Many people will tell you the 1980s may have been the weakest era for goaltending in the modern history of the sport, and there certainly is considerable evidence to back that up. Alexander Ovechkin even recently claimed watching techniques of goaltending in the 1980s is down right funny.
The incredible evolution of the position over the past 20 years has been fascinating to watch. Compared to the last 10-15 years, there have been very few great goalies in the 1980s. Billy Smith and Grant Fuhr immediately come to mind, as do Ron Hextall, Mike Vernon and of course Patrick Roy, although the latter three achieved a lot of their success well beyond the 80s. Tom Barrasso, Andy Moog and John Vanbiesbrouck could be grouped with them as well.
The 1980s featured a lot of good goalies but very few who were able to achieve defining success that launched them to at least memorable status if not legendary status. Lemelin, Malarchuk, Pete Peeters, Richard Brodeur, Mike Liut, Steve Penney, all had moments of brilliance but could never enjoy lengthier status as top goalie. Pelle Lindbergh could also be mentioned here, but his career and life ended tragically and needlessly in a car accident.
Other goalies were really solid, but rarely great. Goalies like Rick Wamsley, Greg Millen, Kelly Hrudey, Bob Froese, Brian Hayward, Ken Wregget, Richard Sevigny, Al Jensen, Pat Riggin, Denis Herron, Don Beaupre, Glen Hanlon, Greg Stefan, and Bob Sauve.
And just to name drop I remember some other guys from the 80s that were often adventures to watch. Guys like Kari Takko, Alain Chevrier, Mario Gosselin, Allan Bester, Steve Weeks, Corrado Micalef, Murray Bannerman, Warren Skorodenski, Doug Keans, Roberto Romano, and, for Winnipeg fans, Pokey and the Bandit (Pokey Reddick and Daniel Berthiaume).
Perhaps it is just nostalgia, but I really liked a lot of those guys. Sure, only a few had Hall of Fame careers and sure historical data suggests this was the weakest group of goalies ever, but I enjoyed a lot of them.
My personal favorites? - Hextall, Peeters, Roy, and for some unknown reason Bob Froese.