The inability to win in the postseason is often what separates very good NHL goaltenders from being considered among the all time elite. Martin Brodeur might hold the records for wins, shutouts, games played, shots faced, and saves, but without his three Stanley Cup victories it’s difficult to say what his legacy might be. Even with all of his success, there still is an argument that Patrick Roy was a better goaltender with his four Stanley Cup wins and his 151 career playoff wins – a record that isn’t likely to be broken any time soon – often cited as proof of his greatness. The more often a goaltender can win when it matters the most, the greater his legacy seems to be.
When it comes to top tier NHL goaltenders, there were few better Dominik Hasek. The Dominator’s unorthodox style revolutionized the position and his ability to make a timely save led to him taking home six Vezina Trophies and two Harts. Yet most of Hasek’s greatness was on display while playing on many less than great Buffalo Sabres teams and it wasn’t until he joined the perennial Stanley Cup contending Detroit Red Wings that he was finally able to capture his first Stanley Cup win in 2002. You can’t help but wonder if this fact is what keeps Hasek from being mentioned in the same breath as Brodeur and Roy. After all, they didn’t have to go elsewhere to find success.
Of course, postseason success is more about a team effort than anything else. Brodeur and Roy were great goaltenders, but they also had the benefit of playing on some great teams. Many goaltenders have put up superb playoff performances, but very few have captured the glory of a Stanley Cup victory without the help of a strong team in front of them. Unfortunately for most of the men on this list, as good as they were between the pipes, they never played on a team good enough to win it all. Here are the top 15 NHL goalies who never won the Stanley Cup:
15. Kelly Hrudey
Kelly Hrudey began his NHL career in 1983-84 with the New York Islanders, just as the team’s dynasty years were ending. He played parts of six solid seasons in New York, most notably stopping 73 shots in a 3-2 quadruple overtime win over the Washington Capitals in game seven of the 1987 Patrick Division semifinal, a game that has become known as the Easter Epic.
After a trade to the Los Angeles Kings, Hrudey helped the Gretzky led squad to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1993, but the team’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens would be as close as Hrudey would get. Hrudey played parts of eight seasons in L.A. and two in San Jose before retiring. Hrudey ranks 29th in career wins, 11th in shots faced, and 14th in saves.
14. Evgeni Nabokov
Evgeni Nabokov won the Calder Trophy and finished fourth in Vezina voting as a 25-year-old rookie with the San Jose Sharks in 2000-01. During his nine full seasons with the Sharks, Nabokov posted 30 or more wins six times, including three straight 40 plus win seasons from 2007-08 to 2009-10. However, the Sharks were perennial playoff disappointments and Nabokov’s play shouldered much of the blame following their 2009 exit. After another loss the following year, Nabokov departed for the KHL.
He played less than a season in Russia before signing with the Red Wings in hopes of winning the Cup. However, he would never get to play for Detroit as he got picked up on waivers by the New York Islanders. When the Islanders returned to the postseason following the lockout shortened 2012-13 season, Nabokov’s play let them down and it would prove to be his last taste of playoff hockey.
13. Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller posted seven consecutive seasons of 30 or more wins with the Buffalo Sabres and took home the Vezina Trophy following the 2009-10 season. He helped backstop the Sabres to back-to-back Conference Finals appearances in 2006 and 2007, before losing to the Hurricanes and Senators respectively. Many believe the Daniel Briere and Chris Drury led Sabres would have gone on to win the Stanley Cup in 2006 if not for a number of injuries to their defense.
That would be as close as Miller would get to victory – a trade to the St. Louis Blues in 2014 ended in a first round loss. Now with the Vancouver Canucks, Miller’s play has greatly diminished and it doesn’t look like there are any Stanley Cup hopes in his future.
12. Tomas Vokoun
Tomas Vokoun was unfortunate in that the prime years of his NHL career came while tending net for the expansion Nashville Predators and later the Florida Panthers resulting in just two playoff appearances with the Predators, both of which ended in the opening round.
Vokoun, who ranks 31st in career wins and 23rd in career shutouts, joined the Washington Capitals for the 2011-12 season in hopes of winning a Stanley Cup, but he was hampered by injuries in his lone season with the Capitals. He joined the Pittsburgh Penguins for another injury plagued season which ended with him taking the net from Marc-Andre Fleury in the postseason before losing to the Bruins in the Conference Finals. Vokoun sat out the following season due to a blood clot and then retired without a Cup.
11. Sean Burke
Sean Burke broke onto the NHL scene with the New Jersey Devils in 1987-88, posting a 10-1 record to end the season and bring the Devils their first playoff birth. He continued his hot play into the postseason and got the Devils within one win of the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Boston Bruins.
Unfortunately for Burke that would be the height of his success. He would play three more seasons with a struggling Devils team before being traded to the Hartford Whalers where his play couldn’t make up for the team’s inconsistency. He played five seasons with the Whalers and was traded part way through the team’s first season in Carolina to the Vancouver Canucks.
Burke battled injuries and inconsistency while bouncing around from team to team for the remainder of his career, never able to replicate the success of his rookie season. Still he ranks 25th in career wins and seventh in shots against and saves.
10. Mike Liut
In Mike Liut’s second NHL season with the St. Louis Blues in 1980-81 he posted a 33-14-13 record and took home the Lester B. Pearson Award while finishing second only to Wayne Gretzky in voting for the Hart Trophy. Liut played parts of 14 NHL seasons with the Blues, Hartford Whalers, and Washington Capitals, but his teams found very little postseason success and he was never able to make it out of the second round. Liut sits 33rd in career wins.
