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.  

Rk Player From To W L T/O SA SV GAA SO SV%
1 Dominik Hasek 1990 2008 389 223 95 20220 18648 2.2 81 0.922
2 Henrik Lundqvist 2005 2014 309 195 62 16069 14791 2.26 50 0.92
3 Tim Thomas 2002 2014 214 145 49 12822 11795 2.52 31 0.92
4 Roberto Luongo 1999 2014 373 312 93 23815 21886 2.51 66 0.919
5 Pekka Rinne 2005 2014 163 98 37 8828 8106 2.39 32 0.918
6 Carey Price 2007 2014 179 137 44 10946 10035 2.52 25 0.917
7 Tomas Vokoun 1996 2013 300 288 78 20313 18625 2.55 51 0.917
8 Niklas Backstrom 2006 2014 189 135 47 10831 9920 2.46 28 0.916
9 Jonas Hiller 2007 2014 162 110 32 9192 8424 2.51 21 0.916
10 Craig Anderson 2002 2014 168 135 40 11165 10211 2.75 26 0.915
11 Kari Lehtonen 2003 2014 214 167 45 13432 12290 2.66 27 0.915
12 Ryan Miller 2002 2014 294 194 58 16691 15275 2.59 29 0.915
13 Jonathan Quick 2007 2014 176 117 33 8755 8009 2.28 31 0.915
14 Mike Smith 2006 2014 147 117 44 9257 8458 2.58 27 0.914
15 Ilya Bryzgalov 2001 2014 220 158 53 12861 11743 2.56 34 0.913

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 three...at 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.