The Pittsburgh Penguins came into the National Hockey League in 1967 and during that span, they have had their fair share of starting goaltenders, some better than others but they all served the same purpose: to keep the puck out of the net and give their team a chance to take home the victory.
It is important to note that during the 80s and 90s, scoring was much higher as goalie equipment was smaller and the game of hockey was played differently than it is today. Today’s game is just as tough but scoring has decreased quite a bit meaning that goalie stats are much better on paper. Nevertheless, it still requires skill as well as good vision in order for the goaltender to keep pucks out of the net.
Some of the goalies on this list played a huge role in some of the spectacular playoff runs that the Pens took part in. Unfortunately, other goalies were wearing the black and gold during a time where the Penguins were in a rebuild. It is still important as even though the team was going through a tough time, the netminders tried their best in order for their team to do as well as possible. All in all, more than 60 goalies have played for Pittsburgh, some as a backup and others as franchise starting goalies. This list will focus on goalies who were considered “starters” and played a majority of the games in the season.
20. Andy Brown
Andy Brown made his debut as a Penguin in the 1972-73 season. He was playing on a team that bolstered four goalies under 30 years of age. Brown was actually the oldest of the group of goaltenders that year but seemed to struggle the most as in 9 starts, he had a 4.73 goals against average and a .868 save percentage.
In the following season, which was his last season as a Pens goalie, Andy had a larger role. He starred in 36 games and delivered a better performance, winning 13 of those 36 starts and acquiring a .881 save percentage. Brown was not necessarily a bad goalie but he was simply playing on a Pens team that was weak overall and he only spent two seasons on this team before moving on to the Indianapolis Racers.
19. Sebastien Caron
Sebastien Caron showed signs of excellence in his first year in the Burgh as he was playing some great hockey at just 22 years of age. The 2002-03 season saw him go 7-14-2 and accompanied with that was a .916 save percentage and a 2.64 goals against average. Not bad for a young rookie goaltender.
This took a turn for the worse in the following seasons. Caron played 40 games in the next year but his play seemed to have dropped greatly. He made some highlight reel saves but only mustered 9 wins and an abysmal .883 save percentage in that span. Sebastien only spent one more season in Pittsburgh after that and unfortunately his stats did not improve and he was due for a change of scenery.
18. Dunc Wilson
Dunc Wilson made his debut for the Penguins in 1976. At 28 years of age he made 45 starts and won 18 of those while bolstering a solid .906 save percentage and a goals against average under 3.00.
Unfortunately for him, the 1977-78 season was the last year Dunc would play in Pittsburgh. He started in 21 games and finished with a horrid .842 save percentage accompanied with a 4.83 goals against average. Even with the large amount of scoring in that era, the Pens surely did not want to keep a goalie that let in close to 5 goals every game. Wilson’s career wouldn’t last long after that as he only played 17 more games in Vancouver and then called it quits after just 287 career NHL games.
17. Wendell Young
A young Wendell Young took the Pens goal in the 1988-89 season and he simply was the best that the Pens had at the time. With Tom Barrasso slowly toning his skills, Wendell took over the net and played a majority of the games in the 1989-90 season.
Young went 16-20-3 in that season with a 4.17 goals against average but this was much better than his teammate Barrasso at the time. He spent some time on the Lightning where he didn’t fare much better and ultimately returned to the Pens lineup in the 1994-95 season, starring in 10 games and posting a .894 save percentage before calling it quits. He wasn’t necessarily the best goaltender at the time, but he served as an average starter and eventually a backup in his time with Pittsburgh.
16. Michel Plasse
Michel Plasse spent a total of two seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1974 to 1976. He spent the first season as a backup to Gary Inness and he posted a decent effort, winning more than 60% of his games.
Plasse got the chance to prove himself in his following season as he took on the starter role. He played 55 games and won 24 of them. Michel also posted a .890 save percentage and a decent goals against average of 3.45. His play was notable but the Pens were looking at the trade market in the 1976 offseason and eventually found a trade partner in the Colorado Avalanche who they sent Plasse to in exchange for compensation in their free agency signing of goaltender Denis Herron.
15. Michel Dion
Michel Dion entered the Penguins organization in 1981 and spent a total of four seasons in Pittsburgh. Throughout his career, Michel played on a Pens team that was going through a rebuild and was in fact quite terrible.
Dion’s first season saw him appear in 62 games and he posted a 3.79 GAA with a .879 save percentage. This wasn’t that bad considering that he won 25 of those games. The following seasons were a different story. Michel appeared in 79 games and he only got the W in 14 of those. Clearly, this wasn’t entirely his fault as the team around him wasn’t spectacular but his save percentage was falling into the mid .800s and his career was coming to a close. Dion retired after the 1984-85 season.
