Martin Brodeur and the 10 Best Puck-Handling Goalies in NHL History
Current New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur is widely considered the best NHL goaltender in history with regards to his puck-handling abilities.
No argument here.
Brodeur is a living legend, as famous for his performance when he’s between the pipes as he is for when he’s roaming the defensive zone, tracking the puck.
The Devils netminder has two goals to his credit—tying him for the NHL lead among goalies—which are further evidence of his ability to stick-handle while wearing goalie equipment.
Brodeur’s impressive resume is capped off with those two goals, almost like they’re two exclamation points in the discussion of the NHL’s best goaltenders.
But Brodeur isn’t the only goalie to be known for his puck-handling. Here’s a list of the top puck-handling goalies in NHL history, because Brodeur wasn’t the first and he certainly won’t be the last to show off his stick-handling abilities as a goaltender.
For all the injury woes endured by New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro, his puck-handling skills have garnered him attention for a positive reason.
DiPietro—when healthy—can often be seen roaming far from the safety of his goal crease in pursuit of the puck.
Even the institution of the trapezoid behind the net hasn’t forced him to sit idly by when a puck is dumped into his zone.
DiPietro’s ability to stick-handle away from goal often gives opposing teams cause for concern—traditional dump-and-chase techniques aren't as effective against the Isles’ goalie.
NHL rule 27.2 was implemented after the 1966-67 season, when former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Gary Smith was knocked unconscious during a game after carrying the puck into attacking territory on the ice.
You can’t have a list of the NHL’s best puck-handling goalies and not put this guy on it.
After all, he’s the reason that goalies aren’t allowed to cross the center red line anymore.
Before Smith’s rule was instituted, the only recorded instances of goalies scoring goals were on occasions when the goalies would cross the red line to join in their team’s attack.
I guess today’s goaltenders can thank Smith for making it that much more difficult for them to score goals.
Case in point: Patrick Roy.
The former Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche goaltender was known for his puck-handling skills—it seems like even he started believing the hype during a game against the New York Rangers.
Roy was penalized for carrying the puck across the center red line, courtesy of the aforementioned Gary Smith and NHL rule 27.2.
The best part about the above Roy clip—besides Roy’s reaction to the penalty—is the reaction of the MSG announcers during the replay. Enjoy.
As a member of the Montreal Canadiens, goaltender Jose Theodore added his name to the record books by scoring a goal in a shutout victory.
Theodore and the Canadiens beat the New York Islanders 3-0 in January 2001.
Theodore remains the only goalie to score a goal—by shooting the puck—during a game in which he was credited with a shutout.
It seems that simply scoring a goal wasn’t enough for Theodore—he had to prove he could save the puck as well as he shot it.
The legendary Jacques Plante—father of most goaltending techniques—has earned a place on this list because the roots of puck-handling by goalies can be traced back to him.
Although Plante doesn’t have a goal to his credit, it was his roaming style of play in the defensive zone that initially sparked the idea that goaltenders could do more than protect the goal mouth.
Plante’s puck-handling would be considered much more of an improvised style compared to the practiced maneuvers of today’s goalies, but without his forays outside of the crease, the concept of goaltender puck-handling might have taken longer to develop.
Not only was Evgeni Nabokov the first non-North American goalie to score a goal by intentionally shooting at the opposing net, but he’s the most recent goalie to do so in that fashion.
On March 10, 2002 as a member of the San Jose Sharks, Nabokov scored in a game against the Vancouver Canucks—he remains the last goalie to score on a shot attempt (rather than being credited with a goal when an opposing player shoots the puck into his own net accidentally).
Ed Giacomin—like Jacques Plante—was one of the first goalies to utilize roaming as a part of his game.
Rather than be a statue in front of the net, Giacomin often incorporated a little skating into his duties as a goaltender.
Other goalies, like Chico Resch and John Davidson, have cited Giacomin’s ability to handle the puck as one of the early instances of the expansion of a goalie’s role on the ice.
Giacomin was the first goalie in NHL history to record two assists during a game—he also hit the post on a shot attempt during his career.
Not bad for one of the game’s more innovative goaltenders.
Marty Turco holds franchise records for the Dallas Stars in wins, shutouts and games played.
During the 2002-03 NHL season, his 1.72 goals-against average was then a league record.
It’s even more impressive that despite his “traditional” accolades, Turco is known as one of the NHL’s best puck-handling goalies.
Turco’s ability to transition from saving the puck to passing it is what sets him apart from other goaltenders.
During his time with the Dallas Stars, Turco was lauded as the smartest goalie alive by Canadian hockey analyst Don Cherry as a result of Turco's puck-handling abilities.
Call me old fashioned, but when a Canadian approves of your hockey skill set, it’s probably safe to say you’re doing something right.
Former Detroit Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood is on the short list of goaltenders that have been credited with a goal.
Osgood has even gone one step further, as he’s on the even shorter list of goalies that have scored a goal via an attempted shot (rather than being the last player to touch the puck before the opposing team committed an own-goal).
When it comes to puck-handling by a goaltender, being able to shoot and score from approximately 180 feet away from the net almost guarantees you a spot on the list of the NHL’s best.
If not for Martin Brodeur, former Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ron Hextall would be considered the best puck-handling netminder in NHL history.
Hextall was the best goaltender in terms of his stick-handling for the era in which he played. Having two goals to his credit doesn’t hurt him, either.
What’s more, both of Hextall’s goals were scored via his shots on the opposing goal—he’s the only goalie in history to have scored two goals on shot attempts.
Whereas Brodeur has one goal via a shot and one goal via an opponent’s own-goal, Hextall can claim two goals of his own shot-making ability.