The National Hockey League will soon celebrate its 103rd birthday. Over the last century, the NHL has seen the biggest spectacles of ice hockey, including some of the best goalkeepers in the history of the sport.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to the highest save counts in NHL games in history – so far, at least, since we’re likely to see more in the coming years.
The most saves in the history of the National Hockey League are attributed to Normie Smith with 92 units.
On March 24 of the distant 1936, the Detroit Red Wings (Smith’s team) clashed against the Montreal Maroons in what is still to this day, the longest game in the history of the NHL.
The majority of the game went scoreless – Mud Bruneteau of the Red Wings scored the first goal of the game at 16:30 in the sixth overtime. This shot ultimately brought the Detroit Red Wings a 1-0 win.
The entire game lasted for a whopping 176 minutes – nearly 3 full games! Throughout the game, Normie Smith made 92 saves, which is the most in NHL history. Oh, and he also reportedly lost 12 pounds during the game.
Most Saves In A Game After 1955-1956
The NHL actually didn’t seem to have any save stats from before 1955. Even the 92 saves by Normie Smith are marked with a hesitant “reportedly” in the news piece I referenced earlier.
Official goaltender save stats on the NHL website are available for 1955-56 and onward, for games both in regular season and playoffs.
Most saves in regular seasons - 70
Regular season games are known to be less intense. However, the most saves ever recorded belongs to Ron Tugnutt of the Quebec Nordiques – 70 saves in a single game.
The game where Tugnutt made his 70 saves took place on March 21, 1991. Tugnutt’s Quebec Nordiques was playing against Boston Bruins. The game ended with a 3-3 score, so despite the immense and literally record-breaking effort of Tugnutt, his team was unable to secure a win.
Notably, Boston Bruins’ goalie Rejean Lemelin only made 23 saves in that same game. So yeah, the defense of Quebec Nordiques should have been better. However, the number of saves by Lemelin only accentuates how much work Tugnutt did for his team.
It’s a miracle that the game was even a draw!
The game also lasted about 65 minutes, so it was a pretty event-packed confrontation!
Even though 70 is far off Normie Smith’s 92, it’s still an impressive number that is yet to be beaten.
By the way, Tugnutt’s save record is a considerable 5 units ahead of the second place – 65 saves by Mario Lessard of Los Angeles Kings.
Most saves in regular seasons among currently active players - 58
Ron Tugnutt retired back in 2004 – a very long time ago. And one would think that with modern gear, hockey players would be able to make grandiose progress in the save department.
Well, that’s not the case actually – the highest number of saves among players active as of this post’s writing was 58 by Mike Smith of Arizona Coyotes.
The match that made him a record holder among active goalies took place on December 4, 2016, and was against Columbus Blue Jackets. CBJ won in the shoutout with a 3-2 score.
Most saves in playoff games - 85
In playoff games, the highest number of saves belongs to Joonas Korpisalo of Columbus Blue Jackets – 85. This is not only the highest number of saves in a single playoff game since 1955-56 but also the highest number of saves among active players.
The record-setting game for Korpisalo took place on August 11, 2020, and was against Tampa Bay Lightning. The game ended with a score of 2 – 3 and TBL’s victory.
Interestingly, Tampa Bay Lightning’s goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy also had a stellar game, making 61 saves. Although 14 saves short of Korpisalo’s record, Vasilevskiy’s result is impressive and beats Mike Smith’s 58 in a regular season game.
The CBJ – TBL match actually was also the fourth-longest game in NHL history. The winning goal was scored 10:27 into the fifth overtime by Brayden Point. The match itself lasted nearly 151 minutes!
Some More NHL Save Records For Stat Freaks
So I’ve looked around the save records of NHL and found some other interesting figures too. These don’t pertain to single games, but I think they are interesting enough to be mentioned here.
- Most saves in the entire career in regular seasons – 28,928 saves. Martin Brodeur of NJD and STL, save percentage of 0.912.
- Most saves in the entire playoff career – 6,559 saves. Patrick Roy of MTL and COL, save percentage of 0.918.
- Most saves within a regular season – 2,376 saves. Gump Worsley of New York Rangers, the season of 1955-56, save percentage of 0.923.
- Most saves within a playoff year – 849 saves. Tim Thomas of Boston Bruins, the season of 2010-11, save percentage of 0.940.
- Highest save percentage in regular seasons (over minimum 100 games) – 0.922. Dominik Hasek of CHI, BUF, DET, and OTT, over 16 seasons, 18,648 saves & 20,220 shots against.
- Highest save percentage in regular seasons (over minimum 25 games) – 0.944. Jacques Plante of Toronto Maple Leafs, the season of 1970-71, 1,224 saves & 1,297 shots against.
- Highest save percentage in playoff (over minimum 15 games) – 0.934. Mike Smith of TBL, PHX, CGY, EDM, over 4 seasons, 820 saves & 878 shots against.
- Highest save percentage in playoff (over minimum 5 games) – 0.963. Bernie Parent of Philadelphia Flyers, the season of 1967-68, 207 saves & 215 shots against.
The 3rd Period
I highly suggest that you have a look at other NHL stats, they’re pretty interesting.
Anyway, looking through all these historical records has been pretty exciting to me. I can’t wait to see what future years of hockey bring to NHL fans! Although these records are pretty old, I hope that we will see someone break them soon.