14. Gary Inness
Gary Inness started his professional hockey career in Pittsburgh. He made his debut in the 1973-74 season as the team’s third option in net. Gary started in 20 games and posted a .886 save percentage during that span.
The following season saw Inness take a much larger role. He played in 57 games and posted an excellent .905 save percentage which helped the Pens make the playoffs. His stellar play continued in the postseason where he helped the Penguins make the quarter finals by allowing less than 3 goals per game. Gary looked like a very promising goaltender but it is shocking that this was his final season with the Pens as in the following offseason, the Penguins actually traded Inness to the Philadelphia Flyers for, you guessed it, another goalie.
13. Al Smith
Al Smith was the replacement for aging veteran goaltender Les Binkley. He made his debut in the 1969-70 season and starred in 46 games posting a goals against average just over three. At the time, this was quite good as the Pens were fairly new to the league, having spent just two seasons prior to this one in the NHL.
Smith played the same amount of games in the next season but only won a staggering 9 games out of the 46 he played in. He posted a similar save percentage with a .898 in that season but he was often outplayed by his veteran teammate, Les Binkley. Smith also appeared in a brief 3 game playoff stint for the Pens but this was the last the Pens saw of Smith as he was later on claimed by the Detroit Red Wings in 1971.
12. Gilles Meloche
Gilles Meloche was a great goaltender who starred in more than 700 career NHL games. The Penguins got a few years out of him from 1985 to 1988 but unfortunately, this was near the end of his long career.
Meloche played for a Pens team that was slowly rebuilding and therefore his stats were not exactly the best. Nonetheless, he starred in more than 100 games for the Pens, collecting 34 wins in that span and a goals against average slightly under 4.00. He took the net for the Pens in his late 30s and never made the postseason with this team but unfortunately for him, the Penguins were just about to hit their best years soon after he retired as the superstar Mario Lemieux was about to surprise the entire hockey world.
11. Roberto Romano
Roberto Romano spent six years in Pittsburgh where he started off as a backup and slowly emerged into a starting goaltender by the time he hit his late 20s. Romano only mustered 15 wins in his first two seasons but this was only in preparation for his best season yet.
The 1985-86 season saw a much better Roberto Romano in goal. He posted 21 wins in 46 starts, a goals against average slightly under 3.60 and a save percentage of .886. Unfortunately, he was outplayed by Meloche in the following season and eventually didn’t play for the Pens until 1993 where he laced up for two games, posting an incredible .946 save percentage. This was the last we saw of Roberto but he did star in a total of 125 NHL games, winning 46 of those for the Pens.
10. Jim Rutherford
This might be surprising but Jim Rutherford was once a starting goaltender for the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1971-1974. The current general manager of the Pens actually suited up for 115 games, winning 44 of those.
Jim’s career as a Penguin started off young. At just 22 years of age, he was already manning the starters role for his team. He finished that season with 17 wins in 40 games accompanied with a .894 save percentage. The 1972-73 season saw Rutherford’s game change for the better as he finished with an exceptional .912 save percentage and a goals against average under 3.00. Unfortunately, the following season was a short one for Jim as he was sent to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for defencemen Ron Stackhouse.
9. Johan Hedberg
In March of 2001, the Penguins acquired Swedish netminder Johan Hedberg from the San Jose Sharks. Hedberg was fairly young at the time having just hit his mid 20s. He was looking to prove his worth on a Pens team with dwindling offense.
Johan’s first full season saw him take on a large workload. Starring in 66 games, Hedberg went 25-34-7 with a pretty impressive .904 save percentage and a GAA of 2.76. This wasn’t entirely bad but the Penguins only got worse in the following season which saw him only win 14 out of his 41 starts. This also brought his save percentage down to .895. By the offseason, Hedberg was traded to Vancouver for a 2nd round pick which allowed the Pens to draft Alex Goligoski.
8. Greg Millen
Greg Millen was a 6th round pick by the Penguins in the 1977 NHL draft. He made his debut in the 1978-79 season where he appeared in 28 games, winning 15 of them and matching his stats with starting goaltender Denis Herron at the time.
Millen was given a larger role in the following season. He dressed for 44 games and at only 22 years of age, Greg put up a respectable .881 save percentage. In his final season with the Penguins, Millen played in 63 games but his stats were not on par from what was seen previously and he was not resigned by his draft team. Greg went on to play for five more teams and actually starred in some deep playoff runs. The Pens had a skilled young goalie on their hands but he did not develop as quickly as they had hoped.
7. Denis Herron
Denis Herron was a goalie that could just not let go of Pittsburgh. In his 13 year NHL tenure, Denis appeared on the Penguins roster on 3 separate occasions from 1972-75, 1976-79 and 1982-86.
