Goaltending has been a vital component of every successful NHL team. Without a solid player between the pipes, even some of the greatest teams wouldn’t have made their mark on history like they did.
For example, the Detroit Red Wings in the late 1990’s, despite all of their firepower with players like Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov, had great goaltenders in Chris Osgood and Mike Vernon. Had it not been for some heroic saves from Osgood in a seven-game series with a St. Louis Blues team that featured Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull in the 1998 playoffs, the late 90’s Red Wings dynasty, considered one of the greatest ever, might never have existed.
Throughout the history of the game, legends have lived in the crease, seemingly making acrobatic saves look easy. Several goalies have greatly changed or impacted the game, but still aren’t considered among the best ever. Some of these include Glenn Hall, who pioneered the butterfly style, or Turk Broda, who won five Stanley Cups with Toronto.
But there are several that made their mark on the history of the game while making the difficult saves look easy en-route to winning multiple Stanley Cups.
Here’s a look at the top 10 goalies all-time in the NHL.
10. Ed Belfour (1988-2007)
Virtually unknown at the time, Belfour put together arguably one of the greatest NHL rookie seasons ever in Chicago when he led the NHL in wins (43), GAA (2.47) and save percentage (.910), among others. His ability to dive from one end of the crease to the other was unparalleled. His 484 career wins rank third all-time among NHL goaltenders, and he is one of only two players, alongside Neal Broten, to win an NCAA championship, an Olympic Gold medal and a Stanley Cup.
9. Chris Osgood (1992-2011)
One of the most overlooked players to the Detroit Red Wings teams that won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1997 and 1998, Osgood found a way to make the heroic saves even when he appeared to be beaten by greats like Gretzky and Hull. In addition to winning the 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cup with Detroit, he went on to win 401 career games and the 2008 Stanley Cup with the Red Wings.
8. George Hainsworth (1926-1937)
During the 1928-1929 season, Hainsworth had 22 shutouts in 44 games en route to setting the goals-against average record with 0.92, which still stands today. While posting 94 career shutouts in 11 seasons with Montreal and Toronto, he won two Stanley Cups and three Vezina Trophies.
7. Terry Sawchuk (1949-70)
Set the NHL career record with 103 shutouts and 447 victories. Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy have since broken those, respectively, but Sawchuk still stands near the top of those two record-lists. Sawchuk won three Stanley Cups with Detroit and Toronto.
6. Dominik Hasek (1991-2008)
The Czech goalie is the only netminder to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP twice. “The Dominator” was known for his flexibility, where he would lie on the ice and the blade of his kicking feet would make the save, and his sometimes unconventional saves, where he would fly out to the blue line to take out forwards or rely on his blocker to deflect the puck when he appeared to be beaten. In addition to his Hart Trophies, Hasek won the Stanley Cup twice, in 2002 and 2008, both with Detroit.
5. Jacques Plante (1951-75)
Changed the goalie’s role not only by being the father of the facemask, but also by attacking the puck, rather than solely reacting to it, which had been the norm for goalies at the time. Despite battling asthma, he won six Stanley Cups with Montreal and seven Vezina Trophies.
4. Vladislav Tretiak (1969-85)
Became internationally famous after his outstanding performance in the Summit Series in 1972, when he surprised the world in the Soviet’s narrow loss to Canada, who at that time, was the dominating force in world hockey. But after that game, the Soviet dynasty began, as Tretiak led the country to three Olympic gold medals (1972, ’76, ’84) and 10 world championships while posting a career 1.78 goals-against average in 98 major international games.
3. Martin Brodeur (1992-present)
In addition to three Stanley Cups and three Vezina Trophies, Brodeur has the most career wins (685) and career shutouts (124). Due to his superb puck-handling skills, the league even had to make a rule change in 2005, known as the “Brodeur Rule” that prevents goalies from playing the puck behind the goal line, except within a designated area.
2. Ken Dryden (1970-79)
In just eight seasons with Montreal, Dryden won six Stanley Cups, five Vezinas and five first-team All-Star honors while posting a 2.24 goals-against average. Compared to most other goaltending greats, Dryden's career was extremely short so he did not amass the records of others on this list, but his stats are unparalleled, as he won 258 games and losing only 57 while recording 46 shutouts in his career.
1. Patrick Roy (1985-2002)
Known for his fiery and cocky attitude, Roy set career records for wins (551), playoff wins (151) and postseason shutouts (23). The Colorado goalie would sometimes have to make three consecutive saves, but his butterfly style created a wall in front of the net for opponents. He won four Stanley Cups, two with Montreal and two with Colorado, and is the only player in NHL history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy three times, in different decades, and for two different teams.