The importance of a good puck-handling goalie hasn’t been as big a part of the NHL for the past few years, but it has its roots as far back as Jacques Plante, who would occasionally roam well out of his crease. But comparing the goalies of today to those of yesteryear is like night and day.
Today, the style is practiced and perfected, but in the time of Gerry Cheevers, Ed Giacomin and Gary ‘Suitcase’ Smith, it was much more improvised. However, those ‘tenders still deserve recognition for starring in their time.
Smith inspired the NHL to create a rule restricting goalies from crossing the center red line after he carried the puck up ice. Giacomin is recognized by Glenn ‘Chico’ Resch and John Davidson as being the first to truly incorporate roving into his game, while Cheevers – who played a little forward in junior – is also considered among the best of his era.
Ron Hextall and Tom Barrasso bridged the gap from pioneers to perfectionists; Hextall became the first goalie to score a goal, both in the regular season and post-season. Modern goalies became so effective, the league introduced the trapezoid area behind the net in 2005-06 where goalies aren’t allowed to play the puck.
So, as we’re working away on our annual goalie issue, we decided it was a good time for the THN.com Top 10 to countdown the best puck-handling goalies of all-time.
10. Jacques Plante
Father of the mask known to wander.
9. Gerry Cheevers
Played forward for a season in junior.
8. Ed Giacomin
First goalie to record two assists in a game – and he hit a post.
7. Gary Smith
He’s the reason why goalies can’t pass the red line.
Now always pretty, but usually effective.
Good enough for Scotty Bowman to draft him No. 5 overall.
Gradual development partially forgiven by effectiveness with the puck.
Ability to go from glove to stick to pass is impeccable.
2. Ron Hextall
First goalie to shoot the puck and score a goal.
Head and shoulders better than his generation, inspired followers.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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