Goalies have always been a fascination of many hockey fans. Some love the goalies simply because they wear cool goalie masks, other fans love them because they also played the position of goaltender. No doubt about it, the goalie has always been one of the most important positions in the game of hockey.
There have been some great goaltenders in the National Hockey League over the years. Yet there is still much debate on who is the best goaltender of all-time. It’s easy to see why there may be a discrepancy. Like how do you measure the greatest goalies of all-time? What metrics do you use? Wins? Goals Against Average? Save Percentage? Number of Stanley Cups won? Number of Vezina trophies won? Well each of those metrics can be used, but your rankings will still be flawed. Advanced analytics work for the modern goaltender, but those stats did not exist 100 years ago. In reality it is a combination of the various metrics mentioned and also a bit of the “eye test” in terms of which goalies would you want in between the pipes in the big game? As such, we looked at various metrics and came up with our own list of the Top 10 NHL Goaltenders of all-time and Ten Goalies that you want in the Big Game.
The Hockey Fanatic presents:
Top Ten NHL Goaltenders of All-Time
#10. Glenn Hall (Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues) – Hall’s 407 career regular season wins in 906 NHL games are good enough for 11th all-time. Considered the iron-man of NHL goaltenders, Glenn Hall started and completed 502 consecutive regular-season games. Hall won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the 1968 playoffs, despite the fact that his St. Louis Blues were swept in the Stanley Cup Final by the powerhouse Montreal Canadiens. Glenn Hall is 8th all-time in terms of most games played by a goaltender. More on Glenn Hall.
#9. Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers) – The King had 459 regular season NHL wins in 887 games. His 64 shutouts are good for 17th all-time not bad for a tendy who was drafted 205th overall in the 7th round in 2000 by the New York Rangers. A career regular season Goals Against Average of 2.43 and a career save percentage of .918 are pretty solid. His playoff numbers were even better with a 2.30 GAA and .921 save percentage. More on Henrik Lundqvist.
#8. Roberto Luongo (New York Islanders, Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers) – drafted 4th oversall in 1997 by the New York Islanders, Luongo is ranked second in games played for goaltenders with 1,044, Luongo entered the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2022. He put up 489 wins in those games along with 77 shutouts, good for ninth all-time. With a career GAA of 2.52 and a save percentage of .919, Luongo is one of the modern eras greatest backstoppers. More on Roberto Luongo.
#7. Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild) – we were a little surprised to see the Flower crack out top ten, but upon further review of his stats, his 527 wins (and counting) ranks him third all-time. He has won 55% of all of this regular season games, illustrating just why the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted him first overall in the 2003 NHL Draft. He has a 2.57 career GAA and a career save percentage of .913. He helped the Pens win three Stanley Cups. More on Marc-Andre Fleury.
#6. Jacques Plante (Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins) – Jacques Plante is ninth on the all-time career wins list for NHL goaltenders with 437. He could have played longer in the NHL but did leave to play with the Edmonton Oilers in the WHA. A career Goals Against Average of 2.38 with 82 shutouts, Plante was a visionary and is credited as being the goalie who was the first goalie to regularly wear a mask. More About Jacques Plante.
#5. Patrick Roy (Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche) – Patrick Roy is the second winningest NHL goaltender of all-time with 702 wins in 1,256 career games played. Winner of four Stanley Cups, Roy won two with the Montreal Canadiens and two with the Colorado Avalanche. Wonder if his Stanley Cup rings are still plugging his ears? Roy won the Conn Smythe on three occasions in 1986, 1993 and in 2001. More on Patrick Roy.
#4. Grant Fuhr (Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames) – Selected 8th overall in the 1981 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers, Grant Fuhr may not have put up the best numbers compared to others on our list, but he had a most impressive career. In 1981-82 Fuhr had a 23 game undefeated streak with the Edmonton Oilers tied for fourth longest in NHL history. Fuhr helped backstop the Oilers to their five Stanley Cup championships and was the first black player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He amassed 403 wins in 868 career regular season games. Fuhr is tenth on the all-time wins list for regular season and playoffs combines with 495 wins. One of the coolest stats Grant Fuhr owns is that he had 14 assists in the 1983-84 season the most ever in one season by a goaltender, a record that still stands today. Fuhr had 47 career NHL assists. More on Grant Fuhr
#3. Ken Dryden (Montreal Canadiens) – had Ken Dryden played more than eight season in the NHL, he would be even higher on our list. Drafted 14th overall in the third round by Boston in 1964, Dryden would play all of his eight NHL season with the Montreal Canadiens where he won six Stanley Cups. Dryden won the Calder Trophy (NHL rookie of the year), the Conn Smythe Trophy (Stanley Cup Playoff MVP) and five Vezina trophies. His career save percentage of .922 is tied for second all-time. He won 65% of the 397 regular season NHL games he played in. For comparison Martin Brodeur the winningest goalie in NHL history won only 55% of his games. In terms of playoff games, Ken Dryden won 80 out of 112 appearances good for 71.4% of his playoff games. Dryden had a shutout in one out of every eight playoff games that he appeared in. Pretty remarkable. The Montreal Canadiens have had some of the greatest goaltenders of all-time on their roster. Ken Dryden might very well have been their best. More on Ken Dryden.
