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Top Avs Of All Time: #2 Patrick Roy

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There are two ways of looking at the career of Patrick Roy.  The first is simply by the numbers;  Four Stanley Cups, three Conn Smythe trophies, three Vezina trophies, five William H. Jennings trophies, 551 wins.  The list of statistical records and milestones goes on and on.

The other way of looking at the career of Patrick Roy is to examine his fiery bluster, his raw intensity, his perfect technique, and his sheer dominance of personality  on the ice.

Whichever way you consider the long, brilliant career of one of---if not THE---greatest goalies of all time, one thing stands out above all: Patrick Roy was the cornerstone of the Colorado Avalanche during his time with the team from 1995 to 2003.  Without him, there would be no Cups, no Presidents' trophies, no division title banners hanging from the rafters of the Pepsi Center.  Roy was one of the most important players to ever wear the Burgundy and Blue, and for that he sits high on the list of Top 19 Avalanche Players of All Time.

Patrick Roy's start in junior hockey with the Granby Bisons of the QMJHL was lackluster at best.  At worst, it was kind of awful.  In 1982-83, as the 17 year-old starting goalie, Roy won only 13 games and lost 35.  He allowed 293 goals and had a horrendous goals against average of 6.26.  The next season, the Bisons improved somewhat and so did Roy's stats, but he still finished with a record of 29-29 with a GAA of 4.44.  Nothing impressive, for sure.

That lack of success as the starting goalie for a bad junior team goes a long way in explaining why Roy had to wait until the third round of the 1984 Entry Draft to be chosen by the Montreal Canadiens (the rival of his favorite childhood team, the Quebec Nordiques).  Chosen 51st overall, Roy would return to Granby for the 1984-85 season, where again the team sucked and his stats were poor.  But as luck would have it, Roy was called up to the Sherbrooke Canadiens of the AHL near the end of their regular season, and while he would only play one regular season game ( a win), he would lead that team in the playoffs to their only Calder Cup championship.  He finished with 10 wins, 3 losses and a vastly-improved 2.89 GAA.

That was enough for the Canadiens to call up Roy to the NHL the next season, where he put in an era-respectable .875 save percentage and 3.35 GAA.  Montreal would finish the season with a 40-33-7 record.  In the playoffs, though, St. Patrick threw his new team on his 20 year-old shoulders and carried them to a Stanley Cup victory.  In 20 games, he won 15, allowed only 39 goals, finished with a 1.95 GAA and a save percentage of .923.  For the mid-1980s, when most teams scored 300-400 goals a year, goalie stats like that were extremely rare.  For his amazing effort, Roy won the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the playoffs, following in the footsteps of the other Canadiens rookie goaltender to do so: Ken Dryden.

For the next nine years, Roy would backstop the Canadiens to three division titles and another Stanley Cup win in 1992-93.  Roy led the league in save percentage four times, goals against average twice, and once in shutouts.  He would also win the Vezina trophy three times.  Those numbers alone would have likely ensured a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but Roy's career was just half over.

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On December 2, 1995, the Canadiens faced the Detroit Red Wings at home.  Unfortunately for Roy, it was the worst single performance of his entire career.  He allowed five goals on the 17 shots he faced in the first period, and despite his struggles, Habs coach Mario Tremblay left him in the game to endure waves of jeers and heckling from the crowd.  By the middle of the second period, when he was finally pulled, Roy had let in nine goals on 26 shots.  Outraged, he refused to talk to Tremblay and instead went straight to team president Ronald Corey.  "It's my last game in Montreal," Roy told him.

Indeed, it was.  On December 6th, in the interest of preserving team cohesion, the Canadiens traded Roy and team captain Mike Keane (Roy's closest friend on the Habs) to the Colorado Avalanche for Andrei Kovalenko, Martin Rucinsky and Jocelyn Thibault.  That trade would be known as one of the most infamously lopsided in NHL history.