Herron started off as a third string goaltender, making less than 20 starts in each of his first three seasons. The Pens only got a taste of his abilities when he made a second run with them starting in the 1976-77 season. Denis was playing some exceptional hockey, winning 15 of 34 starts accompanied with a .910 save percentage and a 2.94 GAA in that season. He had some similar results in some of his following seasons which led his career total to 290 games for the Penguins which puts him 3rd all-time in games played for Pittsburgh goaltenders. In the end, Herron actually won a Vezina with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1980-81 season and he played a role in helping the Pens win some key games.
6. Jean-Sebastien Aubin
Jean-Sebastien Aubin was a Montreal native who was selected 3rd overall by the Penguins in the 1995 draft. He made his debut in the 1998-99 season, playing in 17 games and posting an incredible 2.22 GAA and a .908 save percentage.
The following season, Aubin was named starter and he posted one of the best performances of his career. 23 wins in 51 games and a .914 save percentage is what Pittsburgh got out of Jean that year. It is unfortunate that he was never able to replicate that type of season in his following years as he was constantly fighting for the starting role. The Penguins had Garth Snow and Johan Hedberg in the next season and there seemed to be no need for Aubin’s services anymore. He was let go to free agency where the Toronto Maple Leafs picked him up.
5. Ken Wregget
Ken Wregget originally started his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After 9 seasons splitting between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Leafs, Ken found himself on the Pittsburgh Penguins after a blockbuster trade.
Wregget’s career on the Pens was rather remarkable. The 1991-92 season saw him start in one playoff match and he ultimately walked away with a Stanley Cup ring. As he further progressed in the Pens system, Ken posted four seasons in a row with a save percentage of .900 or higher. This was outlined by his stellar performance in the 1994-95 season where he won 25 out of his 38 starts. His playoff performance was noteworthy as well as he posted a career high .930 save percentage in the 1996 postseason. Overall, Ken was a great goaltender that the Penguins utilized to their liking.
4. Les Binkley
The first starting goaltender to ever put on a Penguins jersey was none other than Canadian Les Binkley. Les started his career in the 1967-68 season at 33 years of age with a brand new Pittsburgh squad. His first NHL season saw him go 20-24-10 with a 2.88 GAA and a very impressive .905 save percentage.
The following seasons saw Binkley play on a Pens team that overall was lacking in every category. Overall, Les played in a total of 196 games for the Pens and he won just 58 out of those. He posted another two good efforts with save percentages slightly over the .900 mark. Binkley even helped his team in the 1970 playoff run, winning 5 games and letting in just about 2 goals per game. In the end, Les was the first starting goaltender for a team that would accomplish a ton in the near future.
3. Matt Murray
The emergence of Ontario native Matt Murray has helped the Penguins acquire even more solidity in net. At only 22 years of age, Murray has helped capture their second Stanley Cup of the 2000s era and his play looks to be quite sustainable as he looks to further improve his game year after year.
Matt made his first appearance in the 2015-16 season, starring in 9 season games and posting a .930 save percentage. He also played an excellent postseason, allowing the Pens to win the Stanley Cup as he provided a solid .923 save percentage in goal. In the current season, Murray has starred in 49 games and has won an incredible 32 of those starts accompanied with similar stats from his playoff run. Unfortunately, Matt has injured himself in this postseason run but there is no doubt that Fleury will pass over the throne to this young goaltender in the near future.
2. Tom Barrasso
The American superstar Tom Barrasso’s career ended with a bang. Winning two Stanley Cups, a Calder, a Vezina and a Jennings trophy, Tom took the Penguins 90s team to a whole new level by providing some stellar play in goal for his team.
Barrasso’s great run with the Pens started in the 1988-89 season where he played 44 games for, winning 18 of those. The 1990-91 saw him win his first Stanley Cup after posting a solid .919 save percentage in the postseason. Barrasso was even able to replicate this in the following postseason, posting a .907 save percentage and winning his second Stanley Cup. In total, Tom spent 12 years and 460 games in Pittsburgh and he played a huge role in some of the success the Penguins have had in recent times.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury
Marc-Andre Fleury is by far the best goaltender to ever play for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The two-time Stanley Cup winner started his career in the 2003-04 season at just 19 years of age. By the time he was 21, Fleury had taken the throne of the starting goaltender, playing in 50 games and posting a .898 save percentage.
Marc slowly started to emerge into a franchise netminder and the 2008-09 season seemed to amaze everyone. Fleury played in 62 games in the regular season, posting a .912 save percentage and a 2.6 GAA. The postseason was even better as he backstopped many powerhouse teams such as the Detroit Red Wings and ultimately brought home the glory. All in all, the city of Pittsburgh owes a lot to Fleury as he has played in 536 career games and counting and winning an incredible 375 of those. He is currently helping the Pens to their third Stanley Cup of the 2000s era with Matt Murray sitting out with an injury.
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