There is no position like it in all of sports. Hockey goaltenders are truly a strange breed.
Many goalies are constantly keeping their team in the game. However, those who qualify for this list are the netminders that steal games for their team. We're talking about the cream of the crop here, folks.
It's tough to narrow down a list of NHL backstops to just the Top 50, but here goes nothing.
Harry Lumley was the youngest goalie to ever play in an NHL game at just 17 years old. In all, Lumley won a Stanley Cup, a Vezina Trophy and appeared in three All-Star games.
Al Rollins is one of the only goaltenders to win the Hart Trophy and the Vezina in the same season. Rollins will never get the credit he deserves since he played on such a bad team for so long, but he did eventually bring home the Stanley Cup.
An 11-time All-Star, Hugh Leman was revolutionary in his willingness and ability to leave the net and play the puck.
Leman bounced around the league a bit and eventually settled in to win a title with the Vancouver Millionaires back in 1915.
Jean Sebastian Giguere is often overlooked in the discussion of greatest goaltenders of all time. His two remarkable runs to the Stanley Cup Finals are what people remember, but Giguere actually posted solid career totals with a 2.53 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. Those numbers improved to 2.08 and .925 in postseason play.
Ron Hextall was a rarity at the goaltender position. His incredible stick-handling made him a weapon on the breakout, and the Flyers rode him to a pair of Stanley Cup Finals appearances in the 1980s. He managed to win one Vezina Trophy and a Conn Smythe Award as well.
Eddie Giacomin is, without a doubt, one of the greatest New York Rangers of all time. His performance in the late '60s and early '70s never amounted to a championship for the Empire State, but that didn't stop him from becoming a local legend.
John Hutton was a hell of a goaltender. However, he also mastered football and lacrosse. Hutton won championships in all three at the professional level.
Roy Worters won the Vezina Trophy and the Hart Trophy both while standing just 5'3". That has to be some kind of record.
Cam Ward is quietly becoming one of the great goaltenders of his generation. His career numbers aren't astounding (he has a GAA of 2.74 and a SVP of .910), but he is dependable on a nightly basis and elevates his game in the postseason.
Ward is able to stay calm in the crease and keep the Hurricanes competitive throughout some of the toughest seasons.
Tim Thomas is on his way to becoming the greatest goaltender in Boston Bruins history. It is tough to believe he can maintain his unbelievable level of production, though Thomas has made a living at defying the odds by winning a pair of Vezina Trophies.
Possibly one of the greatest read-and-react goaltenders the game has ever seen, Thomas has put up mind-boggling statistics and carried the Bruins to a Stanley Cup. His 2011 postseason was one of the single greatest individual performances in sports history.
A few more solid seasons and Thomas could climb this list. The brevity of his career is the only thing keeping him down.
In my opinion, Miikka Kiprusoff may be the most underrated goaltender of the past 10 years. Kipper has career totals of a 2.46 goals against average and a .913 save percentage and has performed on the big stage on multiple occasions.
The team in front of him has not always been stellar, but Kipper maintains his solid play and statistics, regardless of what Calgary puts on the ice in front of him.
Rogie Vachon is widely unknown due to the fact that he played in Los Angeles before hockey caught on. However, Vachon was a three-time Stanley Cup champion with Montreal and won a Vezina Trophy. That's not a bad resume for someone who is so unrecognized.
Henrik Lundqvist is a dominant goaltender. His technique, athleticism and reactions make him the total package between the pipes.
Throw in King Henrik's career 2.32 goals against average, .918 save percentage and Gold Medal, and he has the accolades to back up this ranking.
Arguably the best goaltender in the NHL today, Ryan Miller continues to turn in dominant season after dominant season. After carrying average Sabre teams throughout his career, it appears Miller has a realistic shot at his first Stanley Cup with the revamped crew this season.
Percy Lesueur invented the goalie gloves, so I guess he deserves some props on this list.
The fact that Chuck Rayner won the Hart trophy while playing for a very mediocre New York Rangers team in the1950s shows just how great of a goalie he was.
Mike Karakas was the first American-born goalie to win the Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks team he played on was not very good, either.
Roger Crozier had some health and injury issues that kept him from becoming one of the game's greatest goaltenders of all time, but in the seasons he did play, Crozier was lights out. He is in the record books as the first player to win the Conn Smythe award without winning the Stanley Cup.
Alex Connell was a huge part of the dominance the Ottawa Senators displayed in the 1920s. He piled up shutouts at an alarming rate and won two Stanley Cups.