9. Eddie Giacomin
Eddie Giacomin became a fan favorite during his 10-plus seasons with the New York Rangers beginning in 1965-66. Giacomin led the league in wins three times and finished atop the league in shutouts three times as well. Following the 1970-71 season Giacomin took home the Vezina Trophy, which at that time was awarded to the goaltender with the best goals against average. Giacomin helped the Rangers to several playoff upsets over the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, but was never able to bring the Rangers a Stanley Cup. He finished his career with three less than stellar seasons in Detroit before retiring.
8. Dan Bouchard
Dan Bouchard played parts of 14 NHL seasons with the Flames, Nordiques, and Jets and ranks 35th in career wins. During his time in Quebec, Bouchard finished in the top five in voting for the Vezina Trophy twice and became the idol of Patrick Roy while the talented Nordiques developed a rivalry with Roy’s future team, the Montreal Canadiens. The height of Bouchard’s success came when he led the Nordiques to the 1982 Conference Finals where they were swept by the dynasty New York Islanders.
7. John Vanbiesbrouck
Vanbiesbrouck ranks 14th in career wins – the most of any American born NHL goaltender – and sixth in both shots against and saves. He won the Vezina Trophy with the New York Rangers in 1985-86 and then helped the team to the Conference Finals where they lost to the eventual champion Montreal Canadiens. The Beezer never found any more postseason success with the Rangers and by the time the team ended their 54 year Stanley Cup drought in 1994, he was a member of the expansion Florida Panthers.
Vanbiesbrouck would get his best shot at the Cup in 1996 when he backstopped the young Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final, but they were ultimately swept by the Colorado Avalanche.
6. Olaf Kolzig
Olaf Kolzig played parts of 16 seasons for the Washington Capitals, including a couple of games as a 19-year-old and one game as a 22-year-old, but it wasn’t until the 1997-98 season at the age of 27 that he took control of the team’s net full time. Olie the Goalie won 33 games that season and helped the Capitals to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1998 where they ultimately lost to the defending champion Detroit Red Wings.
Kolzig posted six consecutive seasons with 25 or more wins, including 41 wins in his Vezina Trophy winning 1999-00 season, but the Capitals were never able to replicate or exceed their success in 1998. Nevertheless, Kolzig’s career .927 SV% in the postseason ranks fourth since the metric has been used.
5. Miikka Kiprusoff
After three seasons as the backup in San Jose, Kiprusoff was dealt to the Calgary Flames early in the 2003-04 season and quickly established himself among the league’s best. Kiprusoff posted a .933 SV% during his first season with the Flames and set a modern day record with a 1.69 GAA – a mark that has since been surpassed by Brian Elliott and Craig Anderson. He then backstopped the Flames to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final where they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Kiprusoff started 70 or more games over the next seven seasons, winning 35 or more games in each one and taking home the Vezina Trophy following the 2005-06 season. The Flames, however, were never able to make it out of the first round for the rest of Kiprusoff’s career.
4. Henrik Lundqvist
New York Rangers fans are hopeful that Lundqvist may one day find himself off of this list, but after a Stanley Cup Final loss in 2014 and getting within one win of another Final appearance in 2015, Lundqvist remains among the best never to win it all. He currently sits 18th in career wins, 19th in shutouts, and third in SV% since the statistic was first introduced. The 2011-12 Vezina Trophy winner’s 54 career postseason wins are the second most among goaltenders who have never won the Stanley Cup.
3. Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo currently sits eighth in career wins, fourth in shots against, fourth in saves, seventh in games played, and 13th in shutouts. His 47 wins in 2006-07 were the second most by a goaltender in a single season, behind only the 48 wins from Brodeur that same year. Luongo probably had the best chance of any goaltender on this list to win the Stanley Cup when he took the Presidents’ Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Unfortunately for Luongo, his abysmal play in the Final played a big role in the team’s loss. Given that Luongo is likely to finish his NHL career with the Florida Panthers, there’s a good chance he’ll never get that elusive Stanley Cup. When all is said and done, he could easily find himself taking over the top spot on this list.
2. Ron Hextall
As a rookie in 1986-87, Ron Hextall took home the Vezina Trophy and then backstopped the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final while winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in a loss to the dynasty Edmonton Oilers. Hextall would become one of the league’s top goaltenders throughout his 13 year career, while also scoring two goals and showing a willingness to settle any dispute his own way – a slash on Kent Nilsson in the 1987 Final earned him an eight game suspension to begin the 1987-88 season. Nevertheless, Hextall was never able to get closer to the Stanley Cup than he did in his rookie campaign. His 47 career postseason wins rank third among goaltenders who have never won a Stanley Cup.
1. Curtis Joseph
Curtis Joseph’s 454 career wins sit him fourth all time. He’s faced the third most shots of any NHL goaltender and is third in career saves and fifth in games played. Joseph is 12th in career playoff wins with 63 and his 16 postseason shutouts trail only Brodeur and Roy. Yet none of the teams CuJo played for throughout his 19 year career were ever able to make it over the hump. The closest he ever got to the Stanley Cup was the two Eastern Conference Finals appearances he made with the Maple Leafs in 1999 and 2002. The fact that no other NHL goaltender in history has won more games – regular season or playoffs – than Curtis Joseph without winning the Stanley Cup make him an easy choice for the top spot on this list.
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