Who’s Better? Brodeur, Hasek or Roy

Every hockey fan knows who Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy are. If you don’t, I suggest google and YouTube. I discussed the three below along with some commentary on other legends above. Feel free to check it out.

Last night, I was having a friendly discussion with Robert Davis in our little group chat on Facebook Messenger. A unique group that includes old Hard Hits cohosts Brian Sanborn and John “JPG” Giagnorio. We also have Colin Cannaday, Daniel Wheeler and friend Madison Miller, who has her own podcast on Anchor. I just started up.

The convo turned to great goalies between Rob and I with Colin and John pushing buttons. Ah. A favorite pastime of mine. Now, I’ve created madness. Rob is a Devils fan. So, he sides with Brodeur when it comes to who was the best of a great era that started with Roy in the 1980’s. Ironically, he was Brodeur’s idol with him being from Montreal and the son of former goalie and Canadiens photographer Denis.

Once he established himself in the early 90’s by pushing the Rangers the limit and then winning the first of three Stanley Cups the following year, Brodeur was a star. He would become so consistent on such a great team that he’d go on to set NHL records for most wins (691) and shutouts (125). He surpassed Roy in wins and all-time great Terry Sawchuk in shutouts. Along with winning three Cups and four Vezinas, Marty is one of the best goalies to ever play the game.

Photo via The Runner Sports Getty Images

For Hasek, he took a different route entirely. Picked in Round 10 at 199 overall in the ’83 NHL Draft by the Blackhawks, he stayed in the Czech Republic for several years before coming over. Once he did, it was obvious Hasek could play. Mike Keenan even went to him in the Stanley Cup Finals versus the mighty Penguins. His unorthodox style produced some remarkable saves on the likes of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. But the Blackhawks were no match for the Pens, who repeated as champs.

With Eddie Belfour established as the starting netminder in Chicago, it was obvious that Hasek needed a change of scenery to be given a real opportunity. The Hawks traded him to the Sabres for a package that included Stephane Beauregard and a fourth round pick that became Eric Daze. At least Daze had a good career even though injuries cut it short.

The deal was a steal for the Sabres, who eventually moved former Oilers star Grant Fuhr to the Kings in a trade that netted Alexei Zhitnik. Fuhr was bad for LA as a rental and would move on to the Blues where he had a couple of big years in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career.

Once Hasek became the guy in Buffalo, he quickly transformed into a star the likes the hockey world hadn’t seen. While Roy and Brodeur were receiving all the ink for winning Cups in Montreal and New Jersey, Hasek was busy proving he was a special player for Buffalo. It started in ’93-94 when he won 30 games while posting a league best 1.95 goals-against-average (GAA) along with the league lead in shutouts (7) and save percentage (.930). That was good enough to win his first Vezina and finish second for the Hart.

Interestingly, that same year in ’93-94, Hasek and Brodeur would meet in a memorable first round series between the Sabres and Devils. Not surprisingly, the best of seven series went the distance due to great goaltending. Hasek wouldn’t allow his team to lose a classic Game Six played at the old Aude in Buffalo. A game in which he stopped all 70 Devil shots to outduel Brodeur for a 1-0 shutout that sent the series back to East Rutherford. Dave Hannan was the overtime hero scoring in the fourth OT. In between them, Hasek and Brodeur faced a combined 120 shots with only one beating the then Devils rookie. Astonishing.

Ultimately, the Devils won the series by taking the deciding seventh game 2-1. They would advance all the way to the Conference Finals which in itself became an all-time classic against the Hudson rival Rangers. A series that had twists and turns along with drama with the Mark Messier led veteran Blueshirts advancing in a dramatic seven games thanks to OT hero Stephane Matteau.

That series only strengthened Brodeur and the Devils, who would win the first of three Cups by sweeping the Red Wings in ’95. I wasn’t surprised they won. They lost in excruciating fashion the year before after being so close. The only surprise was they beat powerful Detroit in four straight. Something most experts didn’t see happening. They underestimated the Devils.

Hasek was continuing to dominate the game with his odd style of stopping the puck. He would win a second consecutive Vezina in ’95 by leading in all three major categories including shutouts. Following an off year, he was back with a vengeance the next two seasons by doing a rarity. Sweeping the Vezina and Hart. Something you don’t see these days. The last to do it was Carey Price in ’13-14. Ironically, Jose Theodore also accomplished the feat in ’01-02 when he had a dominant year. Go figure. He also played for the Habs. The rest of his career wasn’t great.

Before Brodeur started racking up his four Vezinas, he had to contend with Hasek, whose Sabres teams weren’t as strong. The Dominator won six Vezinas over an eight year period all in Buffalo including his final season during ’00-01. He led them to their second Stanley Cup appearance in ’99 when they upset the Maple Leafs. Even though they didn’t have the talent of the Stars, the Sabres pushed them six games with Brett Hull scoring a controversial winner in triple overtime to give Dallas the Cup. Replays showed that his toe was in the crease. It became known as No Goal in Western New York. That crease rule was a ridiculous one.

After all the success with Buffalo, Hasek moved to the Red Wings in a trade that netted Slava Kozlov and a first round pick that was moved around. It didn’t work out for the Sabres as Kozlov, who was a good player as part of the Red Wings Russian Five, never got acclimated. He lasted one season before being rerouted to Atlanta where he was revitalized while playing with Ilya Kovalchuk and Marc Savard.