#2. Terry Sawchuk (Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers) – when I was a kid, my dad would always talk about Terry Sawchuk and how he was one of the best goalies ever. Well my dad wasn’t wrong. Terry Sawchuk played in 971 NHL regular season games and is eight all-time on the wins list with 445 wins. Of those 445 wins, Sawchuk had 103 career shutouts. Basically, Terry Sawchuk was shutting out his opponents once every four games. A four-time Vezina trophy winner, Sawchuk helped the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in three of four seasons between 1951-52 and 1954-55. Sawchuk died tragically at age 40 in 1970. More on Terry Sawchuk.
#1. Martin Brodeur (New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues) – Drafted 20th overall by the Devils in 1990,Brodeur played the majority of his career with the New Jersey Devils but also played with the St. Louis Blues. Playing in a 1,256 career games, Martin Brodeur won 691 games which leads all goaltenders who ever played in the NHL (140 more than Patrick Roy). With a career goals against average of 2.24, a save per centage of .912 and 125 career shutouts, Martin Brodeur is the Hockey Fanatic’s top ranked NHL goalie of all-time. More on Martin Brodeur.
Top Ten Goalies You want in the Big Game
This list is a little different. It encompasses the goaltenders that had a history of being unbeatable in the Big Game. It’s game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, who would you want to backstop your team?
#10. Frank Brimsek (Boston Bruins) – As tender for the Bruins, Brimsek did not lose a game from December 12, 1940 until February 23, 1941, a span of 23 games which is fourth longest of all-time. You don’t get a nickname like “Mr. Zero” by letting a lot of goals in.
#9. Bernie Parent (Philadelphia Flyers) – in the mid-1970’s there were very few goaltenders better than Bernie Parent. Parent still holds the record for most wins in a season (including playoffs) when he had 59 wins (in 90 games played) during the 1973-74 season.
#8. Ed Belfour – played in 1,125 games and won 572 of them good for fourth most ever by an NHL goaltender. Over the course of his career, Belfour tended net for Chicago, San Jose, Dallas, Toronto and Florida.
#7. Andrei Vasilevsky (Tampa Bay Lightning) – Over the past six to seven years no other goaltender has won as many games as Andrei Vasilevsky. In fact, he owns three of the top 20 when it comes to winningest goalies in a season including playoffs. 55 wins in 2017-18 (ninth all-time), 53 in 2019-20 and 53 again in 2021-22. This guys is a remarkable goaltender and one you want in the biggest game of the year.
#6. Pete Peeters (Boston Bruins and Philadeplphia Flyers eras) – holds two of the longest undefeated streaks in NHL history at 31 games in 1982-83 with Boston and 27 games in 1979-80 with Philadelphia. “Big Game Pete” might have been a better nickname for this guy.
#5. Gerry Cheevers (Boston Bruins) – the man holds the NHL record for longest undefeated streak at 32 games. ‘Nuff said.
#4. Patrick Roy – while we are not a huge Patrick Roy fan, there are many hockey fans that are. One thing is for sure, you cannot argue with his three Conn Smythe trophies.
#3. Martin Brodeur – the winningest goalie of all-time? It’s a no brainer.
#2. Ken Dryden – his accomplishments speak for themself. You want to win the big game. Old #29 from les Habitants is your go-to.
#1. Grant Fuhr – Fuhrsie never had the best goals against average (the 1980’s Edmonton Oilers were not known for their defensive prowess), he never had the most shutouts, but he did win his fair share of big games. Wayne Gretzky once said there was only one goalie who he wanted in net for game seven and that was Grant Fuhr.
There you have it, if we were building a championship team we would like to have Grant Fuhr in this prime in between the pipes. You might score five goals on him but you would never get the sixth. When you needed a big save, you could always count on Grant Fuhr.
Great job by the National Hockey League for compiling various goaltender records from 1917 to present day.