In the 2000s, the world had one clear best goaltender.
Martin Brodeur — the NHL’s all-time leader in goalie wins (691), shutouts (125), and even goalie goals (3) — was the most dominant goalie in ice hockey during the first 10 seasons of the 21st century. He won four Vezina Trophies (awarded to the NHL’s top goalie) between 2000 and 2009, played in five NHL All-Star Games, and most importantly, won two Stanley Cups.
In that timeframe, no other goalie came close to Brodeur’s level.
But while Brodeur was the clear number one in 2000s, no goalie has been able to make such a crystal clear case for themselves in 2010s. Sure, you have the obvious candidates (I won’t spoil who they are). But were any of them head-and-shoulders above the rest like Brodeur was in the 2000s? I don’t think so.
Is that a bad thing? Some might suggest so. After all, if this decade’s best goaltender was not so convincingly better than the rest, what might that suggest about the best the 2010s had to offer compared to previous decades?
But, I actually think this is a sign of the wide range of talented goaltenders this decade has produced. Don’t get me wrong, there were talented goalies in 2000s not named Brodeur. But if a convincing case can be made for three or four different goalies as the best goalie of this decade, that shows just how diverse the goaltending pool was in the 2010s. And diversity is always welcome, especially in a position that’s so often overlooked by the casual sports viewer.
To celebrate the end of the 2010s, let’s look at some of those NHL goaltenders (10, to be specific) who caught our attention throughout the decade. These are goalies who experienced success (be it through individual stats, records, or silverware), who were consistent throughout the 2010s, and who were just an overall joy to watch between the pipes.
Corey Crawford: Crawford opened the 2010s with an NHL All-Rookie Team nomination in 2010-11. He was a Stanley Cup champion two seasons later and earned his second dub another two seasons after that. Crawford posted a 1.84 goals against average and a .932 save percentage in 23 playoff games in 2013.
John Gibson: Since playing his first full NHL season (40+ games) in 2015-16, Gibson has taken the league by storm. He has posted a save percentage of over .920 in three of his last four seasons, including a .926 save percentage in 2017-18 (a season in which Gibson played a career-high 60 games).
Marc-André Fleury: The career-best 42 wins Fleury posted in the 2011-12 season earned him his first of four All-Star Game appearances. Despite the ups and downs he faced in the 2010s, Fleury still won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and nearly backstopped the Vegas Golden Knights to glory in their inaugural season.
Tim Thomas: To open up the 2010s, Thomas posted back-to-back 35-win seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12. He also won a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe combo in 2011. Unfortunately, an unannounced break from hockey and a “life-changing” concussion in December 2013 derailed the rest of his career.
10. Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks / Florida Panthers, Canada, 2010 – 2019)
What Luongo accomplished in the back-half of the 2000s (NHL-record 72 saves vs. Dallas Stars in 2007 playoffs, Vancouver Canucks single-season record nine shutouts in 2008-09, three straight NHL All-Star Game nominations between 2007 and 2009, etc.), he carried into the first quarter of the 2010s.
Luongo opened up the decade with an Olympic gold medal on home ice; he backstopped Canada to their first gold medal since 2002 through a 34-save effort vs. the USA in the final. A season later, he was playing in his first (and only) Stanley Cup final series, taking the Canucks to within a game of winning their first-ever championship. By the end of his Canucks tenure in 2014, Luongo had also captured the William M. Jennings Trophy and the Presidents’ Trophy and set team records in career shutouts (33) and wins (224).
Along with being a solid goalie on the ice, Luongo was a fantastic personality off of it. His humorous nature made him a hit with his teammates, the fans, and even the media. Some examples of his comical antics include his quirky soundbites (“My contract sucks”), his appearances on various TSN productions (“The Panel Intern” film and this TSN joke story), and his not-so-secret Twitter account.
Unfortunately, Luongo’s 2010s will likely be remembered for the controversy he was involved in towards the middle of the decade. His competition with Cory Schneider for the Canucks starting position, while kept respectful between the two athletes, was well-documented by Canadian hockey media, and no matter what either goalie did, their actions were spun to fit into the narrative of their competition.
Luongo was ultimately traded to the Florida Panthers — his former team — in 2014, and after setting Florida franchise records in games played, wins, and shutouts, Luongo retired in 2019.
Top Moment: 54 saves vs. San Jose Sharks, Game 5 of 2011 Western Conference Final.
Vancouver’s run to the 2011 Stanley Cup final featured so many great Luongo moments that it’s easy to single any other moment out as Luongo’s best of the decade. But when I think of Luongo’s most iconic performance of the 2010s, I immediately think of Game 5 of the 2011 Western Conference final.
