There is no greater feeling in professional sports than seeing your favorite team's goaltender lift the Stanley Cup over his head. Perhaps the moment includes a roar that can be heard from the opposing team's arena, or a shake of the Cup up and down in delight. Regardless, winning the Stanley Cup is what NHL players play for, and what NHL fans dream their players can do. Since 2000, NHL save percentages have risen as goaltenders have become increasingly important to team's success. In fact, the NHL has even taken measures to make goaltending more difficult now that goalies are dominating the NHL game. Think smaller pads, less help from equipment, and a faster version of hockey that can lead to a game started by Braden Holtby and Matt Murray resulting in an 8-7 final score, something that did happen this NHL season.
Anyway, the past 16 years have seen 13 different goalies hoist Lord Stanley's Cup in celebration. Each goalie has brought their own talent to the table, with some being a recipient of superior play by their respective offenses, and some having to carry their teams on their own. The change in style of play has been accounted for in this ranking, as has the rosters of the teams the goalies played for.
Without further adieu, let's take a look at the definitive ranking of the Stanley Cup winning goalies since 2000. The three goalies that won multiple cups, Martin Brodeur, Corey Crawford, and Jonathan Quick, have been broken down into their individual seasons.
16 Antti Niemi (2010)
Antti Niemi was not even an above average goaltender when he won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. The Blackhawks faced the 8th seeded Philadelphia Flyers, a team that featured a goaltending duo of Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton. All that was asked of Antti Niemi was to not be as bad as Boucher and Leighton, a task any goalie should be able to accomplish. Niemi played to a .912 save percentage in the regular season, then owned a .910 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Final. Niemi surrendered fewer than three goals in only one of the Stanley Cup games, giving up 5, 4, 4, 4, and 3 goals in the remainder of the games. Hardly a Conn Smythe winner if you ask us!
15 Jonathan Quick (2014)
Jonathan Quick's 2013-14 season was nothing to write home about. The Los Angeles Kings' netminder won his second Stanley Cup and continued down his dynastic path, defeating the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup in five games. Quick's greatest contribution in the Stanley Cup Final came in his ability to avoid surrendering game winning goals in overtime, as three of the Kings' five wins came in the extra time. However looking at his performance as a whole, Quick did not do anything particularly special. His .911 save percentage for the postseason was below average, while his .915 save percentage during the regular season was average at best. Realistically Quick actually had a down season, but no one cares when you're lifting the Stanley Cup at the end.
14 Cam Ward (2006)
Cam Ward was a rookie when he led the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Final, and eventually helped them defeat the Edmonton Oilers in a thrilling seven game series. Ward remains a Hurricane to this day, but he has not yet matched the pinnacle of success he reached when he won the Stanley Cup in 2006. Ward's story is an odd one, as the rookie played to a .882 save percentage in the regular season. Still, the Hurricanes lacked better options, so it was Cam Ward that led the club through the postseason. Surprising everyone, Ward and the Hurricanes just kept on winning, and found themselves in the Stanley Cup Final. Ward's .920 save percentage for the playoffs was good enough to help the Canes, and his 22 saves in game 7 helped win the cup for the Canes.
13 Jean-Sébastien Giguère (2007)
How about this for an interesting member of the list. Jean-Sébastien Giguère won the Conn Smythe. With that, he has to be higher on the list, right? Well, we have some strange news to break to you. Giguère won the Conn Smythe in a year he did not win the Stanley Cup. Giguère led the Ducks through a miraculous run in 2003, only to see his team lose to the New Jersey Devils in seven games. In 2007, Giguère found his way back to the Cup finals against the Ottawa Senators, and this time his Ducks found a way to win. Giguère was worse than his previous performance, failing to carry the Ducks in any way. Still, he won the cup, and that's what matters.
12 Marc-Andre Fleury (2009)
Marc-Andre Fleury is a similar case to Jean-Sébastien Giguère in that his best Stanley Cup performance came in a year he did not win the Stanley Cup. Fleury helped guide the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2008, playing is heart out but losing in a dramatic seven game series. One year later the Penguins faced the same opponents in the Stanley Cup Final, the Detroit Red Wings. Fleury was not nearly as solid in net, but the Penguins greatly increased the overall talent on their roster, leading Fleury rather than the other way around. Fleury's .910 regular season save percentage should explain the lack of flair his season had. Yet when it mattered most, Fleury made the saves that won the Penguins the cup.
11 Dominik Hasek (2002)
Dominik Hasek may be the greatest goalie in the history of the National Hockey League, but he is another case where his best postseason performance did not come in the year he won the Stanley Cup. Hasek's premier performance came for the Buffalo Sabres against the Dallas Stars in the 1990's, but he won his Stanley Cup as a member of the Detroit Red Wings in 2002. Playing against the Carolina Hurricanes, Hasek helped aid the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup victory by posting a .920 save percentage in the postseason. The number was good, but it was hardly anything to boast as a Conn Smythe contender or anything. His .915 save percentage in the regular season also did not inspire great confidence in his ability to lead.
10 Corey Crawford (2015)
Corey Crawford is one of the goalies that won the Stanley Cup twice since 2000. The Chicago Blackhawks dynasty included one season by Antti Niemi, but Crawford's pair of seasons were both better than Niemi's average campaign that led to his hoisting the cup. In Crawford's first entry onto the list, the Blackhawks netminder had a solid season. Crawford helped the Chicago Blackhawks take down the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final after aiding the Blackhawks in taking down the Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, and Nashville Predators in the earlier rounds of the postseason. The road to the cup was not particularly difficult, and all Crawford really did was do his job. He made the saves he had to, and the Blackhawks won accordingly.
