It’s hard to judge the top goaltenders of all time for a variety of reasons. For one, the equipment is constantly improving. It’s comical to look at how the goalies were equipped 30 and 40 years ago in comparison to today. They were wearing no masks for crying out loud. It’s much simpler to classify goaltenders in other sports. Take soccer or water polo for example. The keeper has always been equipped in the same manner. In hockey, even if we go back 15 years ago, the pads are vastly superior and it has nothing to do with size or protection. In fact, the pads were bigger back in the late 90’s (see Garth Snow). The way the pads are built nowadays allow the goalie to slide from post to post on his/her knees, a term goalies like to call “the power leg.” When attempting to stop a rebound, the goalie will simply power leg over in one fluid motion to the direction of the shooter. Jonathan Quick and Carey Price have mastered this technique.
It’s also hard to rank the top goaltenders of all time because it’s unclear as to which criteria is the most important. Some pundits feel that the amount of wins and/or Stanley Cups is the most important aspect of a goaltenders game because it reflects direct success. Others feel that wins and Stanley Cups is more of a team stat, and that we should be looking more at numbers that directly correlate to the goaltenders performance, such as the almighty save percentage.
In truth, the top goaltenders of all time have both the stats, and Stanley Cups to back up their resumes. Here are the top 15 goalies of all time!
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15 Jonathan Quick
But how is this possible? He's only been in the league for six seasons and is only 28 years old. That's the thing, he's still very young and has already won two Stanley Cups. Both of his championships have come in a 30 team league while other goalies had an easier road to get to the finals.
Quick has that "it" factor as a goalie. When his back is against the wall, he seemingly has the ability to hit another gear and "shut the door." We saw it this year against the San Jose Sharks when the Kings were down 3-0, and they managed to rally to win in game 7 and ultimately win the cup. Not many goalies would have the intestinal fortitude to battle back from such a deficit. The sky is the limit for Quick, as he's going to have an awesome team in front of him for years to come.
14 Tony Esposito
"Tony O" is the lone exception in regards to having Stanley Cups to back up his resume. But he will go down as perhaps the greatest regular season goalie of all time. His accorlades are stunning as he boasts a Calder trophy, give All Star game appearances and perhaps the most impressive feat, three Vezina trophies.
He's also a forgotten piece of the Team Canada Summit Series squad. He shined in a game 7, 4-3 victory over the Soviets and some would argue that he actually played better than Ken Dryden throughout the series.
For whatever reason, Esposito just couldn't seem to get it together in the playoffs as his record is less than favorable (45-53). He has one Stanley Cup to his name, but he was serving as a backup for the Canadiens.
13 Ed Belfour
"The Eagle" had a reputation for not being the easiest guy to deal with. He wasn't all that popular with some of his teammates and members of the media, but he was a heck of a goalie. Belfour spent his entire career proving critics wrong as he was an undrafted player.
He definitely has the hardware to back up his #13 spot on the list. Belfour won the Calder trophy in 1991, and took home two Vezina trophies (1991 and 1993). He also appeared in six All Star games and won the Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. Perhaps his most prestigious accomplishment was outdueling Patrick Roy twice in the playoffs. Beating Roy twice heads up is a rare and remarkable feat because he will go down as the best "money" goaltender of all time.
12 Johnny Bower
If you're a parent with a young goalie that complains about the puck hurting, proceed to show him/her a picture of Johnny Bower's face and they'll realize that they don't have it so bad. Bower was truly one of a kind on the ice. Obviously he had no problem putting his face in the way of a flying puck as it now resembles a road map. But he was also fond of taking risks on the ice. He'd often race out and utilize the diving poke check and was one of the few goalies that would come out of his crease to play the puck, which was taboo back then.
Bower could be way higher on this list had he not had such a late start to his NHL career. The Leafs claimed him in 1958 when he was already 34 years old. Despite his advanced age, he still managed to play 12 seasons with Toronto where he won four Stanley Cups, capturing two Vezina trophies along the way.
11 Walter "Turk" Broda
Broda was originally property of the Detroit Red Wings and was eventually sold to the Maple Leafs for a measly $,7500 (can you believe it, Toronto pulling a fast one on Detroit?). Broda went by the Frank Sinatra motto, as he did things his way. He was constantly criticized by Leafs management for being overweight, but it never deterred his play.
