The “Did You Know?” series ties in the news of the day with some little-known hockey factoids and/or trivia. It’ll be fun. Trust me.
Dominik Hasek is one of the greatest goalies in NHL history. He might very well be the greatest, but that’s up for debate.
What’s not up for debate, though, is that Hasek had the greatest 17-month span of any goalie. Ever.
From Feb. 1998 to June 1999, Hasek did the following (this is in chronological order):
— Won Olympic gold with Czech Republic at the Winter Olympics.
— Finished first in the NHL in shots faced, saves, save percentage, minutes played and shutouts.
— Went to Eastern Conference Finals with Buffalo.
— Won the Vezina Trophy.
— Won the Ted Lindsay Award.
— Won the Hart Trophy.
— Was named to NHL First All-Star Team.
— Had a couple months off in the summer, prepped for the upcoming season.
— Finished first in the NHL in save percentage.
— Went to the Stanley Cup Finals with Buffalo.
— Finished first in playoff save percentage.
— Won the Vezina Trophy.
— Was named to the NHL First All-Star Team.
Now, those accolades alone make for an impressive resume — but consider the teams Hasek was carrying.
Czech Republic: Hasek’s performance in Nagano might be the most impressive, dominant, jump-on-my-back-I’ll-take-you-to-the-promised-land performance in goaltending history. The Czechs didn’t have a single player in the tournament’s top-10 scoring; they only managed two regulation goals in the semifinal and final combined.
In the elimination phase, Hasek stopped 38 of 39 shots against the U.S., 24 of 25 against Canada (plus five shootout attempts) and all 20 Russian shots in the gold medal game. His save percentage in do-or-die games was .964.
And Hasek did all this while his fellow “stars” failed to produce. Jaromir Jagr had just one goal in six games; the key goals in the semi and final were scored by Jiri Slegr and Petr Svoboda. The leading Czech scorer for the tourney was a guy named Pavel Patera, who had a cup of coffee in Minnesota.
Buffalo: The Sabres went to the Conference and Stanley Cup Finals with a pretty thin offense. Their leading scorer in both seasons was Miro Satan…with 46 and 66 points. In 1997-98, nobody scored more than 24 goals; in 1998-99, Buffalo’s top-five scorers included Michal Grosek, Curtis Brown and Dixon Ward.
The wildest year was 97-98, when Hasek led the league in shots faced (2149 over 72 games — an average of roughly 30 per contest). He finished with a 2.09 GAA and 13 shutouts while playing in front of a defense comprised of Alexei Zhitnik, Darryl Shannon, Richard Smehlik, Jason Woolley, Bob Boughner, Mike Wilson and Jay McKee. Not exactly a Norris Trophy shortlist, if you know what I’m saying.
It’s probably overlooked because he didn’t win a Cup and his career overall was so successful, but Hasek’s run from Feb. 1998 to June 1999 is the stuff of legend.