NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes, in conjunction with the new Canada Post goaltender stamp series, provides his insight into the position he played for 11 seasons in the League.
This week, Weekes discusses the best goalies he played against.
I played in the NHL for 11 seasons with seven different teams, the Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils.
From Martin Brodeur to Dominik Hasek, Kevin Weekes faced some of the all-time greats in his NHL career. (Photo: NHLI via Getty Images)
I got to face some of the game's best during that time, from 1997-2009. There were guys at the tail end of their careers who won the Stanley Cup, others who were just starting to become great and some in the prime of their legendary careers. It wasn't easy coming up with this list, but after careful consideration, here are the five best goalies I played against:
He was a guy that was very athletic. A lot of people talk about goalies being very traditional in terms of butterfly guys, just blocking and not reacting, but I don't feel like that was the case with Patrick because when he came into the League, he was so dynamic and so athletic in net. I think he maintained his athleticism over time and became more efficient. He not only was the best of both worlds, but he really had no weaknesses. The bigger the stakes, the bigger the game, the bigger he played. He embraced playing in Montreal and was one of the greatest goalies in the Montreal Canadiens history. Not only that, but starting as a young kid. This is not a guy who was a first-round pick. I really like the fact that Patrick was able to embrace all the challenges, rise to the occasion. Even the infamous game in which he asked for a trade. He didn't just ask for a trade, he went to Colorado and backed it up. He won the Cup on what was a great Colorado Avalanche team, he was the missing piece. To me, he spawned plenty of goalies. He influenced a lot of goalies.
One of the most detailed guys and so into it. A student of the game from every aspect, from his skate blades to the pads he used to the nylon that was used in his catching glove. He started sharpening his skates himself. He just had such an intuitive feel for the position. All of his tools of the trade. How he wanted to play. He certainly had a really hard road to make it to the NHL and was unheralded. He earned everything he got. Belfour embraced a lot of the changes from a becoming a real butterfly guy to equipment changes to going through injuries to doing Pilates. One of the first goalies to do Pilates and yoga as a part of his training. Once he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, I had a chance to play against him and see him at events around the city and he was always surprisingly nice to me, which I appreciate because he's one of the guys that I grew up watching. It was really cool to play against him as well. Never stopped in his quest to be great. You look at how long he played. After multiple back injuries, he still continued to play at a high level. You look at his stance over the years. The difference in his stance in the later part of his career to alleviate some of the stress on his lower back. Winner. Champion. Hall of Famer. A constant student of the game.
WEEKES' GOALIE SERIES
Weekes: Four goalies I wish I faced
By Kevin Weekes - NHL Network Analyst
As part of the new Canada Post goaltender stamp series, NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes lists four goaltenders he wishes he had the opportunity to play against. READ MORE ›
Having played with and against Marty, he's a guy that can impact the game in so many ways. On one hand, it was easier to play in New Jersey just based on what they built and the great coaches and the defensive structure of the team. You have to give those guys in the New Jersey Devils organization who played in front of him a lot of credit. But at the same time, it's challenging when you don't get as many challenging shots and you have to make some key saves at key times. You look at his durability, you look at his ability to influence a game in terms of puck handling. You look at the longevity. I remember watching him when he got called up (in 1992), his first couple of games with the Devils. He was really calm. The way that general manager Lou Lamoriello and the Devils treated him allowed him to be calm. I think it was a perfect fit. When you look at the records and all the accomplishments Brodeur has, it's crazy.
He was a pioneer. You talk to Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier and they say he is the best goalie they ever played with. He was the ultimate money goalie. To come into the League at 18, it's an amazing story. He was so fun to watch. So talented, so explosive. The best glove hand of all time in my opinion. Big saves at big times. The Edmonton Oilers played fast and loose and it didn't bother him. He was easygoing. I remember going to some pregame skates in Toronto as a kid and he literally got new pads out of the box that morning, put them on and go play. That's hard to do in street hockey, let alone the NHL. Of course the Stanley Cups, Canada Cups. His teammates knew that they could trust him. And when you get that many Hall of Fame members on a team that speak so highly of him, even after the knee injury, coming back and setting a modern-day record for games played in a season (79). He was just a special athlete, a special goalie. Certainly an inspiration for me too, to believe that it was possible to play in the NHL.
With Hasek, as great as he was in the Czech Republic, he looked awkward in his gear. He had that helmet with the cage. But then he came over to the International Hockey League and he was pushing Eddie Belfour of the Chicago Blackhawks. Then he gets traded to the Buffalo Sabres and does things I didn't think were possible. The way he was able to contort his body with a purpose and his hockey IQ was outstanding. Gretzky said he was the smartest goalie he played against. He was always steps ahead of the shooter. It was so unconventional to a lot of people. How was he so good and talented to be able to have that many save selections?! It would be like a pitcher being able to throw 15 different pitches for strikes to get batters out. He was able to confuse opposing shooters. His own teammates couldn't even score on him in practice. How do you go a whole NHL practice and only give up five goals in an entire practice? Hasek would make save after save in practice, even 5-on-0.
Just his work ethic, his commitment to detail. Very bright, very intellectual. Nobody thought it was possible to have a .930 save percentage in a season (Hasek had a .937 save percentage in the 1998-99 season). Nobody thought it was possible to be that dominant as a goalie and he really changed the way people thought about the position. One game in the playoffs he had 70 saves (a 1-0 four-overtime win by the Sabres in 1994 against the Devils). That to me was arguably the best goalie performance that I've seen. To me, Hasek was the Michael Jordan of goaltending.