Broda is going to go down as one of the best playoff goaltenders of all time. In his career, he boasted a 60-39 record in the post season with a remarkable 1.98 Goals Against Average. The G.A.A is the most impressive aspect because even in today's era where goals per game are at an all time low, a 1.98 G.A.A is still extremely rare. He has five Stanley Cups to his name, including the most remarkable comeback of all time in 1942 when the Leafs were down 3-0 to the Red Wings in the finals and managed to rally. Talk about sticking it to the man...
10 Bernie Parent
Undoubtedly the best goalie in Flyers history (granted, that's not saying much), Parent was the one of the last of the "stand up" goalies, which is now an extinct brand of goaltending. He patterned his play after Jacques Plante.
While many great goalies portray a calm, cool, even cocky demeanor at times, Parent was the exact opposite, He admitted that he was scared every time he went out there, but that's part of what made him so successful. He won the only two Stanley Cups in Flyers history and some would even say that he stole them. In other words, they didn't really have any business winning them but Parent stole the show. He has a Conn Smythe trophy to back up that claim for each of his cup wins. He could have perhaps added a third cup to his resume, but his career was cut short due to an eye injury.
9 Vladislav Tretiak
Tretiak was the best goalie to never play a game in the NHL and will be forever remembered for his success on an international level. He was never allowed to cross over to the NHL because he was born in the Soviet Union.
When one thinks of the classic "Butterfly" goalie, names like Glenn Hall, Tony Esposito and Patrick Roy come to mind. But Tretiak was unique because he was one of the first goalies to use a hybrid styles, where he would use both butterfly and stand up techniques, managing to get the best of both worlds.
He was an Olympic goal medalist on three occasions and won a silver in 1980. He was also voted as the best goalie at the World and European Championships four times, and the MVP at the Canada Cup in 1981 with a ridiculously good 1.33 goals against average. We also can't forget about how stellar he was during the Summit Series, leaving the Canadian players simply baffled as to how to beat him in the early stages of the series.
8 Bill Durnan
Durnan was insanely talented, and in fact he was so talented that he could catch with both hands and would often switch during the play to throw people off (obviously impossibly nowadays). The Habs goaltender only played for seven seasons but managed to capture six Vezina trophies and take home two Stanley Cups in the process.
In the 1947-48 season, Durnan was named as the captain of the Montreal Canadiens. Technically, Roberto Luongo is the last goalie to ever serve as captain, but some feel that Durnan was the last legitimate captain due to the fact that he would actually perform captain's duties. He would skate out of his crease and argue calls so often that other teams were complaining that the Habs were getting unscheduled timeouts. After that season, the league made a rule that goalies could no longer fulfill those duties.
7 Ken Dryden
Ken Dryden had such strong teams in front of him during his tenure with the Canadiens that some say his job was not to win games, but to simply go out there and not lose them. But that's the thing, he almost never lost! He posted an overall regular season record of 258-57-74 which means he got the win 65% of the time he stepped on the ice.
Dryden racked up a remarkable six Stanley Cups during his career along with five Vezina trophies. One thing that flies under the radar with Dryden is the fact that he had an extremely short career as he only played for eight seasons. Could you imagine the assault he would have put on the record books had he played another eight? Dryden was (and still is) a very intelligent man, and decided to leave hockey and pursue a law degree at the age of 31. Mind you, he chose to quit being a professional hockey player to go back to school, so how smart could he be?
6 Terry Sawchuk
Terry Sawchuk was a lot of things, and lot of them were negative. He was a pile of nerves, an alcoholic, a philanderer, and was always surly with the media. You'd often find him tucked away doing cross-word puzzles while attempting to ignore reporters. Playing goal literally led him to a nervous breakdown.
But what a goalie he was. He is even revered by many as the best ever. Sawchuk spent most of his career with the Detroit Red Wings but also had a stint with the Leafs. He had the record for the most wins (447) until it was surpassed by Patrick Roy, and then Martin Brodeur, Ed Belfour and Curtis Joseph. This record stood for 30 years. He also had the record for the most shutouts (103) until that was also broken by Brodeur in 2009. He also picked up four Stanley Cups along the way.
5 Glenn Hall
Hall was another neurotic goalie, as he admitted to throwing up before every game. Similar to Sawchuk and Parent, the fear made Hall play better. These mannerisms may not convey confidence to the rest of the team but every goalie deals with the pressure differently, and the cool and confident demeanor isn't for everybody.
