That record had stood since Feb. 1, 1970, when the New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-0 at Madison Square Garden in Sawchuk's only shutout as a Ranger, and the last one of his career. He died less than four months later.
Back then, the idea that anyone would ever pass Sawchuk's total seemed incomprehensible. The question now is how high Brodeur will take the record before he calls it a career.
Someone may catch Brodeur at some point in the future. But there are marks that figure to stand the test of time. Here are a few:
Most points, career: Wayne Gretzky, 2,857
Given the way the game is played today, many of Gretzky's offensive marks will be hard to beat -- after all, he played in an age when offense was king. Today's goaltenders are better-coached, far more athletic and have better equipment; teams also pay a lot more attention to keeping the puck out of their next.
But of all his records, this is the one that will be the toughest to top. Gretzky's assist total of 1,963 would make him No. 1 on the all-time scoring list (Mark Messier is No. 2 with 1,887 points) -- but he also scored a record 894 goals. To put Gretzky's margin in perspective: a baseball player would have to hit well over 1,000 home runs to exceed Barry Bonds' career record by the same percentage that Gretzky's career points total exceeds Messier's.
Gretzky once said that Sidney Crosby could break a lot of his records. As great a player as Crosby is (he has 506 points and will be just 23 when the 2010-11 season starts), this is one that he won't get.
Most goals by a rookie: Teemu Selanne, 76 in 1992-93
Selanne was an untested kid from Finland when he burst into the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992-93 and immediately began terrorizing goaltenders. He blew past Mike Bossy's rookie record of 53 goals and didn't stop until he'd reached 76, tying him with Buffalo's Alexander Mogilny for the League lead.
Selanne added 56 assists for 132 points, also a record for first-year players.
Since then, the only rookie to score more than 45 goals was Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who had 52 (and 106 points) in 2005-06. Like Selanne, he won the Calder Trophy.
Selanne has gone on to score more than 600 NHL goals, and there's a berth in the Hall of Fame waiting for him after he retires. But he's never come close to matching his rookie magic -- in fact, he dropped to 25 goals and 54 points in 51 games in his second season and didn't even reach 50 goals again until 1996-97, when he had 51 for Anaheim.
Fastest three goals: Bill Mosienko, 21 seconds on March 23, 1952
Mosienko and the Chicago Black Hawks (that's how they spelled it in those days) appeared to be on the way to a season-ending loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden when Mosienko had the greatest shift of any player in NHL history.
The speedy right wing beat Rangers goaltender Lorne Anderson at 6:09 of the third period … and at 6:20 … and again at 6:30. That's three goals in 21 seconds, an accomplishment that has never been approached (for perspective: Jean Beliveau is next with three in 44 seconds, more than twice as long).
Mosienko's record-setting night in the Hawks' 7-6 win has overshadowed his career accomplishments. He and the Bentley brothers, Max and Doug, formed the "Pony Line," one of the great trios in NHL history. He finished his 14-year NHL career (all with Chicago) with 258 goals and 282 assists for 540 points -- good enough to earn him a berth in the Hall of Fame.
Most consecutive complete games by a goaltender: Glenn Hall, 502
It's conceivable that someone could break the three records above. Not so for Hall's goaltending standard for showing up for work every night.
Hall took the ice for the Detroit Red Wings' season-opener in 1955-56 and played all 70 games. He did the same thing the following season. The Wings sent him to Chicago in the summer of 1957, and he played all 70 games for the Hawks for five consecutive seasons, leading Chicago to a Stanley Cup in 1961.
Hall's ironman streak grew to 502 games. But in Game No. 503, against Boston on Nov. 7, 1962, he had to be lifted in the first period due to a back injury. Hall wound up playing "only" 66 of Chicago's 70 games. Ironically, though his career lasted through the 1970-71 season, he played more than 50 games only once after 1963-64.
Given that the NHL season has grown to 82 games from 70, the League now has 30 teams instead of six and the game is far more physical, Hall's mark appears safe for the ages.
Most saves in a game: Sam LoPresti, 80
The first-place Boston Bruins came out firing against the Black Hawks on March 4, 1941, setting an NHL record by firing 83 shots on goal -- a mark no team has come close to in nearly seven decades. The only reason the Hawks weren't run out of the building was a 24-year-old rookie goaltender named Sam LoPresti, who had only recently been called up from the minors to replace Paul Goodman.
A couple of years later, LoPresti was lucky to be alive at all. After playing 47 games for the Hawks in 1941-42, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy; several months later, he was aboard a merchant ship that was torpedoed and spent 42 days on a lifeboat before being rescued.
LoPresti never played in the NHL again -- though his son, Pete, was an NHL goaltender for six seasons in the 1970s.
No one has come within 10 shots of facing as many shots as LoPresti -- the next-highest total is 70 saves on 73 shots by Quebec's Ron Tugnutt in a 3-3 tie at Boston on March 21, 1991. Since then, the most saves by a goaltender is the 58 made by the Islanders' Dwayne Roloson in a 4-3 overtime win at Toronto last Nov. 23.
Fastest two goals, both teams: St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins, 2 seconds
The Boston Bruins were down 6-4 at home to the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 19, 1987, when Ken Linseman scored with 10 seconds left to give the Bruins some hope. But Boston's comeback dreams were dashed in record time when Blues center Doug Gilmour scored right off the faceoff into an empty net at 19:52, sealing the Blues' 7-5 victory and setting the mark for the fastest two goals by two teams.
The laws of time and space would seem to make it virtually impossible for this record to be broken, though Chicago and the Minnesota North Stars came close on Nov. 5, 1988, by scoring twice in three seconds (both with the goaltender in the net). The Minnesota Wild also came close, scoring twice in three seconds to beat Chicago 4-2 on Jan. 21, 2004.
Best plus-minus total: Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins, plus-124 in 1970-71
Fans who've seen Bobby Orr play only in clips like those shown on the NHL Network can't really appreciate the way he transformed hockey. Before Orr, the job of a defenseman was to help keep the puck out of his own net. Defensemen didn't "activate" (today's popular term) and get into the play.
Then came Orr, who not only jumped into the play for the Boston Bruins but often led the rush -- yet he was such a brilliant skater that he was almost never out of position in his own zone. In 1970-71, Orr became the only defenseman ever to exceed 100 assists in a season (he had 102) and finished with a mind-boggling plus-124 rating, nearly doubling his own 1968-69 record of plus-65 in the still-young statistic.
Montreal defenseman Larry Robinson came close to Orr's mark with a plus-120 rating in 1976-77, but no one else has ever been more than plus-98. In the last 20 years, no one has been better than the plus-60 rating by Detroit's Vladimir Konstantinov in 1995-96. Washington's Jeff Schultz was tops in 2009-10 with a plus-50 rating -- not even 40 percent of Orr's historic total.
Follow John Kreiser on Twitter: @jkreiser77nhl