With his Canucks up 3-1 in the series, Luongo shut the door on the visiting San Jose Sharks through 4.5 periods of hockey (including 1.5 periods of overtime). He stopped 54 of 56 shots — an average of roughly 12 saves per period — as the Canucks punched their ticket to their first Stanley Cup final since 1994.
9. Cory Schneider (Vancouver Canucks / New Jersey Devils, USA, 2010 – PRESENT)
Schneider started the 2010s playing for the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. A decade later, Scheider finds himself in the AHL again, this time with New Jersey Devils affiliate.
It’s hard to think that a goalie who started and ended the decade in the NHL’s primary developmental league ever did enough to warrant a spot among the decade’s top 10 goalies. But Schneider, in the few NHL seasons he spent as a starter, was a fantastic, dominant number one.
Schneider consistently put up strong numbers for the Canucks, despite never playing more than 33 regular season games for them. Through parts of four different seasons, Schneider accumulated a 55-26-8 record (wins-losses-overtime losses), complete with nine shutouts. He also posted a career save percentage of .927 and a career goals against average of 2.20; all-time bests for any Canucks goaltender with 20 or more appearances.
Schneider was traded to the New Jersey Devils in June 2013, mainly due to Vancouver’s inability to trade away fellow goaltender Roberto Luongo. Schneider initially split number one duties with another 21st century goaltending great — the iconic Martin Brodeur — before securing New Jersey’s starting spot for the 2014-15 season.
Schneider played a career-high 69 games that season, keeping a 2.26 goals against average and a .925 save percentage. He maintained his form for the 2015-16 season, going 27-25-6 through 58 appearances while keeping a .924 save percentage and a 2.15 goals against average. His performances that season earned him an appearance in the NHL All-Star Game and even Vezina Trophy shouts.
Unfortunately, Schneider’s career since then has only gone downwards. Injuries and struggling performances saw Schneider’s numbers dip in the upcoming seasons, to the point where he not only lost his starting role but also his position within the New Jersey Devils organization. He was demoted to their AHL affiliate in November 2019, where he’s been since.
Top Moment: 1.31 GAA & .960 save percentage vs Los Angeles Kings, 2012 NHL playoffs.
When the LA Kings upset the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, many saw it as the changing of the guard in Vancouver’s goal. That’s because Roberto Luongo, the hero of the Canucks run to the 2011 Stanley Cup final, had been supplanted by Cory Schneider.
After Vancouver lost the opening two games, Schneider came in and made a strong case to be the number one goaltender. Schneider recorded a 1.31 goals against average and a .960 save percentage in three appearances. This earned him a new contract in the offseason and fueled further competition between him and Luongo.
8. Ben Bishop (Multiple teams, USA, 2010 – PRESENT)
When you’re an extremely tall guy, people expect you to be a very good goaltender.
Is that always the case? Definitely not. There have been tall guys who weren’t great goalies (take 6 ft 6 Scott Darling), and there have been goalies who were very undersized but were among the top goalies in their time (such as 5 ft 8 John Vanbiesbrouck).
Luckily for fans of Ben Bishop, the American goaltender has lived up to the stereotypes that come with his 6 ft 8 frame.
In wasn’t always the case this decade. Bishop started the 2010s as a backup goalie and didn’t play his first full season (40+ games) until 2013-14. He was often described as “shaky” or “nervous”, especially during his first stints as a starter. To some viewers, he was not starter quality.
But as the decade developed, so too did Bishop’s play. The American posted 35 or more wins in his first three seasons as a starting goaltender with the Tampa Bay Lightning, including a career-high 40 wins in the 2014-15 season. His 2015-16 season was particularly successful from an individual standpoint; he was nominated for the Vezina Trophy after recording a .926 save percentage and an NHL-leading 2.06 goals against average.
By the time he was traded away in 2017, Bishop was Tampa Bay’s all-time leader in various goalie stats, including career wins, shutouts, and saves made.
Bishop may have played for several NHL teams this decade, some for no more than seven games, but he’s definitely been among the league’s top goalies in the 2010s. His three Vezina Trophy nominations are among the most by a goaltender this decade, and although he’s never won the award, his appearance among the finalists is a testament to his consistency.
Bishop, who backstopped the USA to bronze at the 2013 Ice Hockey World Championships, currently plays for the Dallas Stars.
Top Moment: 52 saves vs. St Louis Blues, Game 7 of 2019 Western Conference semi-final.
Facing the team that drafted him in 2005, Bishop had done a fantastic job backstopping his current team, the Dallas Stars, to game seven of the 2019 Western Conference semi-final. He was a key player for the Stars in games four and five, making 38 saves in the latter.
