The ’12 Days of Christmas’ is a classic holiday song first published in its current form in 1908. In a nod to the classic carol, join The Hockey Writers as we count down the 12 Days of Hockeymas. Each day, we will provide you with a piece of hockey history as we eagerly await the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have proven to have a storied history when it comes to scoring, but what about the other end of the ice? The Penguins’ history with goaltending has been an interesting one, to say the least, with having periods of quick turnover but also long stretches of consistent starters. In the 52-year history of the franchise, however, there have been four goalies to pick up 100 wins.
Coming down the stretch on the Penguins’ 12 Days of Hockeymas, we will take a look back at the four goalies in team history to reach the 100-win mark, and set themselves apart as the winningest goalies in team history.
Ken Wregget: 104 Wins
Staring off right away with an interesting case for a 100-win goalie with the Penguins, Ken Wregget spent most of his time in Pittsburgh as a backup goalie. Wregget, however, was a good goalie in his own right, picking up 104 wins in his seven years with the Penguins. Usually sitting behind Tom Barrasso, Wregget played in 212 games with the Penguins and held a .898 save percentage (SV%).
Barrasso was no stranger to being injured, giving Wregget multiple opportunities to prove his worth as a starter, most notably during the shortened 1994-95 season when Wregget led the league in wins with 25. Of the 48 games played that season, Wregget started in 38 posting a .903 SV%.
Pens fans might remember Wregget as the deciding goalie in the four-overtime playoff victory over the Washington Capitals in 1996, as he stopped 53 of 54 shots after replacing Barrasso before the second period. The overtime lasted 79:15 and resulted in the longest game in the modern history of the NHL at the time.
Wregget spent parts of seven seasons with the Penguins and collected a record of 104-67-21. Three times he finished a year with 20 or more wins, and won a Stanley Cup with the team in 1992.
Matt Murray: 117 Wins
Fans can say whatever they want to about Matt Murray’s play during his time with Pittsburgh, but there is no denying that he was able to win games. In five years with the Penguins, Murray picked up a record of 117-53-19. From the second he arrived in Pittsburgh, it was clear that Murray was going to be the future of Penguins’ goaltending.
Murray was looking to be a goaltending phenom when he was playing with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL, breaking records and making a name for himself. His success continued into the NHL when he won back-to-back Stanley Cups while still considered a rookie in the NHL.
Despite bouts of inconsistency and struggles to keep the puck out of the net at times, Murray, in five seasons, became one of the most successful goaltenders in Penguins’ franchise history. Two Stanley Cups and 117 wins speak for themselves, no matter what fans or critics may say. It’s hard to win games in the NHL and Murray has proven he can make it look easy.
In October of 2020, Murray’s tenure in Pittsburgh came to an end when he was traded to the Ottawa Senators. As rocky or smooth as his time with the Penguins was, there is no denying that he became a top goalie in team history.
Tom Barrasso: 226 Wins
One of the best starts to a goaltending career in the history of the NHL, Barrasso made his name known with the Buffalo Sabres, but cemented his legacy with the Penguins. During his 12 years in Pittsburgh, Barrasso picked up a 226-153-53 record.
It didn’t take Barrasso long to become the winningest goalie in Penguins history. The previous record-holder was Denis Herron who picked up 88 wins in his three stints with the team. Barrasso surpassed 88 wins with the Penguins during the 1992-93 season, and would continue to add to his total over the next seven seasons.
What Barrasso did in Pittsburgh was something special for the team. He became the first Penguins’ goalie to reach 40 wins in a single season, and still holds the single-season record for wins with 43. He was instrumental in backstopping the Pens to their first two Stanley Cups and only Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history.
While he may have been named to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, a lot of arguments could be made that Barrasso should be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. His 369 wins rank 19th all-time and is more than other Hall of Famers like Rogie Vachon (353), Billy Smith (305) or Turk Broda (304). Over his career, Barrasso has accumulated 48 assists, making him the highest-scoring goalie in NHL history.
As it stands, the Penguins have never produced a Hockey Hall of Fame goalie, nor have they briefly had one. The closest the Penguins are to one currently sits in their all-time leader in wins.
Marc-Andre Fleury: 375 Wins
The longest-tenured Penguins goalie ever, Fleury holds almost every goaltending record in the team’s 52-year history. 357 wins, 2.58 GAA, 44 shutouts, all in 691 games played. Beyond that, he is a three-time Stanley Cup Champion, Olympic gold medalist, and was the Penguins representative at an All-Star Game twice.
Fleury saw the records set by Barrasso and crushed them with a fair amount of ease. At the age of 28, Fleury passed Barrasso for the most wins in franchise history with his 227th after the first game of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
In 13 seasons with the Penguins, Fleury reached the 40-win mark twice and surpassed 30 wins eight times. His personal best of 10 shutouts in the 2014-15 season stands as the franchise record for a single season. One thing that has been out of Fleury’s reach his whole career, however, has been a Vezina Trophy nomination as the league’s best goalie.
Like mentioned before, out of all the goalies to play with the Penguins, none have ever made it to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player. Current General Manager Jim Rutherford played goal for the Penguins from 1971 to 1974, but was inducted into the Hall as a builder. Fleury, currently fifth all-time in wins, is the closest the Penguins have to a goalie reaching the Hall.
While other teams have more than four goalies with over 100 wins, the Penguins have been able to boast great success with a small repertoire: five championships, and two goalies in the top-20 of all-time wins. While none have reached enshrinement at the Hall of Fame, all will be remembered in Pittsburgh for a long time coming.
Nick Horwat is a graduate of Point Park University and was born and raised in Pittsburgh. A lifelong Penguins fan that has been watching and going to games for as long as he can remember.