Going down as one of the best NHL goalies of all time isn't easy. Former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Kirk McLean once said, "It's pretty tough for a goalie when you look at it. You're always the last line of defense. If you let a goal in, you can't go to the bench and hide between the guys or anything." While goaltending alone does not win games or championships, it can be the difference between a win and an embarrassing loss. Certainly there has been some stellar goaltenders in the history of the NHL, but a select few stand above and beyond the rest.
Who are the greatest hockey goalies of all time? Which goalkeepers have the most impressive records? There are plenty of amazing goalkeepers on this list and without them, their teams would be in trouble. The old NHL adage is that you're only as good as your goalie. Without some of the guys on this list, their teams would be at the bottom of the league, or at minimum, just an average squad. Vote for the top NHL goalies ever. While you're at it, cast your votes for the best goalies in the NHL right now.
- 15,109 VOTES
Still active as a major-junior hockey coach, Patrick Roy's legacy rests on his stellar play with both the Montreal Canadiens and the Colorado Avalanche between 1985 and 2003. Like other top goaltenders, Roy holds a handful of NHL records including for playoff games played, playoff wins, playoff shutouts and Conn Smythe Trophy wins, earning the nod as the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs three times.
Though he's also remembered for perfecting the butterfly style of goaltending, Roy is also known for his physicality on and off the ice, fighting no less than two Detroit Red Wings netminders in the 1990s.
- 25,525 VOTES
The definition of a modern-day great goaltender, Martin Brodeur is not only a legend in New Jersey, where he's played for roughly two decades with the Devils, but around the world as well. Marty began his 19th season in the NHL in 2010 as the record holder of numerous league goaltending records.
Five Jennings Trophies, four Vezina Trophies, three Stanley Cup rings, two Olympic gold medals and a Calder Memorial Trophy are just a sampling of his accomplishments. As if that was not enough, Brodeur can also score. He's just one of two who have put the puck in the opposing net both in the regular season and in the playoffs.
- 35,912 VOTES
Representing one of many Czech goaltenders, Dominik Hasek arguably earned his nickname as "The Dominator" through strong play with the Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators. Hasek set the bar for European goaltenders in the NHL, becoming the first European netminder to win the Stanley Cup and lead the league in goals against average.
Compared to goaltenders of any background, his numbers were not too shabby either, including still leading the record books with a .922 career save percentage. Oh yeah, he also won the Vezina Trophy six times, the Jennings Trophy three times and both the Hart Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award twice each.
- Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain42,786 VOTES
Playing for six NHL teams between 1952 and 1973, Jacques Plante earned a record six Vezina Trophies, numerous NHL All-Star Game selections and even the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1962 as the best player in the league. His six Stanley Cup, five of which were consecutive with the Montreal Canadiens, are impressive, but his impact on the game itself is what stands out.
Plante changed how goaltenders played the game, being the first to leave the net to control the puck, the first to raise a hand on an icing call and the first to wear a mask in net. Long story short, Plante is and always will be the best goaltender to ever appear between the pipes.
- 52,460 VOTES
Not only is Ken Dryden easily one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game, but off the ice, Dryden is immensely successful having served as a member of the Canadian Parliament from 2004 to 2011. On the ice, Dryden took the Montreal Canadiens to six Stanley Cup championships in the 1970s during his NHL career, which interestingly lasted just over seven seasons.
He packed each of those years with outstanding play, winning the Vezina five times, the Conn Smythe in 1971 and the Calder Trophy in 1972. Make no mistake, that was not a typo, Dryden was so awesome that he won the playoff MVP award a full year before he was named rookie of the year and was the only to ever do so.
- Photo: Chicago Blackhawks / NHL / Wiki Commons / Public Domain61,845 VOTES
One half of the notable Esposito brothers, Tony Esposito played in goal for the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Black Hawks from 1967 to 1984. Though he only lays claim to a single championship, winning the Stanley Cup with the Habs in 1969, Esposito saw personal success as a three-time winner of the Vezina Trophy and six-time selection for the NHL All-Star Game.
In addition to serving as the NHLPA President and Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager, Tony O also had a notable international career in which he represented both Canada and the United States.