But his best performance came in game seven. Although the Blues won in double-overtime, Bishop was the game’s clear top performer. He stopped 52 shots through roughly 4.5 periods of hockey, the third-most saves by a goalie in Stars history. With the performance, Bishop has now stopped 105 of 107 shots he’s faced in three career game sevens.
7. Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators, Finland, 2010 – PRESENT)
When the Nashville Predators drafted Pekka Rinne 258th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, I doubt they were expecting the Finnish goaltender to develop into much. They didn’t even bother signing Rinne to an initial contract, opting instead to wait over a year before putting pen to paper on a deal.
But here we are, 16 or so years later, and Rinne is arguably the greatest player in the franchise’s history.
After seeing three different goaltenders — Tomáš Vokoun, Chris Mason and Dan Ellis — exchange starting duties during various points of the late 2000s, it was nice for Nashville to finally get some stability in the crease in the 2010s. From the beginning of the decade until its end, Rinne has been Nashville’s number one goaltender when healthy. And for good reason; Rinne has been one of this decade’s top goalies, despite spending the majority of it on the wrong side of 30.
Rinne opened the 2010s with his first 30-win NHL season, going 32-16-5 in 2009-10. The Finnish goalie quickly improved on those numbers; he posted records of 33-22-9 and 43-18-8 in his next two seasons, complete with save percentages over .920 and goals against averages below 2.40. He was nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender in both seasons, and in 2010-11, Rinne finished fourth in voting for the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s MVP.
Since his 43-win season in 2011-12, Rinne has won 30 or more games in a season five more times. These include the 2016-17 season, in which he backstopped the Predators to within two games of their first ever Stanley Cup championship, and the 2017-18 season, in which Rinne won his only Vezina Trophy.
The 37-year-old Rinne ends the 2010s as the Predators all-time leader in save percentage (.918), goals against average (2.39), and shutouts (58).
Top Moment: 2017-2018 Vezina Trophy.
Rinne’s Vezina Trophy win in 2018 taught us two things. Firstly, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Rinne was a top-three finalist for the award in 2011, 2012 and 2015, but he never finished higher than second prior to his win in 2018.
Secondly, age is merely a number. When Rinne collected the accolade on June 20, 2018, the Finnish goaltender was 35-years-old, making him one of the oldest recipients of the award. He was nothing short of fantastic in 2017-18 though, and his quick movements and key stops made him look more like he was 25 than 35.
6. Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings, USA, 2010 – PRESENT)
It takes someone special to overtake Hall of Famer Rogie Vachon as the greatest goaltender in Los Angeles Kings history. Granted, Quick ain’t your average goalie.
Signs that the young American would etch himself into LA Kings goaltending lore were always present; he posted four shutouts and went 21-18-2 in his 2008-09 debut season.
That campaign was an appetizer for what was to come in the 2010s, in which Quick fully realized his potential. He made 45 or more appearances in eight of nine different 82-game seasons (2009-10 included), and he played in 37 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. He posted a save percentage over .915 seven times, and only once did he allow a regular season average of over 2.50 goals per game.
Quick is now the Kings all-time leader (100+ appearances) in goalie appearances (624), shutouts (51), save percentage (.913), and even points (19).
Amazingly, Quick is an even better playoff goalie. Quick has won 46 of his 85 career playoff appearances, kept nine shutouts, and most impressively, maintained a goals against average of less than 2.25 and a save percentage of .922. These include three separate playoffs in which Quick kept a save percentage above .930 and a goals against average below 2.00. With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that Quick is a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
Quick is a unique goaltender compared to the average NHLer. While most NHL goalies rely on their positional awareness to get them out of tough situations, Quick relies on his contortionist-style flexibility and lightning-quick agility to make saves. He’ll use strong push-offs to move quickly across his goal and will often go into the splits to stop cross-crease shots. It’s a style more akin to the 1980s or 1990s than the 2010s, but one can’t say it hasn’t worked for the three-time NHL All-Star.
Top Moment: Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup double in 2012.
Ask any Kings fans what the greatest moment in franchise history is and they’ll all reply with the 2012 Stanley Cup championship. The Kings had the worst record among the 16 teams, and yet they still overthrew the Western Conference’s top three sides en route to glory.
This wouldn’t have been possible without Jonathan Quick. The American posted a save percentage of .946 and a goals against average of 1.41 through 20 games. To put those numbers into perspective, among goalies with 10+ appearances in a single playoffs, Quick’s numbers rank first and third all-time. Unsurprisingly, Quick was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
To read the other part of this list, which covers the decade’s top five NHL goaltenders, click on this link.