to make.
Marian Hossa had a full four-by-six to shoot for. His shot landed on the blade of Elliott's goal stick.
In a full split, Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff finds the puck floating near his right leg. From his stomach, he boots it clear of the net.
Shades of Hasek.
There's nothing like an overtime playoff game.
Evgeni Nabokov's desperation glove save is a fine example of one of those breathtaking moments which only overtime playoff hockey can provide.
Nabby got himself into some trouble early, but he made a miraculous glove save to stop play.
There are explanations for how this puck moved as it did, but none are as fun as assuming Jonathan Quick has superpowers.
An extreme spin on the puck, coupled with the angle at which the puck hit the ice is the favorite explanation for what appeared to be a magic trick.
A truly insane save.
A few more shades of Hasek.
Marty Turco was almost completely out of the play. Almost.
The rolling backside kick save (sounds like X-Games) is the most desperate of desperation saves, and Turco got away with one here.
You know that irritating goalie animation that plagues every shot in NHL 11?
The puck bounces around the crease, the goalie twists himself around and tries batting the puck away.
The move must have been inspired by Theodore's save.
How did he manage to keep his shoulder in its socket on that one?
What is regarded as the greatest save in Canucks history, Kirk McLean's desperation kick save in overtime against the Calgary Flames was a feat of athleticism.
Any goalie who can come out on the better side of a 3-on-1 break must make a miraculous save.
If nothing else, Thomas looks like he could have cut out a nice career as an MLB shortstop.
Thomas is good for a number of incredible saves every year.
His diving glove save against Francois Beauchemin was one of his best.
Another incredible save from this year's playoffs.
Ray Emery stuck out his goal stick and made a miracle save against Nashville. But the Predators would go on to win the series in six games.
Simply the best.
Dominik Hasek was perhaps the greatest goaltender of all time.
If not measured in wins or in Stanley Cups, Hasek's play is absolutely unique.
The butterfly-happy NHL will likely never see another goalie play the way Hasek did.