The best goalies in NHL history

Profile Picture: Robert Criscola

January 8th, 2022

Goaltending in the NHL is an art, and these netminders perfected it during their playing days.

Here is our countdown of the greatest goalies in NHL history.

5. Terry Sawchuk

Terry Sawchuk took the NHL by storm in 1951, when at age 21 he started all 70 games in net for the Detroit Red Wings. He led the league in wins (44) and shutouts (11) as he took home the Calder Trophy.

Sawchuk’s first of four career Vezina Trophies would follow in 1952, as well as his first of four Stanley Cup championships. Incredibly, Sawchuk went 8-0 in net during the 1952 playoffs with a 0.62 GAA and four shutouts.

He would earn two more titles and Vezinas in Detroit before embarking on a solid second act with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was an invaluable contributor to the Leafs’ last championship team in 1967.

Sawchuk’s 103 career shutouts stood as an NHL record until 2009.

4. Dominik Hasek

It took until age 29 for things to click for Dominik Hasek, but when they did, he was like a brick wall in goal.

Hasek led the NHL in save % for six straight seasons from 1993-94 to 1998-99, all with the Buffalo Sabres. He also paced the league in GAA twice in that span, and shutouts three times. Five of his six career Vezina Trophies were awarded to him during that run, as well as two Hart Trophies and two Pearson Awards.

Hasek was unable to break through for a Stanley Cup with Buffalo despite posting a .930 save % in the postseason over eight years. The 2001 Vezina Trophy winner was traded to the Red Wings as Buffalo began a rebuild, and he promptly led Detroit to a Stanley Cup at age 37. Hasek retired for one year, then resurfaced with the Ottawa Senators before finding his way back to Detroit and winning another Stanley Cup with them at age 43 in 2008.

3. Jacques Plante

The Canadiens of the late 1950s were truly dominant, and goalie Jacques Plante was a big reason why.

Plante won the Vezina Trophy five consecutive seasons from 1955-56 to 1959-60, and his team won the Stanley Cup each year. He paced the NHL in GAA on each occasion, and led in save % twice and shutouts three times in that stretch. It was also during this run that Plante popularized wearing a goalie mask.

Plante won both the Hart and the Vezina in 1961-62, but one year later, the then 34-year-old stalwart would be dealt to the New York Rangers. After two uninspiring seasons on Broadway, Plante looked to be washed up.

But he began a memorable second act with the St. Louis Blues in the expansion team’s second season in 1968-69. The 40-year-old Plante won the Vezina for a seventh and final time with an incredible .940 save % and 1.96 GAA. Two years later, he would pace the NHL in both categories again with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Plante hung up his skates for good at age 46, after an unsuccessful year in the WHA.

2. Martin Brodeur

When it comes to sustained excellence, no goalie can hold a candle to Martin Brodeur.

Brodeur won the Calder Trophy as a rookie in 1993-94 with the New Jersey Devils, then guided his team to a Stanley Cup in the strike-shortened 1995 campaign.

Two Jennings Trophies would quickly follow, but he wasn’t recognized with his first Vezina until 2003. He would win the award three of the next four years as well. Though Brodeur failed to lead the NHL in save % and GAA in any of his Vezina-winning years, he did lead in both wins and shutouts on three of those four occasions.

The three-time champion set the record for games played (1,266), wins (691), and shutouts (125), marks that will be difficult to approach for any netminder in the future.

1. Patrick Roy

Brodeur has a case for best goalie of all time, but Patrick Roy’s more impressive trophy case makes up for a relative lack of longevity.

Roy burst onto the scene in the 1985-1986 season, winning both the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe with the Montreal Canadiens as a rookie, as he went 15-5 with a .923 save % and 1.93 GAA in the postseason. But he was just getting started, as he embarked on a run of three straight Jennings years, culminating in 1988-89 with his first of three Vezina nods.

Before his time was up in Montreal, Roy would win the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe once more (1992-93). He was traded in the middle of the 1995-96 campaign to the Colorado Avalanche, where he became an invaluable part of a team that took home two championships. Though he never won a Vezina in Colorado, Roy was in the hunt practically every year. He even won a Jennings in 2001-02, the year after he won his third Conn Smythe, an award Brodeur never secured.

Roy – who paced the NHL in save % four times and GAA thrice – retired in 2003 as the all-time wins leader (551), though that mark would eventually be eclipsed.