Top 5 Goalies In New York Islanders History
Top Five Goalies In Islanders History
Goaltender is the most important and interesting position in hockey. Few jobs in sports are as demanding as that of a starting goalie. Without a decent goalie who can handle pressure, a team is going to go nowhere fast. No player spends more time on the ice than the man in net, and he can often be the difference between winning and losing. There have been many a great netminders in the big leagues, and the New York Islanders have had their fair share of play between the pipes.
The Islanders are a franchise that has won four Stanley Cups, made the postseason numerous other times, and had Hall of Fame players in the organization. Part of the team’s history has been solid goaltending. When the Islanders were a dynasty, they had perhaps the best goaltender in the game and when they built themselves into a playoff club in 2001-02, they did it because of the play of their netminder.
When trying to come up with the greatest in the history of the franchise, there were two big factors that came to mind. First was what they did during the regular season. Playing well in the regular season is key for a team’s success as you need a guy to steal a game once in a while. Another factor to be taken into account for this list is how well a netminder played come springtime. Some guys have good regular seasons, but really make a name for themselves come the playoffs.
There are some guys who had a big impact on the Islanders franchise but fell just short of making this list. First is Chris Osgood, who helped put the Islanders back on the map in the beginning of the 21st century. His play during the year and a half with the team had a huge impact on the franchise, and left fans with some great memories. Also just missing this cut was Rick DiPietro. DP is one of the few guys to have won over 100 games in an Islanders jersey. What kept DiPietro off this list is the way his career as an Islander ended. Yes, he had great numbers, but it wasn’t enough to crack the top five.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top five goaltenders in Islanders history.
5. Roland Melanson
Known as "Rollie the Goalie," Melanson played five and a half seasons in an Islanders uniform. He joined the Islanders during the 1980-81 season, but didn’t really establish himself until the following year. In 1982-83, he started 44 games for the Islanders and did quite well (24-12-5, 2.66 GAA and a shutout). Melanson’s strong play helped him win the William Jennings Trophy for allowing the least amount of goals in the league.
During his time with the Isles, Melanson won three Stanley Cups from 1981-83. While he might not have been as flashy as some other netminders, he was still a steady, solid netminder who could really play the position. During his time with the Islanders, Melanson played in 136 regular season games, compiling a record of 77-34-14 with a 3.14 GAA and a .875 SV percentage. Those numbers aren’t staggering, but his overall consistent play was good enough to put him on this list.
4. Glen Healy
Glenn Healy was the Islanders’ netminder from 1989-90 through 1992-93. His play during the regular season wasn’t too spectacular, but it was in his last season that Healy would leave his mark on the Islanders. That season, the Isles surprised much of the NHL by finishing third in the tight Patrick Division and getting into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Islanders would end up surprising even more people when they made it all the way to the Wales Conference Final, only to lose the Montreal Canadiens in five games.
The main reason for the team’s success that postseason was Healy, whose strong play helped beat the Capitals in the first round and then the league-best Pittsburgh Penguins, a team featuring the likes of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Kevin Stevens and Ron Francis.
Healy played in 176 games as an Islander, compiling a record of 66-79-21, the only guy under .500 on this list. He registered a 3.45 GAA and a .890 save percentage. Like I said, his regular season wasn’t spectacular, but it was the play in the playoffs that put Healy on this list.
3. Kelly Hrudey
Kelly Hrudey was with the Islanders for five and a half years, but much like Healy, he will go down in team history for one particular postseason game. In a game that is now known as the “Easter Epic,” Hrudey was the man between the pipes for the Islanders in Game 7 of the Patrick Division semifinals against the Washington Capitals in 1987. In that game, Hrudey was unbelievable in making 73 saves (a playoff record) and was the winning goaltender when Pat LaFontaine drilled a shot from the point and into the net after 68:47 of overtime to win the game 3-2 in the fourth OT, sending the Islanders to the next round.
As a member of the Islanders, Hrudey played in 241 games, going 106-90-26 while earning a 3.47 GAA, six shutouts and a .889 save percentage. He had some great regular seasons with the Islanders, but that one playoff run in 1987 was a big factor as to why he is placed where he is on this list.
2. Chico Resch
Signed by the Islanders before the 1974-75 season, Chico Resch became the man on Long Island for a little over five years. He wasn’t exactly the star netminder on those Islanders teams, but he was an above average netminder, and could have easily been a no. 1 goalie on almost any other team in the league. In 1974-75, he got the Islanders into the postseason by posting a record of 12-7-5 with three shutouts and a 2.47 GAA.
While with the Islanders, Resch was named to the All-Star team twice, won a Cup in 1980, and put up impressive numbers during the regular season. Resch played in 282 games with the Islanders, picking up a record of 157-69-47 with a 2.56 GAA and 25 shutouts. His 157 wins are the second-most in team history, while the 25 regular season shutouts are the most in Islanders history. He put up playoff numbers just as well as he did in the regular season.
1. Billy Smith
Billy Smith was one of the best goaltenders in Stanley Cup playoff history. Not only that, he is hands-down the best goalie in Islanders history.
Smith led the Islanders to their only four Cups, won a Conn Smythe Trophy as the league’s most valuable player in the postseason in 1983 and has great statistics (88 wins, 2.73 GAA, six shutouts). He’ll also go down as a netminder who shut down the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey en route to sweeping the upstart Edmonton Oilers in the 1983 Stanley Cup Final.
“Battlin’ Billy” was also a mighty fine goaltender in the regular season. Smith finished his career with a record of 305-230-104 in 675 starts, recorded 22 shutouts and posted a 3.17 GAA. Considering the era in which he played in, that is more than solid. He’s also the first masked man to be credited with a goal.
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