Once in Denver, Roy immediately assumed the role of starting goaltender for the newly-minted Colorado Avalanche, already doing well in their first season since moving from Quebec and changing their name from the Nordiques.  Already boasting top offensive talent (Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Valeri Kamensky) and solid defense (Adam Foote, Sandis Ozolinsh, Alexei Gusarov), Roy would become the linchpin in the Avalanche winning machine.  The Avs would finish the year with a 47-25-10 record, their first Western Conference division title, and go on to stomp their opponents in the playoffs.  Roy would finish the post-season with 16 wins, a 2.10 GAA and .921 save percentage.  He would have won his third Conn Smythe had Joe Sakic not scored 34 points in 22 games.

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From then on, Roy would backstop one of the most powerful teams in the Western Conference and the NHL as a whole.  The Avalanche would never win fewer than 39 games with Roy as the number one goalie, nor would they ever lose their division title.  They won the first Presidents' Trophy in 1996-97, and the second in 2000-01.  Roy showed remarkable stamina and durability during his stint in Colorado, no doubt helped by the fact that he never played more than 65 games a year.

Roy continued to refine and perfect the low-to-the-ground, highly technical butterfly style of goaltending during his career.  While he didn't invent it, he popularized it to the point that most NHL goaltenders now emulate Roy's technique in some form or fashion.  Roy could move from post to post with little effort, and possessed amazing reflexes that helped him recover immediately whenever he allowed a dangerous rebound or found himself swarmed by an opposing offense.  The Avs played with a confident swagger any time Roy was in net, knowing even on his bad days he was still one of the best goaltenders to ever play in the NHL.

Roy's fiery personality was just as important as the amazing technical mastery of his position.  A born leader, Roy was the loud, outspoken and intense counterpart to long-time captain Joe Sakic's quiet and disciplined leadership.   Roy would often deliver the blustery speeches to the team before and during games, would cheer and goad his teammates when they deserved it, and would strike fear and resignation in the hearts of his opponents.  He'd shoot sarcastic winks at opposing players, would cuss and talk to himself in the crease, and wouldn't hesitate to slam his stick against the goal posts in frustration or celebration.  He would fight with coaches Marc Crawford and Bob Hartley, would ridicule and mock teammates he felt were slacking, and would create his own share of drama.  But his teammates respected him to the end.

Roy's ultimate performance would be the 2000-01 season, near the end of his career.  That season, with Ray Bourque on board in pursuit of the Stanley Cup which had so long eluded him, the Avs were a powerhouse of talent on every forward line and defensive pairing.  Roy would win 40 games during the regular season (the only year he would do so), and pass Terry Sawchuck's long-standing win record of 447. 


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By the time the playoffs arrived, St. Patrick and his team were ready to embark on Mission 16W, the name of their collective effort to win a Cup for Ray.  Cementing his legacy as the greatest playoff goaltender in history, Roy played 23 games, allowed just 41 goals on 622 shots against, and finished with a 1.70 GAA and a .934 save percentage.  That unbelievable effort earned him his third Conn Smythe trophy, and his fourth Stanley Cup.

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Patrick Roy would play two more seasons, both solid efforts with save percentages above .920.  But after allowing Andrew Brunette of the Minnesota Wild to score the game-winning goal in overtime in game seven of 2003 quarterfinals, Roy's career was over.  He decided to retire while still one of the best goalies in the league.


His career numbers are shocking.  1029 games played (1st in NHL history).  551 wins (second best in the league overall, surpassed only by Martin Brodeur).  League records for shots against (28,353) and saves (25,807).  Four Cups, three Conn Smythes, three Vezinas and five Jennings.  Eleven All Star appearances.  Eleven division titles with two teams.  Despite the protests of Martin Brodeur fans, Patrick Roy is generally considered to be the best goaltender in NHL history.

 

There's absolutely no way to sum up a career like Patrick Roy's and still do him justice.  So in the end all that really matters to Colorado Avalanche fans is that St. Patrick was the finest goaltender they will ever see in the Burgundy and Blue, and they should all feel honored to have been able to cheer for him during his years in Denver.  He is, simply put, a legend, and will forever sit as one of the most hallowed members of the Top 19 Avalanche Players of All Time.

Patrick Roy at Hockey-Reference.com

Patrick Roy at AvalancheDB.com