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Tim Thomas among top NHL playoff goalie performances of all time

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Tim Thomas

When it comes to getting to the Stanley Cup Final, a hot goaltender is one of the top keys to success.

Goalies can make or break a team’s chance at hoisting the coveted trophy. Over the years, there have been tons of stellar performances between the pipes. But which goalies were the best when it comes to postseason play?

Here are the top NHL playoff goalie performances of all time. 

Terry Sawchuk -- Detroit Red Wings, 1952

While it only took eight victories to take home a Stanley Cup back then, it was eight wins and zero losses for Sawchuk and the Red Wings. The Hall of Famer shut out the Toronto Maple Leafs twice in the semifinals and also shut out the Montreal Canadiens twice in the finals. Sawchuk only allowed five goals in eight games, finishing with a .977 save percentage (SV%) en route to his first of four Stanley Cup wins. 

Ken Dryden -- Montreal Canadiens, 1971

There are plenty of postseason runs to choose from when it comes to Dryden, who helped the Canadiens win six Stanley Cups in the 1970s. But his most impressive came in his first season with the Habs in 1971. 

Despite only playing in six regular season games, Dryden’s 1.65 GAA in those games earned him the starting job in the postseason. While his statistics weren’t phenomenal (3.00 GAA and .914 SV%), the fact that he came in with so little NHL experience and helped the Habs win the Cup earned him the Conn Smythe that year, his first and only time receiving the honor. 

 

Bernie Parent -- Philadelphia Flyers, 1975

Parent put together a Conn Smythe-worthy performance in 1975, leading the Broad Street Bullies to their second consecutive Stanley Cup win in the 1974-75 season. After winning the Vezina Trophy the same season with the Flyers, Parent finished with an impressive 1.89 goals against average (GAA) in the postseason, with four shutouts in 15 playoff games. 

Billy Smith -- New York Islanders, 1983

The king of the crease during the Islanders’ epic run in the early 1980s, Smith and the Islanders reached the Final five straight years, winning the Stanley Cup in four of them. His most impressive performance came in 1983, when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy. 

Going up against a star-studded Edmonton Oiler squad that included Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey, Smith gave up just six goals during the four-game sweep. This was an Oiler team that had averaged six goals per game in their 12 games to get to the Final, but had no answer for the hot-headed Smith. 

Patrick Roy -- Montreal Canadiens, 1993

Truthfully, take Roy’s 1986, 1993 and 2001 playoff performances, assign them two numbers on a dice and roll it to see which one gets selected for the best performance. It’s almost unfair to pick between them, as Roy won the Conn Smythe in each of those years. But in 1993, he was with a Canadiens team that did not have a single player that finished in the top 20 in regular-season scoring. 

Roy backstopped the Habs to 11 wins in a row, including 10 straight in OT. Plus, he outdueled Ron Hextall in the first round on the way to his second Stanley Cup win. 

John Vanbiesbrouck -- Florida Panthers, 1996

One of just two goalies on this list who didn’t win the Stanley Cup during their run, Vanbiesbrouck was the sole reason the Panthers were in the Stanley Cup Final in 1996. In just their third season in the NHL, the Panthers upset the Bruins, Flyers and Penguins to win the Eastern Conference and play for the Cup. 

Most famously, Vanbiesbrouck did everything he could to keep the Panthers’ season alive in Game 4, with Colorado up 3-0 in the Final and the two teams deadlocked at 0-0. Dueling with Roy -- who was with the Avs by that point -- Vanbiesbrouck was finally beaten in the third overtime as Colorado swept the Panthers. He finished the postseason with a 2.25 GAA and a .932 SV%.

 

Martin Brodeur -- New Jersey Devils, 2003

Like Roy, Brodeur had three worthy Stanley Cup-winning performances that could have made this list -- wins in 1995, 2000 and 2003. However, his 2003 performance saw him break the NHL record for most shutouts in a postseason, as he collected seven during the Devils’ run to the Cup, with three coming in the final against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. He finished the playoffs with an incredible 1.65 GAA and .934 SV%, and could have won the Conn Smythe had the honor not gone to the opposing goalie who comes in next on this list. 

Jean-Sébastien Giguère --  Anaheim Mighty Ducks, 2003

The backstop to the Ducks’ Cinderella run in 2003, Giguère was fantastic in leading the seventh-seeded Ducks to the Stanley Cup Final. It started with Giguère setting a since-broken NHL record of most saves in a postseason game with 63 against the Red Wings in the first round. He had five shutouts, including three in the Western Conference Finals against the Minnesota Wild where Giguère let up just one goal in the four-game sweep. 

Despite losing the Final, Giguère was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, finishing with a 1.62 GAA, .945 SV% and an undefeated record in seven overtime contests during the playoffs. 

Tim Thomas -- Boston Bruins, 2011

The oldest player to win the Conn Smythe, Thomas led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup win in 2011, their first since 1972. Thomas posted a shutout in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to send the B’s to the final round, and followed it up with another shutout in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, the first goalie to post a Game 7 shutout on the road. He set the record for most saves in a single postseason with 798 and the most saves in a Stanley Cup series with 238. In total, Thomas concluded the 2011 postseason with a 1.98 GAA and .940 SV%. 

Jonathan Quick -- Los Angeles Kings, 2012

In the first of two Stanley Cups for Quick and the Kings, Quick was stellar in the crease all postseason. He never allowed more than three goals in any of the 20 postseason games, including just seven total goals in the six Final games against the Devils. He finished with an eye-popping 1.41 GAA and .946 SV%, along with three shutouts. Quick and the Kings lost just four games the entire postseason.