Reminiscing on Dominik Hasek, the greatest goalie who ever lived

Justin Bourne

When you watched him play, it was almost impossible to believe that Dominik Hasek was as good as the numbers implied. As goaltending evolved, tenders got bigger and bigger, they turned to positional play, and they got better. Way better. But that cookie-cutter garbage wasn’t for The Dominator.

(Above: standard goaltending technique. Remarkably, that's a save.)

Hasek was a dreamweaver strapped to a buzzsaw, a whirlwind of flailing limbs that appeared to lack any method to the madness. He got lucky, the puck hit him, and then he got lucky again -- until he retired as the single best goaltender to have ever played, and it turned out he was never that lucky at all.

Hasek did it his way, offering up a unique approach that landed him squarely in the heads of a generation of shooters. To understand just how remarkable his career was, check out this chart below, particularly the “from” and “to” categories.  

1Dominik Hasek199020083892239520220186482.2810.922
2Henrik Lundqvist200520143091956216069147912.26500.92
3Tim Thomas200220142141454912822117952.52310.92
4Roberto Luongo199920143733129323815218862.51660.919
5Pekka Rinne200520141639837882881062.39320.918
6Carey Price200720141791374410946100352.52250.917
7Tomas Vokoun199620133002887820313186252.55510.917
8Niklas Backstrom20062014189135471083199202.46280.916
9Jonas Hiller2007201416211032919284242.51210.916
10Craig Anderson200220141681354011165102112.75260.915
11Kari Lehtonen200320142141674513432122902.66270.915
12Ryan Miller200220142941945816691152752.59290.915
13Jonathan Quick2007201417611733875580092.28310.915
14Mike Smith2006201414711744925784582.58270.914
15Ilya Bryzgalov200120142201585312861117432.56340.913

The bulk of the goalies with the best career save percentages all have careers that start in the 2000s and extended to, well, now (the evolution of goaltending has been swift). Hasek blew the goaltenders from his own era so far out of the water he still sits atop today’s positionally committed pillars.

(For those wondering, Martin Brodeur is 17th on the list with a career .912 save percentage (2.24 GAA), and Patrick Roy sits at 24th with a .910 (2.54 GAA).)

As far as the debate generally goes - Roy, Brodeur or Hasek? - it’s tough to argue for anyone but the latter. Some straight facts on Hasek:

* He’s won the most Vezina Trophies of any goaltender ever. Well, technically his six (six!) is less than Jacques Plante’s seven, but Plante’s came in a league with only six teams (and thus, six starters), and was just given to the goalie who started for the team with the lowest goals-against average. Hasek was up against 26-30 goalies, depending on the year. Brodeur won four, Roy won one point Hasek won five in six years. To even be in the conversation to win the Vezina that many times is Hall-of-Fame stuff.

* He’s the only goalie to ever to twice win the Hart Trophy as league MVP. He also won the Ted Lindsay (league MVP as voted by the players) in both of those seasons, an award that’s only been won by one other goalie, Mike Liut (80-81).

* He won Olympic gold. Not like, the Czech Republic so much, but him. His stats: 0.97 goals-against-average, .961 save percentage, and he blanked Team Canada in a shootout.

The was part of a 17-month stretch of accomplishments that goes unrivalled by any goaltender ever (probably any player period, actually).

* He didn’t even start for the Sabres until he was 28. He was a 10th round draft pick stuck behind Ed Belfour in the early days.

On top of all these phenomenal facts remains what makes him so iconic: the Hasek Roll. As a professional scrambler, he allowed himself to fully commit to one side of the net, while being cognizant that if the shooter goes the other way, his roll will allow him to defend that side too. It made shooters think they had him beat when he wasn’t.

Check out this style:

In all, there was no one quite like Dominik Hasek. His style, his stats, and his personality were unlike anything the NHL had seen before or has seen since. With half the Vezinas from one decade on his trophy shelf, it’s a no-brainer to call him the goalie of the 90s.