9 Matt Murray (2016)
Matt Murray is the strangest case on this list, as the Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender came out of nowhere. Sure, people knew he was a top prospect in the Penguins system, but no one expected him to play in the playoffs. Murray played in only 13 games in the regular season, a truth that worried Penguins fans throughout the nation. But Marc-Andre Fleury was down with injury and Jeff Zatkoff was, well, Jeff Zatkoff, so the Penguins turned to the goalie who had only recently been declared old enough to legally drink alcohol. Murray rewarded the Penguins with a .923 save percentage for the postseason, including three performances in which he gave up fewer than two goals in the Stanley Cup Final. He played like a veteran, and the Penguins won.
8 Nikolai Khabibulin (2004)
Nikolai Khabibulin hardly wowed spectators during the 2003-2004 regular season, posting a .910 save percentage for the Tampa Bay Lightning. But that Lightning team featured the likes of Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, and Martin St. Louis at forward, so they did not need Khabibulin to impress much. Where Khabibulin's main contributions came in was in the playoffs, as the Tampa Bay Lightning looked to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup. Khabibulin posted a sparkling .933 save percentage in the playoffs, dominating opposing teams as the offense looked to get themselves back on track. This stretch included a five game series vs. the New York Islanders in which he surrendered four goals in five games, and four Stanley Cup Final games of giving up two or fewer goals.
7 Corey Crawford (2013)
In a strange twist of fate, Corey Crawford is a two-time Stanley Cup winner. See, we all thought the Boston Bruins would win game six of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final when they led going into the final pair of minutes. Yet the Chicago Blackhawks roared back with a pair of late goals, silencing the Boston crowd, and winning the Stanley Cup Final. Corey Crawford was an important member of that team, winning his first Cup for good reason. Crawford's .926 save percentage was the best of his career to date, while his .932 save percentage in the postseason made plenty of difference in the Blackhawks quest for the cup. Crawford gave up two or fewer goals in four of the six games against the Bruins.
6 Martin Brodeur (2000)
For Martin Brodeur it is essential to remember that the NHL was played differently than it is in current times. It was much more difficult for goalies to stop pucks, by design of the National Hockey League. So when we say that Martin Brodeur posted a .910 save percentage in the regular season in the 1999-2000 campaign, we do not do so as a slight against him. Brodeur's .927 save percentage in the ensuing postseason should earn him even more credit, as the number in modern times would look spectacular, but the number considering the historical save percentages is even better. Brodeur helped lead the New Jersey Devils to a Stanley Cup Final win, not the only one he would contribute to this list.
5 Chris Osgood (2008)
Chris Osgood led the Detroit Red Wings to a thrilling Stanley Cup Final victory over Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2008 postseason. Osgood was aging rapidly, but his play did not remotely reflect that truth. Osgood's regular season save percentage of .914 was hardly spectacular, but for a loaded Detroit Red Wings team, it was all they would require to advance to the playoffs. Once in the playoffs, Osgood found a different gear. The Red Wings goalie contributed a .930 save percentage, including a six game victory over the Penguins. In that six game series, Osgood delivered two shutouts, a one goal against performance, and a Stanley Cup clinching two goals against performance. He was a difference maker for a team that had it all.
4 Martin Brodeur (2003)
Welcome back to the list, Martin Brodeur. One of the greatest goalies of all time rightfully gets two spots on this list, as he helped guide the New Jersey Devils to a pair of early 2000s Stanley Cup Final victories. This time against eventual Conn Smythe winner Jean-Sebastian Giguere and the Anaheim Ducks, after posting a fine .914 save percentage in the regular season (as we discussed before, a better number in context of the times) Brodeur launched into the best postseason of his career. The hefty netminder posted a .934 save percentage to assist the Devils in dominating their opponents. Brodeur gave up more than two goals only six times in 24 games played in the 2003 postseason, providing the Devils with the stability in net they required.
3 Jonathan Quick (2012)
Martin Brodeur could have been on this list a third time, but he was instead defeated by two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie Jonathan Quick in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. This was a surprising Stanley Cup meeting, as the Devils were the six seed in the Eastern Conference and the Kings were the eight seed in the Western Conference. That did not stop the Kings from succeeding, however, as Los Angeles got behind their goaltender and made a historical run. After posting a .929 save percentage during the regular season, Jonathan Quick amassed a .946 save percentage in the postseason, crushing his opponents one by one. Quick was unflappable, giving up more than two goals only twice in 20 games played. Quick surrendered seven goals in six games against the Devils.
2 Tim Thomas (2011)
Something happened to Tim Thomas in the 2010-2011 campaign that made him an unbeatable goalie. We don't know what quite happened or how, but whatever it was, it earned Thomas a Vezina Trophy AND a Conn Smythe Award. Pretty good season if you ask us. Thomas put together a ridiculous .938 save percentage during the regular season, leading to questions of whether or not he could sustain such play into the postseason. Thomas answered those questions and then some, posting a .940 save percentage as the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup Final. Thomas surrendered eight goals in seven games against Stanley Cup Final opponents Vancouver Canucks, including two shutouts, one happening in Stanley Cup Final game seven. Have a season why don't ya, Tim Thomas.
1 Patrick Roy (2001)
Another candidate for the greatest goalie of all time gets the top spot on our list. Roy brings us back to the discussion about Martin Brodeur and how save percentages varied over different time periods, as Roy's save percentage during the 2000-2001 campaign was only .913. However what happened next solidifies Roy as the top Stanley Cup winning goalie season since 2000, as he posted a .934 save percentage in the ensuing postseason. Considering the year was 2001, a .934 save percentage was absolutely absurd. Roy gave up one or zero goals in 13 of the 23 games he played in in the postseason, giving up two goals twice as well. That means in 15 of 23 games, Roy gave up fewer than three goals. In 2002. No wonder the Avalanche won it all.