Well, today's top 10 is a little more straightforward than most of them I write. No subjective opinion here, merely straight up facts. That's the beauty of statistics - they don't lie, and there is no arguing them.
So which goalies rank at the top of the list of all time NHL shutout leaders? There are a few surprise omissions and maybe a name or two that will surprise you. Read on for the list:
10 - Ed Belfour - 76 Shutouts
Well, technically he is tied for 9th, but since he played more NHL games (albeit in a different era) he gets bumped down to the number 10 slot.
Belfour started his NHL career as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks and wasted no time establishing himself as an NHL backstop. In his first full NHL season he won 43 games, posted 4 shutouts and earned the Calder, the Vezina and the Jennings Trophies.
After a brief stint in San Jose he moved on to Dallas and took the team to the Stanley Cup Finals twice, earning himself a championship ring in 1999.
In the twilight of his career he found himself donning a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater and in 2003-04 he enjoyed a career high, posting an impressive 10 of his 76 donuts that year.
Belfour finished his career in Florida and in 2011 was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, thanks in no small part to his top 10 ranking in all time career shutouts.
9 - Tony Esposito - 76 Shutouts
Speaking of Hall of Famers, this former Chicago Blackhawks superstar is another member of that exclusive club. Like Eddie Belfour he posted 76 career shutouts, but as I said above gets the tiebreaker due to fewer games played (886 vs Befour's 963).
Though known as a Chicago Blackhawk, Esposito actually started his career as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. He appeared in 13 games in 1968-69 for the club and even posted his first two shutouts there.
Despite his impressive start he was left unprotected by the Canadiens in the 1969 intra-league draft and the Chicago Blackhawks were the beneficiaries. Esposito would swiftly establish himself as one of the game's best goalies, and in 1969-70 he had a rookie season for the ages. That year he posted a modern day NHL record of 15 shutouts (not only a record for rookies, but for all goaltenders). The Calder and the Vezina Trophies were a foregone conclusion.
Esposito would continue to pile up the shutouts over the next several years, earning two more Vezina Trophies along the way, including the 1971-72 season when he posted 9 donuts and had a jaw-droppingly stingy 1.77 season GAA.
He didn't add many zeroes to his career total in the 1980s, but few goalies did in that high scoring era. At the time of his retirement he was ranked 7th all time in career shutouts.
8 - Dominik Hasek - 81 Shutouts
If you've read my list of the Best Goalies of All Time then you know just how high the regard is that I have for the man known as The Dominator.
Hasek was an athletic freak of nature. He could bend and twist his body in positions that would cause a 13 year old female gymnast to wince. As unorthodox as his style was it was indisputably successful and he absolutely confounded shooters throughout his career - particular during his prime with the Buffalo Sabres.
Hasek's world class puck-stopping ability, combined with Buffalo's stingy defensive system helped him rack up plenty of shutouts in short order. He enjoyed a career high of 13 in 1997-98 and hit double digits again with 11 in 2000-01. Even at the end of his career, at the age of 43, he posted 5 shutouts while plying his trade for the Detroit Red Wings.
In all Hasek actually tied for 6th in career shutouts, and that stinginess helped him earn 6 Vezina Trophies as well as a pair of Hart Trophies.
7 - Tiny Thompson - 81 Shutouts
At number 7 we move from the modern era back to the olden days of NHL lore. Cecil "Tiny" Thompson tended the nets for the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings going back as far as 1928-29. His first year in the league he posted a career high 12 shutouts, a miniscule 1.15 GAA and helped the Bruins win the 1929 Stanley Cup.
That first season was no fluke. Thompson continued to pile up the wins, shutouts and Vezina Trophies. In the end he finished with 4 Vezinas and when he retired he was tied for second in career shutouts.
6 - Alec Connell
The Hall of Famers just keep coming. This gentleman's beginnings in the NHL precede even Tiny Thompson's, with his first NHL appearance coming in the 1924-25 season as a member of the original incarnation of the Ottawa Senators.
In his first 4 seasons with the team Connell racked up a mind-numbing 50 shutouts. His pace would drop off precipitously after that, but when the dust settled on his career he had blanked the opposition 81 times in just 417 games, a shutout-per-game percentage just below 20%!