Hasek would go on to win his first Cup in ’02 when Detroit defeated Carolina in five. He outplayed Roy in a compelling seven game Western Conference Final that saw Roy make the biggest mistake of his illustrious career. He did the Statue of Liberty where he tried to show that he had the puck in his glove. A cocky move goalies will do. Only Roy dropped the puck into his own net to cost the Avalanche Game Six. The Red Wings rolled them in a lopsided Game Seven and then reeled off four straight on the Hurricanes following a surprising Game One defeat. Igor Larionov scored a backbreaking goal in sudden death to beat the Canes in a pivotal Game Three that changed the series. From there, Detroit rolled to its third Cup in six years with Hasek leading the playoffs with six shutouts. Given how strong the team was, he didn’t have to do as much.

Hasek would add a second Cup as a backup behind old Red Wing favorite Chris Osgood in ’08. While he didn’t wind up with the records Brodeur achieved mostly with one franchise with the lone exception of seven meaningless games in St. Louis, Hasek did wind up with 389 career wins with 81 shutouts, a career 2.20 GAA and .922 save percentage. Over a brilliant 16-year career, he played 735 games.

Brodeur meanwhile wound up lasting 22 years and getting into 1266 games (1259 with NJD). He totaled 691 wins with 125 shutouts while posting a career 2.24 GAA and .912 save percentage. There were three third place finishes for the Hart along with the four Vezinas. Plus five Jennings. A team award for the fewest goals allowed in a season. Marty was a huge part of that because he played in so many games. We’ll never see that again. The days of Brodeur, Hasek and Fuhr being iron men are long gone with coaches preferring to have goalie tandems and keep their starter fresh. Only Montreal and Toronto don’t which might explain their inconsistencies.

Photo credit NHL.com via Getty Images

So, who’s the best? Roy won four Cups including twice in Montreal. Once as a unknown rookie in ’86 and the second in ’93 when they had no business winning their record 24th Cup. Roy dominated overtime like few ever have during that run. He won twice more with the much more talented Avalanche after Mario Tremblay embarrassed him in a blowout loss on national TV. He never played another game for the Habs. The four-time Cup winner won three Vezinas and three Conn Smythes including in 2001 when he got the better of Brodeur in a strange seven game victory. They edged the Devils 3-2 to win that Cup. One that left Brodeur in tears during the handshake with his childhood hero.

Brodeur would backstop the ’02-03 Devils to a third Cup by upsetting the favored Senators in seven. He was superb stoning Marian Hossa in enemy territory. Unlikely hero Jeff Friesen scored the winner with over two minutes left in regulation from Grant Marshall to stun Ottawa. The Devils would go on to defeat the Mighty Ducks in seven in a home series. They shutout Anaheim in the deciding seventh game at Continental Airlines Arena. A game highlighted by little used rookie Mike Rupp scoring twice. Even though the Conn Smythe for the playoffs went to losing Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Devils were again champions.

Brodeur proved even after losing Hall of Famers Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer along with Brian Rafalski, who went to Detroit and won another Cup, that he could have success minus a great defense. He upset the Rangers by outplaying rival Henrik Lundqvist in the ’12 Conference Final. The Devils took the series in six with Adam Henrique playing the ultimate hero by scoring early in sudden death to help Marty exact revenge on the same May 25 date he lost that fateful Game Six in ’94 due to Mark Messier’s natural hat trick.

Even though they would lose to the Kings in six, Brodeur proved he still had it at 40. He did wind up sticking around too long like most great players. No shame in that. Many all-time greats do. Even Derek Jeter in these parts with the Yankees. It happens. It was so odd seeing Brodeur finish his career in a Blues jersey. They sold like hot cakes.

So, I laid it all out there for you. The remarkable trio of Roy, Brodeur and Hasek all had outstanding Hall of Fame careers winning a combined nine Cups, 13 Vezinas and a crazy amount of games. They are the three best goalies of the last three plus decades. All impacted the sport and made the art of goaltending way better.

Now, you have Price, Tuukka Rask, Andrei Vasilevskiy and future Hall of Famers Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury as great goalies who have had stellar careers. Recently retired Roberto Luongo was brilliant despite falling short in his one quest to win Lord Stanley. In some aspects, similar to Lundqvist, who’s near the end. Fleury has three Cups including one as a starter while playing a key role for the Pens in the last one when Matt Murray was injured. He’s proven he can be successful in Vegas by carrying them to the Cup Final before losing to the Alex Ovechkin Caps, who finally won.

With more offense increasing due to the rules and most goalies not playing as frequently, we may never see another era quite like what Roy, Brodeur and Hasek gave us. Where do they rank among the all-time best?

As I stated in the above podcast on my YouTube channel, it all depends on your perspective. There are a variety of factors including the changes in equipment, goalie masks, coaching, training, team defense and rules. If you’re an all-time hockey fan that goes back to the Golden Era, you might argue for Sawchuk, Glenn Hall, Jacques Plante, Tony Esposito, Ken Dryden or even Turk Broda, Tiny Thompson or George Hainsworth.

It all depends on your preference. It sure makes for a great debate. I hope you enjoyed my post on the great goalies. Wherever you stand, please feel free to chime in. Don’t forget to watch my little podcast above. It wasn’t too long. I’ll do a follow up later correcting some stuff. Stay tuned. 🙂

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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