Nobody paid much attention to Dominik Hasek when the netminder entered the NHL in 1990. He was drafted in the 11th round in 1983, a longshot prospect from a modest town named Pardubice. He starred in Czechoslovakia before landing unceremoniously in the United States. The Chicago Blackhawks had no idea that one of the best goaltenders in NHL history was on their roster.
After a couple of years as a backup with the Blackhawks, Chicago traded Hasek to the Buffalo Sabres for Stephane Beauregard and future considerations. Dominik won a starting role over hall-of-fame goalie Grant Fuhr in 1993 and quickly transformed into an all-star. Hasek finished the 1993-94 season with a 1.95 GAA, 0.930 SV percent and seven shutouts, earning the Vezina Trophy and the Jennings Award. Dominik also finished runner-up to Sergei Fedorov for the Hart Trophy.
There was no stopping the Dominator after he established himself as the elite goalie of the 1990s. He earned six Vezina Trophies in eight seasons, finishing one below Jacques Plante for most in NHL history. Between 1993 and 1999, Dominik’s save percentage fell below 0.930 only once.
The peak of his career took place in the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. He became the only goalie to win back-to-back Hart and Pearson Trophies, while sweeping the Vezina Trophy. The Dominator never won the Stanley Cup with Buffalo. Instead, he joined the Detroit Red Wings to earn a pair of rings in 2002 and 2008, retiring from the NHL as a champ.
Goaltenders used to play a stand-up style of play, dropping to the ice only when necessary. Dominik Hasek flipped this tendency on its head, frequently dropping to the ice to make saves. His idea was to completely block the lower part of the net, forcing the other team to beat him by lifting the puck. Dominik was also extremely flexible, allowing him to make acrobatic saves.
One of the Dominator’s trademark moves was the cartwheel save. As he slides his blocker along the ice to meet Ryan Getzlaf’s deke, Hasek kicks his pads and glove above his head, stoning Getzlaf on the breakaway. While unorthodox, this move covers the bottom of the net while making it tough to lift the puck over Hasek.
Before Dominik changed goaltending, no one would dream of pulling off this type of save. Whenever you see a goalie make an incredible sprawling save, you can thank Dominik Hasek for introducing acrobatic goaltending into the NHL.
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