5 - Jacques Plante - 82 Shutouts
Many oldtimers who've been following hockey for decades swear this Montreal Canadiens legend is the greatest goalie they ever saw, and they have plenty of ammo for that argument.
Plante backstopped the Canadiens during the absolute pinnacle of their power, including a stretch in the late 1950s when they won an NHL record 5 straight Stanley Cups. He won the Vezina an NHL record 7 times and is one of only a handful of tenders to win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP.
He wasn't the first man to wear a mask, but he was the goalie who popularized it (in defiance of his coach), and he revolutionized the game when he became the first goalie to routinely stop the puck behind the net for his defensemen.
Between the 1955-56 and 1958-59 seasons Plante posted 34 shutouts, a stretch that ranks as one of the most dominant by a goalie in NHL history.
4 - Glenn Hall - 84 Shutouts
As surprising as it is to see names like Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden and Bernie Parent missing from this list, this is one name who's omission would have shocked me most had he not been in the top 10 in this category. Really, when a player has a nickname like "Mr. Goalie" you expect to see him high up in all statistical categories.
Though Hall's claim to fame was the NHL record 502 consecutive games he played, that certainly isn't the only reason he became a household name among hockey fans throughout North America.
Hall set a career best in his first full season with the Detroit Red Wings, earning 12 in his 70 games that year. Over the seasons to follow he would continue to post the donuts in large numbers, even after moving on from the Wings to join the Blackhawks and later the St. Louis Blues.
3 - George Hainsworth - 94
While Tony Esposito holds the modern day NHL record for most shutouts in a single season with 15, the all time NHL record is 22, held by none other than George Hainsworth. Granted, it was a different era then, with different rules, but regardless it is a pretty impressive stat, especially considering a season only consisted of 44 games back then!
In his first 3 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens Hainsworth racked up 49 shutouts, averaging better than 1 in every 3 games. In his third NHL season (the one where he earned 22 shutouts) he had a microscopic .92 GAA - also an NHL record.
In all Hainsworth posted 94 shutouts and a career GAA of just 1.93 in 465 career games. Little wonder he's enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
2 - Terry Sawchuk - 103
One of the most enigmatic figures the game has ever seen, Terry Sawchuk may have been a little strange even by a goalie's standards, but boy could he stop the puck.
Like Dominik Hasek, Terry Sawchuk eschewed the goaltending style of his era, relying on his lightning quick hands and feet to bat away pucks.
Sawchuk spent the bulk of his prime with the Detroit Red Wings where he won three Stanley Cups, but he also spent time with the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as brief stints with the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers. He won his 4th and final Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, coincidentally the last time that Original Six franchise won a championship.
In his career he won the Vezina 4 times, won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, had 11 or more shutouts in a single season on 4 separate occasions and finished his career with 447 wins, the highest career total by a goaltender up to that point (since surpassed by Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour and Curtis Joseph).
Martin Brodeur - 116
There was a time not so long ago that Terry Sawchuk's record of 103 shutouts seemed like it would stand for all time. As the game became higher and higher scoring throughout the 1970s and 1980s and goalies struggled to keep the goal total below four, let alone at zero it seemed unlikely that any of today's modern puckstoppers would have a shot at Sawchuk's record.
But, in sports, records are set to be broken, and as a French Canadian goalie by the name of Martin Brodeur consistently continued to blank his opposition through the latter half of the 1990s and into the 2000s Sawchuk's record suddenly looked not only touchable, but in serious jeopardy.
After Brodeur eclipsed Patrick Roy's record for career regular season wins the next mark in his sights was Sawchuk's shutout record and in December of 2009 in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins Brodeur finally eclipsed the mark.
To date Brodeur has won three Stanley Cups and has a Calder Trophy and 4 Vezina Trophies on his resume. At 39 years of age he is in the twilight of his career, but with his skill, his competitiveness and his durability he may yet add another 20+ shutouts to his already staggering total. However many shutouts he finishes with his ultimate total will likely look even more untouchable than Sawchuk's once did, and it is hard to imagine anyone supplanting him at the number one spot of NHL career shutout leaders.