5 Backup Goalies Who Shined in the 1980s

The NHL has had quite a few backup goalies go on to great careers. Many of them backed up legends or future Hall of Famers and eventually had great careers themselves. Here, we’re going to look at goalies in the 1980s who were backups during a Stanley Cup Final run or championship, and then were moved elsewhere only to reach the Cup Final as a starter.

Moog, Fuhr and a Little Rollie

The 1980s saw two dynasties – the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers dominated the decade. The Islanders were loaded with Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin, Bobby Nystrom, Butch Goring, and Brent and Duane Sutter among others. They were backed up in net by Hall of Famer Billy Smith. His backup was Roland Melanson, or Rollie the Goalie.

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Although Melanson didn’t go on to do much after the Islanders, he was a solid backup and relieved Billy Smith competently whenever needed. Rollie was awarded the Jennings Trophy for the 1982-83 season. After his four years in Long Island, he went on to play two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings who weren’t very good.

Andy Moog, Boston Bruins
BOSTON, MA – 1990’s: Andy Moog #35 of the Boston Bruins plays puck with stick in game at the Boston Garden. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Andy Moog was a stellar backup for the Oilers when they dethroned the Isles in the 1984 Stanley Cup Final. Grant Fuhr was the starter during the 1981-82 playoffs and was backed up by Moog. Fuhr was one of many future Hall of Famers on that team such as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, and Glen Anderson. However, during their 1982-83 Stanley Cup Final run, Oilers coach Glen Sather opted to go with Moog who got hot near the end of the season, and Fuhr backed up Moog the entire playoffs only seeing some relief duty.

The next season the powerful Oilers finally broke through and beat the Islanders in five games to win the Cup. Moog played in seven playoff games with a 2.76 goals-against average and was the goalie of record for four of them. He won four and lost none, including Games 4 and 5 in the Final. Fuhr went down in Game 3 with an injury and Moog, perhaps one of the best backup goaltenders of all-time, stood up to the Islanders’ final push to try and turn the series around and he helped the Oilers win their first-ever Stanley Cup.

Ranford and Lemelin

During the 1984-85 championship run, Moog relieved Fuhr from two games and allowed three goals in total. The following two playoffs seasons, Moog played a total of three games. Then, he was dealt to the Boston Bruins near the trade deadline for Bill Ranford. Ranford never saw any action in the 1987-88 playoffs as Fuhr led the Oilers to their fourth Cup in five years. Moog’s Bruins played the Oilers in the Cup Final. Moog shared duties with Rejean “Reggie” Lemelin during the season and Lemelin played most of the playoffs. However, Moog played the final game against his old team and was unable to come up with a victory.

Reggie Lemelin Paul Reinhart Kent Nilsson Calgary Flames
Goalie Reggie Lemelin #31, Paul Reinhart #23 and Kent Nilsson #14 of the Calgary Flames. (Photo by Graig Abel Collection/Getty Images)

Reggie Lemelin was the No. 1 goalie for the Calgary Flames during the 1985-86 season, playing 60 games. However, Mike Vernon took over and was the main man throughout the playoffs. He backstopped the Flames to the Cup Final where they lost to the Montreal Canadians.

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A couple of years later the Bruins would meet the Oilers in the 1989-90 Stanley Cup Final again. Only this time Bill Ranford was the starting goalie for the Oilers and Moog was at the helm for the Bruins. Lemelin started the playoffs as the No. 1 but Moog took over during the first round and never looked back. The Gtrezky-less Oilers were still too powerful for the Bruins who were Presidents’ Trophy winners as the team with the most regular-season points.

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Back in the 1980s teams were more inclined to use their backups during the playoffs compared to today’s NHL. Andy Moog proved to be one of the best to ever do it. While Ranford learned all he could from Grant Fuhr and helped bring the Oilers their fifth Cup in six years.

Tune in next week for the 90s and beyond.