You have to wonder what would make anyone strive to play the position of NHL goaltender? Willingly blocking 100 mile per hour shots from the best shooters in the world doesn't exactly sound like the most glamorous of jobs. Sure, the equipment ensures that a goaltender is safe, but that doesn't make the prospect of taking a Zdeno Chara slapshot to the head any less terrifying. Yet, year after year, world class goaltenders continue to be produced.
It isn't just the fear of the position that makes being a goaltender seem like an unappealing way to make a living. The job is a lonely one, it's the only one in hockey where you are completely alone. It's the only one where every mistake you make, winds up in the back of your net. It's a job where one minute you can be on top of the world and the next you could be sitting on the bench watching someone else do your job.
Perhaps what attracts people to the net is the glory that comes with success. As an NHL goaltender, no matter what the result, you have an impact on every single game. You may take the blame for every loss, but you could also garner praise for every win. A great NHL goaltender can single handedly win his team a game, a playoffs series, or even a Stanley Cup. If a goalie knows how to bring his A-game and get on a hot streak at the right time, it can be hard to put anything by him.
A great goaltender can make a bad team look good, a good team look great, or turn a great team into a dynasty. Here are 15 teams who found some form of success thanks to the man between the pipes:
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15 2012-13 Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs finished the lockout shortened 2012-13 season as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference behind the stellar play of James Reimer and his 19-8-5 record with a .924 SV% and 2.46 GAA. The Maple Leafs team as a whole was not good, as evidenced by their 45 Corsi For % which was third worst in the league.
In the opening round of the playoffs Reimer and the Maple Leafs took the Boston Bruins to a Game 7 where they blew a 4-1 third period lead. Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs the team's success led management to believe they were a good team and they set out to strengthen the team's character and leadership rather than improve their skill.
14 2013-14 Colorado Avalanche
Semyon Varlamov finished the 2013-14 season with a 41-14-6 record to go along with a .927 SV% and 2.41 GAA to finish second in voting for the Vezina Trophy and fourth in voting for the Hart. Colorado's 112 points - the third most in the NHL - gave fans in Colorado the belief that the team was finally on its way back to glory.
Meanwhile, proponents of advanced stats pointed to the Avalanche's 46.6 Corsi For %, which was fourth worst in the league, and their second ranked PDO as proof that the Avalanche were a poor team who won primarily due to Varlamov's play between the pipes. The fact the Avalanche finished last in the Central Division in 2014-15 and remain in last in 2015-16, suggest that is the case.
13 2001-02 Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens had missed the playoffs three years in a row heading into the 2001-02 season and the team's postseason chances took a hit before the season began when it was announced that team captain Saku Koivu had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The Canadiens received very little offensive production that season as Yanic Perreault was the only player to reach the 50 point mark.
Still the team managed to sneak into the playoffs as the Eastern Conference's eighth seed thanks to the goaltending of Jose Theodore. Theodore posted a .931 SV% and 2.11 GAA while taking home the Hart and Vezina Trophies. Theodore kept up his superb play in the playoffs to help the Canadiens knock of the top seeded Boston Bruins in six games, before losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in six.
12 2008-09 Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets made their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2009 thanks to the play of rookie goaltender Steve Mason. Mason won the Calder Trophy while finishing second in voting for the Vezina and fourth for the Hart thanks to a 33-20-7 record with .916 SV%, 2.29 GAA and 10 shutouts. The Blue Jackets would ultimately get swept in the first round by the defending champion Detroit Red Wings and then have to wait five years before reaching the postseason again.
11 1987-88 New Jersey Devils
Sean Burke's 10-1-0 record as a rookie at the end of the 1987-88 season helped the New Jersey Devils to their first birth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Burke picked up an overtime victory in the final game of the season to clinch the Devils' spot in the postseason. He continued to play well in the playoffs and led the young Devils to Game 7 of the Wales Conference Final before they bowed out to the Boston Bruins. It would be a few more years before the Devils would dominate the NHL.
10 2014-15 Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators got off to a rough start in 2014-15 and it ended up costing head coach Paul MacLean his job 27 games into the season. The team continued to struggle and fell as much as 14 points out of a playoff spot. With goalies Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson both battling injuries, the Senators were forced to hand the reigns over to 27-year-old rookie Andrew Hammond. In 23 starts Hammond posted a 20-1-2 record with a 1.79 GAA, .941 SV%, and three shutouts to carry the Senators on an improbable run to a playoff spot.