Nobody could argue that Hall's way of doing things didn't work for him, as he was nicknamed "Mr. Goalie" for good reason. He was a staple of consistency, as year after year he'd post statistics that were unheard of at the time. In the 1963-64 season, he posted a .929 save percentage. To put it in perspective, this season's Vezina winner Tuuka Rask, posted a nearly identical save percentage of .930 and the current NHL is in an era where scoring is at an all time low due to stingy defensive systems. Not to mention that Hall's equipment was vastly inferior to the goaltenders of today.
Hall was also an innovator of the Butterfly style which almost every goalie uses today. Sure, Tony Esposito used it, and Patrick Roy perfected it. But Hall helped create it.
4 Jacques Plante
In his autobiography, Jean Beliveau was quoted as saying: "I rate him (Plante) and Terry Sawchuk as the best goalies I've ever seen, with Dryden, Glenn Hall, Bernie Parent and Patrick Roy on the next rung down." Plante's six Stanley Cups and seven Vezina trophies certainly back up Beliveau's claims. But above all else, Plante was an innovator for things that other goalies take for granted today.
He was very vocal in nets and would often yell instructions at his defenseman. He was also the first goalie to raise his arm to indicate an icing call to his teammates. Most importantly, he was the first goalie to ever wear a mask and was willing to go toe to toe with the wicked Toe Blake about it (no pun intended there).
3 Dominik Hasek
Hasek is in a category by himself in regards to his style of play. He would flop around like a fish, oftentimes deliberately falling on his back and shooting his limbs in the air and miraculously keeping the puck out. His style was so ridiculous, that early in his career, he caught a lot of flak as people were implying that he was getting lucky. He responded by saying: "They say I'm unorthodox, I flop around the ice like some kind of fish, I say, who cares? As long as I stop the puck." It's impossible to get lucky for 15 seasons in the NHL.
If you look at his body of work throughout his career, there were certain goalies that edged him out on this list because they sustained their play for a longer period of time. But there was a six year stretch, between 1994 and 1999 where he was seemingly unbeatable. It was perhaps the most impressive stretch we've ever seen from a goaltender. Only once in those six years did his save percentage drop under .930. Throughout that stretch, he picked up five Vezina trophies! In a 25-30 team league, that is a next to impossible feat that we'll probably never see again. He never won a cup in Buffalo as his teams were less than star studded, but finally got his ring in Detroit in 2002.
2 Patrick Roy
When there was a game to win, Patrick Roy was your guy. There were games where he couldn't find his rhythm and was about as sharp as a bowling ball, yet when the game was on the line, he'd somehow elevate his play and manage to keep the puck out of the net time and time again. His ten overtime wins in a row in the 1993 playoffs is a perfect example of his ability to shine under pressure. Simply put, he was a winner. He has the record for the most playoff wins by a goalie (151) and four Stanley Cups to his name. Not only that, but he earned three Conne Smythe trophies to boot.
He perfected the butterfly style, as he would completely block off the lower portion of the net, but he'd also manage to keep his body upright and his arms glued to his sides, giving shooters nowhere to go (being 6'1 also helped him in that regard).
1 Martin Brodeur
Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy are the top 2 on most people's list, but they tend to disagree on who is #1. But in our humble opinion, Brodeur narrowly takes it. While Roy had a knack for shutting it down at pivotal moments, there were instances where he'd have brain cramps and let in a softy (notably 5 hole). Roy was also a powder keg of emotions out there, and his temper would get the best of him while Brodeur remains even keel.
An example of Brodeur's ability to remain focused on the task at hand came in the 2003 playoffs, when it came out that he was having an affair with Genevieve Nault, who was married to Brodeur's wife's brother at the time. He was under tremendous media scrutiny, facing constant questions about the matter. He maintains that his wife would call him 20 minutes before games to try to mess with him so he would lose his focus. He responded by leading the Devils to another Stanley Cup.
Another intangible that Brodeur brought to the table was his ability to handle the puck. He mastered this technique so well, that the league had to implement "the Brodeur rule" in the 2005-2006 season. This rule restricted the areas in which the goalie could play the puck.
Statistically speaking, Brodeur also gets the nod over Roy. He surpassed Roy's marks for the most wins and most shutouts in league history (688 and 124, respectively). He also was more successful on an international level as he was brilliant in Team Canada's triumph in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
You could make a case for either goalie, this debate will rage on for years to come. But for us, it's Marty.
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