Bill Ranford is incredibly underrated. Playing in an era of Oilers' hockey that is often overlooked, Ranford turned in some remarkable seasons in the 1990s to lift Edmonton to another Stanley Cup.
He bounced around the league a bit, but Ranford was a terrific athlete and was always able to bounce back from a tough game.
All Chris Osgood ever did was win. It may not have been pretty, and the numbers may not have always been there, but Chris Osgood came out on top more often than not.
He has a career 2.09 GAA in the playoffs and has won three Stanley Cups.
Osgood is also the only goalie since Terry Sawchuck to win two Stanley Cups as a starting goaltender 10 years apart, winning in '98 and '08.
Tiny Thompson is the Bruins' all-time leader in wins (252) and shutouts (74). He also helped Boston win its first ever Stanley Cup title. His 1.99 career goals-against average for the Black and Gold was astounding as well.
Thompson would go on to achieve even more success with the Detroit Red Wings late in his career.
Tom Barrasso will forever be overlooked due to the tremendous talent around him, but some of his accomplishments are pretty impressive.
Barrasso was one of only four players in NHL history to win the Calder Trophy and the Vezina Trophy in the same season. He also ran off 14 straight postseason victories, something very few goalies will ever come close to.
Mike Richter is one of the most mentally tough goalies the NHL has ever seen. Given some of the low points of Richter's career, it is astounding that he was hoisting the Stanley Cup in 1994 with the New York Rangers. He played like a champion in that series, too.
Charlie Gardiner is a legend for the Chicago Blackhawks. He won a Stanley Cup and two Vezina Trophies, but unexpectedly died after winning the Championship. It was learned that Gardiner had been dealing with a serious illness that he did not reveal to his teammates.
Gerry Cheevers is the best goalie in Bruins history. His numbers may not have been as dazzling, but the '70s were a different era of hockey. In today's game, shutouts are more rampant and save percentages are through the roof.
Cheevers, meanwhile, is third all time in Bruins history with 229 wins. He did that while splitting duty for a good chunk of his career.
John Vanbiesbrouck was a true technician of the goaltender position. His numbers were nothing special, but the Beezer was always stuck on very mediocre hockey teams, for the most part.
However, Vanbiesbrouck carried those below-average hockey teams to some unseen heights. His performance in the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals will forever be remembered. Patrick Roy may have gotten the better of him, but the Beezer established himself as one of the game's elite goalies in that series.
Harry Holmes won the Stanley Cup four times. Each time he won, Holmes was playing for a different team in a different league. That's some pretty bizarre stuff.
Gump Worsely didn't wear a mask, but that didn't stop him from helping his teams win four Stanley Cups and capturing two Vezina Trophies of his own.
Johnny Bower was a bit of a late bloomer. Bower didn't burst onto the scene for the Maple Leafs until he was 35 years old. However, in the twilight years of his career, he somehow managed to win four Stanley Cups and a pair of Vezina Trophies.
Ed Belfour was a gamer. After shocking everyone in his rookie season by winning the Vezina Trophy and being nominated for the Hart, Belfour went on to an illustrious career with the Dallas Stars. He eventually won a single Stanley Cup, but also picked up a second Vezina Trophy.
Clint Benedict is one of the greatest players to don an Ottawa Senator sweater. He helped the team to four Stanley Cups in the early part of the 1900s and was a revolutionary figure for the goalie position.
The Toronto Maple Leafs weer blessed with a brilliant goalie in Turk Broda. The heavy-set goaltender backstopped the club to five Stanley Cup titles in the 1950s and won the Vezina Trophy on two occasions. Broda played his best hockey when the games were biggest.
Andy Moog is one of the most underrated NHL goaltenders of all time. He led the Bruins to four conference finals appearances and two trips to the Stanley Cup.
Let's remember that Moog played during an era where Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux were busy dominating the NHL. Had Moog played in any other generation, he could have won multiple Cups.
Grant Fuhr's contributions to the dominant Edmonton Oilers teams of the 1980s are vastly underrated.
On a predominantly offensive oriented squad, Fuhr held the fort down for the Oilers and was a solid backstop for a number of seasons.
Wayne Gretzky went as far as to say that his goaltender was the best he had ever seen.
That's pretty high praise coming from the greatest player who ever lived.
Mike Vernon could always be counted on in big games. He lifted the Calgary Flames to their first and only Stanley Cup Championship, and would hoist hockey's greatest prize again with the Red Wings after a 42-year dry spell for the organization.
Tony Esposito was a rock in net for the Chicago Blackhawks. He won 30 or more games in seven straight seasons, winning a Stanley Cup and appearing in six All-Star games.