9 2014-15 Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens' advanced stats were among the worst in the league for the second season in a row in 2014-15. They finished the season with a Corsi For % of 48.2 that ranked 23rd in the NHL. Despite this, the team finished atop the Atlantic Division and second in the NHL with 110 points. The primary reason for the Canadiens' success was the play of Carey Price. Price posted a 44-16-6 record with a .933 SV% and a 1.96 GAA that was good enough to not only prop up the Canadiens, but also net him the Vezina, Jennings, and Hart Trophies along with the Ted Lindsay Award. The Canadiens' advanced numbers have improved dramatically in 2015-16 and they look like a more well rounded team atop the Atlantic Division.
8 1967-70 St. Louis Blues
One of six expansion teams to enter the league in 1967, the St. Louis Blues reached the Stanley Cup Final in each of their first three seasons, due in large part to the play of Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante between the pipes. Hall picked up the Conn Smythe Trophy after the Blues were swept by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1968 Stanley Cup Final. The following season, Hall and Plante combined for 13 shutouts and split the Vezina Trophy en route to a second straight Final loss to the Canadiens. In 1969-70 the Blues once again received stellar goaltending from Plante and Hall on their way to a Final loss to the Boston Bruins.
7 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes
The first season of the "new NHL" after the 2004-05 lockout was a strange one and the Carolina Hurricanes shocked many people when they finished the season as the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Their surprise season looked like it was coming to an end when they dropped the first two games of their opening round playoff series with the Montreal Canadiens. The Hurricanes replaced a struggling Martin Gerber in net with rookie Cam Ward. Ward then backstopped the Hurricanes to their lone Stanley Cup win and took home the Conn Smythe Trophy while sporting a 2.14 GAA and .920 SV%.
6 2003-04 Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames entered the 2003-04 season having missed the playoffs for seven straight years. When starting goaltender Roman Turek went down with an injury, the Flames dealt a second round draft pick to the San Jose Sharks for Miikka Kiprusoff. Being given the opportunity to be a starter for the first time in his career Kiprusoff posted a 24-10-4 record with a .933 SV% and a 1.69 GAA to lead the Flames into the postseason as the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Kiprusoff then posted a 1.85 GAA and .928 SV% while getting the Flames to within one win of the Stanley Cup.
5 1993-2012 New Jersey Devils
Some would argue that a solid defensive corps and a trap system were the reasons for the New Jersey Devils' success, but the team likely wouldn't have won three Stanley Cup championships and nine division titles if not for the play of Martin Brodeur. Brodeur is arguably the greatest goaltender to ever play the game. He won the Calder Trophy, five Jennings and four Vezina Trophies for the Devils while setting NHL records for wins and shutouts with very little offensive support.
4 1973-1975 Philadelphia Flyers
The Broad Street Bullies teams of the 1970s were known for their rough play and Fred Shero's coaching style, but the team's success came in large part due to the play of Bernie Parent. Parent put up possibly the greatest two year performance in NHL history in 1973-74 and 1974-75. Parent posted 12 shutouts in back-to-back seasons and took home the Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophies in both years on the way to the only two Stanley Cup victories in franchise history.
3 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens were a young team coming off of three consecutive second round playoff losses to the Boston Bruins and weren't expected to contend for the Stanley Cup in 1992-93. They finished third in their division behind the Bruins and Quebec Nordiques and dropped the first two games of their opening round series to Quebec. Nordiques goaltending coach Dan Bouchard, who was also Patrick Roy's idol, proclaimed that they had solved Roy. This lit a fire under Roy who then went on a playoff record 11 game winning streak. Roy won the next four games against the Nordiques, swept the Buffalo Sabres, and won the first three games against the New York Islanders.
The Canadiens went on to beat the Los Angeles Kings in the Final and Roy took home the Conn Smythe Trophy while bringing the franchise their 24th Stanley Cup victory.
2 1992-2001 Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres were definitely not the most skilled team in the NHL during the 1990s, but they made the playoffs eight times in nine seasons from 1992-93 until 2000-01 due to the play of netminder Dominik Hasek. Hasek's unconventional style won the team many games and playoff series. The Dominator won the Vezina Trophy six times and the Hart Trophy twice with the Sabres and carried them to the 1999 Stanley Cup Final.
1 2002-03 Anaheim Mighty Ducks
The Mighty Ducks finished the 2002-03 season as the Western Conference's seventh seed, but stormed through the playoffs on the strength of one of the greatest playoff performances of all-time by Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Giguere marked his postseason debut with a 63 save triple overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings en route to a four game sweep of the defending champions.
The Ducks went on to beat the top ranked Dallas Stars in a six game series that featured a five overtime, 60 save performance from Giguere in a Game 1 victory.
The Ducks swept the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference Final with Giguere giving up just one goal in the series.
While the Ducks would lose the Final in seven games to the New Jersey Devils, Giguere took home the Conn Smythe Trophy and finished the postseason with a .945 SV% and 1.62 GAA and five shutouts.
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