Nobody was better than the Dominator when he was at his best

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 3:20 am by Cam Lewis

When Buffalo raised Dominik Hasek’s number to the rafters on Tuesday night, it sparked a question regarding where he belongs on the list of greatest goaltenders of all time. While he doesn’t have the same longevity or success that legendary goalies from the same era like Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur had, when he was at his best, nobody was better than Hasek. At his peak, he was the most dominant goalie ever to play the game. There’s a reason he was called the Dominator — it certainly wasn’t just a pun on his first name. 


Comparing goaltenders between different eras is incredibly difficult. The game is dynamic, always changing and always evolving which raises controversy regarding whether or not player X would have been as good as he was if he played when player Y did. It’s damn near impossible to create a perfectly level statistical playing field between players in different generations, but players who played at the same time are much closer to being on the same playing field. Taking this into consideration, I like to look at how a player did in relation to their peers to determine just how good they actually are. 

I mean, we’ll never know how good Jacques Plante would look wearing the mammoth pads that Gigeure wore back in 2003, and we’ll never know how great a player Tanner Glass could have been playing with a composite stick and cement-lined shoulder pads in the early 80s, but we can compare players based on how much better one guy was at his job than the other guys he played against. 


Just at a quick glance, Hasek’s numbers look like something out of a video game.  For example, 1997-98 with a 0.932 save percentage and a 2.09 goals against average, or the next year, a 0.930 save percentage and a 1.87 goals against. It’s like they were playing with four skaters and two guys in net, or something. Over his career, Hasek, who didn’t actually become a legitimate starting goaltender in the NHL until he he was 29, played 735 games, faced a total of 20,220 shots, saving 18,648 of them (0.922 save percentage) and put up a 2.20 goals against average. He also won two Hart Trophies, six Vezinas, and a Stanley Cup. Like I said, you’d unlock a whole bunch of achievements on xbox if these were your career stats in Be a Pro mode. 

The most amazing thing about Hasek is just how dominant he was in his best seasons. There’s a reason he’s won two Hart Trophies when the trophy has only been awarded to a goalie seven times in league history. Even more impressive than his standard stats is his performance and production in relation to other goalies playing at the same time, including goalies who played on better teams.

In Hasek’s breakout season as an all-star goaltender in 1993-94 for Buffalo, he posted a 1.95 goals against average and a 0.930 save percentage, both of which were tops in the league. This was good enough to earn him his first career Vezina trophy and second place in Hart Trophy voting. His next season was more of the same, as he led the league in save percentage, goals against average and shutouts, earning him his second straight Vezina.

His first Hart Trophy season in 1996-97 is where it starts to get really impressive. Hasek led the way with a 0.930 save percentage, but finished fourth in the league with a 2.27 goals against average. He also posted a 54.41 goals saved above average, in comparison to Roy and Brodeur, who put up 34.31 and 35.58 respectively. This stats looks to suggest how a goalie performs in comparison to the average goalie in the league, so if Hasek’s was this high, it means he was miles ahead of anybody else. To go along with that, he also led the league in point shares, which is a formula that aims to determine how much an individual player contributed to each of his team’s points in the standings. They clearly made the right Hart Trophy choice.

Statistically, 1997-98 was probably the best of Hasek’s career. His 18.6 point shares are miles ahead of anybody else, Roy is the next goalie with 12.8, and Selanne is the next player overall with 13.3. Point shares suggest just how valuable Hasek was to Buffalo, meaning he was as good as he was compounded with the fact he wasn’t playing on a great team. The amount of shots Buffalo allowed also paints a picture of how amazing this season was. Hasek had the most shots against in the league with 2149, with the next most being Curtis Joseph in Edmonton in 1901. Despite facing this many shots, Hasek still posted a 54.49 goals saved above average rating. 

Talking about 1998-99 is fun because we can talk about the playoffs. Hasek was Hasek in the regular season, posting the best save percentage in the league with 0.937 and the most point shares with 16.8, but it wasn’t good enough for a third straight Hard, as Jaromir Jagr went ahead and scored 127 points in 81 games. Regardless, Hasek willed his team to within one win of the Stanley Cup thanks to a playoff run that saw him post a 0.939 save percentage on 551 shots (an average of 29 per game). Unfortunately, some controversial goal scored by Brett Hull got in the way. Hasek eventually did go on to win a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2002, but these years were his best. 

Hasek’s best seasons: 


Goalie point shares

Goals saved above average

Save percentage

















*1994-95 was shortened due to the NHL lockout.

Roy’s best seasons:


Goalie point shares

Goals saved above average

Save percentage













Brodeur’s best seasons:


Goalie point shares

Goals saved above average

Save percentage













I decide to stack Hasek, Roy and Brodeur together for a few reasons. First of all, Brodeur and Roy are viewed as two of the best goalies of all time, so seeing how Hasek compares to them gives a good idea of where he belongs towards top of the list. Second, the three goalies all played in the same era, and all of the stats I’ve been using to this point are available for the three of them. I would like to put Sawchuk, Plante, and some others in the comparison, but their save percentages and goals saved above average aren’t available. 

Obviously it’s up to you to judge for yourself, as each season has multiple different factors involved that go along with the statistics, but it seems pretty clear Hasek’s best performances are unmatched by Roy and Brodeur. His superior goals saved above average stat suggests just how much better he actually was than everyone else around him, while his point shares suggest how valuable he was in turning an average team into a good one. Add on his incredible playoff performances and it’s difficult to argue anybody has ever had a more dominant peak than the man known as the Dominator.