Whether it was a testament to his talent or the team around him, George Hainsworth put up some incredible numbers for the Montreal Canadiens. Most notably, his 22 shutouts in a single season to go with a goals against average of under one were insane achievements.
Some may disagree with placing Curtis Joseph this high on the list, but he deserves some recognition. Cujo never had the ability to pile up the accolades due to the teams around him, but he was always carrying his squads deeper into the postseason than they had any business being.
Benefiting from playing with one of the greatest dynasties in hockey history, Billy Smith had the opportunity to play in some huge games, and he never disappointed.
One of the fiercest competitors to ever step between the pipes, Smith won four Stanley Cups and holds the record for most consecutive playoff series won with 19.
Bill Durnan's career may have been short at only seven years, but the fact that he won seven Vezina Trophies in that time span speaks volumes for his dominance of that era. His career was cut short by a head injury, but the Canadiens benefited from his seven seasons with a pair of Stanley Cups.
The man for which the Vezina Trophy is named, Georges Vezina, exemplifies all of the characteristics of a hero.
Vezina played through a hemorrhage and tuberculosis at the end of his career, started nearly 400 consecutive games and turned aside 78 Ottawa shots in a monumental playoff victory. He truly did it all, and his memory will forever be honored with the Vezina Trophy.
Hear me out on this one.
Martin Brodeur is without a doubt one of the top five goaltenders of all time. However, to call him the greatest to ever play the position is a bit unfair .
Brodeur was between the pipes for a team that ran a trap system and relied on the strength of Scott Stevens on the blue line. Sure, Martin was a huge part of the success of that system, but the system inflated his numbers without a doubt.
Never once was he the most valuable player on his team during the postseason, having never won the Conn Smythe.
Some of his numbers are staggering, but when you consider how some of them came to be, it diminishes them a bit.
While the longevity of success may not be there with Bernie Parent, the two Stanley Cup runs he carried the Flyers on during the early 70s earn him a solid spot on this list.
Parent won two Stanley Cups as well as two Conn Smythe Trophies due to his astounding GAA of 2.02 in '74 and 1.89 in '75.
Parent put the bullies on his back.
Being known as the father of the goalie mask makes one revolutionary. Winning seven Vezina Trophies and five Stanley Cups makes one a legend.
Plante was tough as nails and carried the Canadiens for the better part of a decade and managed a 2.16 GAA during postseason play.
His career was loaded with accolades, but numbers and trophies can't measure this man's impact on his franchise and the game of hockey.
Ken Dryden was a rare leader at the goaltending position for the Montreal Canadiens throughout the 1970's.
Many will argue that Dryden is too high on this list, but he won six Stanley Cups and had prolific performances on the way to each and every one of those championships.
He may not have carried the team in the same fashion as some other goaltenders on this list, but Dryden was a tremendous leader and clutch performer.
Three Vezina Trophies, two Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Award are evidence of the fact that Glenn Hall was one of the most prolific goaltenders in the history of the game.
Hall also holds the record for most consecutive games started with 502.
Glenn Hall was the type of goalie any team would have killed to have between the pipes during a big game.
Terry Sawchuk didn't need a mask to win four Stanley Cups and set numerous records in between the pipes.
The 21-year netminder won over 500 games in the NHL and collected over 100 shutouts during his tenure.
His career postseason and regular season GAA of roughly 2.5 is impressive given the slide late in his career. Sawchuk's run of dominance was unlike anything the league had ever seen.
While many would say that the argument for the best goaltender of all time comes down to Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, I would say that the discussion comes down to Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy.
Hasek put up jaw dropping numbers and had the ability to carry even the most mediocre of teams through the playoffs.
His career 2.02 GAA average in the playoffs is astounding, and some of the single-season performances he put together were staggering.
Hasek deserves more credit than he tends to get.
You can debate this choice all you want, but Patrick Roy can't hear you with his Stanley Cup Rings in his ears.
Roy is unquestionably the greatest goaltender of all time in my mind. His 151 playoff victories are the most by any goaltender in league history. His 23 postseason shutouts are tied for the most ever, and he has the most Conn Smythe Trophies (three) of any player in the history of the game.
A goalie like Patrick Roy allows a team to play a run-and-gun type of offense such as the system Colorado ran for much of Roy's time there.
However, Roy's success was not limited to just one team. He won a pair of Stanley Cups with both the Montreal Canadiens and the Colorado Avalanche.
Having a presence like Patrick Roy between the pipes is more valuable to a team than any goal scorer could ever be.