In anticipation of Wednesday’s Montreal-Pittsburgh Game 7 and in honor of Jaroslav Halak’s eye-popping performance this spring (win or lose), we thought we’d take a look back in time and compare some of the great Canadiens netminders.
Since hockey isn’t baseball and the statistical revolution really didn’t arrive until the 1970s and ’80s, it’s tough to compare goalies from different eras. But goals-against average is one stat that can be calculated pretty much right back through NHL history – even as far as Chris Chelios’ rookie year with Montreal.
To make things fair to the goalers who played under modern-day rules – red line, forward passing, five skaters allowed in the defensive zone, etc. – we decided that to be eligible for this list, the netminders’ careers had to end after the Second World War (sorry George Hainsworth). We also figured backups and one-game wonders shouldn’t make the cut, so we instituted a minimum of 10 post-season games played (apologies, Rick Wamsley).
Being a Habs list, there are some pretty heady names that appear on THN.com’s Top 10 Habs playoff GAAs since WWII (players are listed with first playoff and final playoff years with Montreal and career playoff GAA with Montreal):
10. Jose Theodore, 1996-2004, 2.54 GAA
Theodore lasted all of 81 minutes against Montreal in Round 1 (this year), giving up five goals on 40 shots. In 28 career playoff games with the Habs, Theodore’s record was 11 wins, 15 losses; he helped the Habs to the second round in 2002 and ’04.
9. Patrick Roy, 1985-1994, 2.46
Most would think St. Patrick would appear higher on this list, but Roy played during the highest-scoring period in NHL history and, although he won two Stanley Cups with Montreal, didn’t exactly play on the franchise’s best teams.
8. Ken Dryden 1970-1979, 2.40
Dryden did play on some of the franchise’s best teams, making the post-season each of his eight NHL seasons. Kenneth (as NHL.com lists him) won six Cups in those eight seasons, including four in a row to finish off the ‘70s.
7. Charlie Hodge, 1954-1965, 2.39
Miniscule GAA or not, Hodge is the least successful ‘tender on the list. He played just 16 playoff games for Montreal, winning one in 1955 and three in both ‘64 and ‘65. In between he played in the Western (pro) League, the Quebec Senior League, the American League and the Eastern Professional League.
6. Jaroslav Halak, 2008-2010, 2.38
This year’s darling of Rue Sainte-Catherine has seven wins in 15 playoff games with Montreal – in case you forgot, all seven victories have come this year. Halak and the Habs hope to make it eight Wednesday night.
5. Jacques Plante, 1952-1963, 2.13
‘Jake The Snake’ is a favorite around these parts, as much for his stellar play during a career that spanned 21 years as for his innovativeness. Plante played 90 playoff games for the Canadiens, finishing with a 59-28 record and 10 shutouts, tied for most in franchise history with Dryden.
4. Bill Durnan, 1943-1950, 2.07
Durnan just makes the list because the center ice red line was installed for the 1943-44 season (his rookie year), which marks the beginning of the modern era according to the NHL. He won two Cups with the Habs and was a hero in ‘44 as the team ended a 13-year drought known as the ‘Great Darkness.’
3. Rogie Vachon, 1966-69, 1.94
Vachon never really had a chance to be a true No. 1 with the Habs, splitting time with Gump Worsley and Charlie Hodge before moving to Los Angeles and establishing himself as one of the league’s best goalies. But when he did play for the Canadiens, he played well, finishing with 14 wins in 19 games. He was the goalie of record for Montreal’s 1969 Cup win.
2. Gump Worsley, 1964-1969, 1.91
‘The Gump’ was as famous for his roly-poly physique as he was his great play. He was part of four Cup-winners in Montreal during the 1960s and had a 29-7 playoff mark with the team.
1. Gerry McNeil, 1949-1954, 1.89
Who? That’s right, Gerry McNeil. He played five post-seasons for Montreal, winning just 17 of 35 games, but put up a sparkling GAA. McNeil was the meat in an all-time great goalie sandwich. He took over for Durnan and held the fort until Plante was ready. McNeil did get his name on the Cup in 1953, but was out of town by the time the Habs ripped off five straight Cup wins to end the ‘50s.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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