Ahh, the shutout. Very few things give the hockey fan – not to mention the winning coach – so much pleasure as holding one’s opponent to exactly zero goals. Central to this feat of hockey excellence is the goaltender. Everyone knows that Martin Brodeur holds the National Hockey League record for shutouts, with 125. He also is tops in games played at 1,266, meaning that Brodeur put up a goose egg 9.9 percent of the time.
The tables below list the top 15 active and all-time goaltenders, separated into regular season and playoff statistics, with regards to the percentage of games started in which a given goalie pitched a shutout. And it is this stat which ranks Brodeur in unfamiliar territory in NHL history, way down (“way down”) in 22nd place.
To qualify for this analysis, goalies had to have started at least 100 regular season games and, for the playoffs category, at least 10 postseason games. That said, the NHL did not start tracking goaltender starts until 1997-98, so raw games played was used in lieu of confirmed starts for the all-time comparisons.
In addition, due to the limitations of how NHL.com’s statistical database may be queried, this analysis cannot control for netminders summoned to play in a relief role. Therefore, goaltenders from 1997-98 onwards likely have better-quality data than those for whom I relied upon games played alone. That said, these disadvantaged goaltenders might, likewise, have accumulated a shutout or two in relief of an injured, ejected or otherwise-yanked batterymate.
Some names are expected – Holtby, Rask and Lundqvist come to mind. That said, some noteworthy netminders are missing from the top 15. For example, Carey Price (7.9%) and Roberto Luongo (7.8%), who rank 16th and 17th, respectively. So just who is keeping these perennial stalwarts at bay?
Craig Anderson is the type of goalie that can go into the worst situation imaginable and stop 51 shots for a shutout, so his name is not an enormous surprise. Neither is that of Jonathan Quick who, though erratic at times, has frequently shown world-devouring form, particularly in backstopping the Los Angeles Kings to two Stanley Cups.
But Anttii Niemi? Seriously?! Well, yeah. He spent one year behind a dominant Chicago Blackhawks team and several more behind some pretty good San Jose Sharks entries. Credit where credit’s due, up until 2015-16, the man’s had a very respectable NHL career, highlighted by a Cup win with the Blackhawks in 2010. And also, of course, inclusion in this article.
Coming in at number two in the rankings for active goalies is a guy who doesn’t even have an NHL job at the moment. After a spectacular showing for Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, Halak was sent down to the American Hockey League, following a sub-par start to the NHL season. Nevertheless, Halak has been a very good goalie for a very long time; it just so happens that he’ll also get you a shutout nearly 11 percent of the games you start him.
|12||John Ross Roach||492||58||11.8%|
George Hainsworth got a shutout once every five games. This is absolutely unfathomable. If a starting goaltender today started 60 games, this rate of shutout production would see him finish the year with 12. This shutout pace is mind-blowingly incredible for a single season, let alone extended over an entire career.
Side note: most of the top 15 of all-time are real old-school; we’re talking 1920s and 1930s old-school. Look at all those shutouts… What must fans have thought? I’m guessing they were utterly outraged and so the NHL began testing goofy solutions that would utterly invalidate the history of the game, right?
Side side note: remember Roman Cechmanek? Turns out he played hundreds of NHL games other than the one he is perhaps best remembered for.
He turned in some pretty impressive numbers, too. Unfortunately, he could not find a level of consistency to secure a permanent spot in the NHL, leaving for Europe during the 2004-05 lockout.
This time, it is Lundqvist (7.8%) joining Luongo (7.4%) just outside of the top 15. Though playoff numbers have a much smaller sample size than regular season analysis, most of the usual suspects still shine through.
That said, look at the top three. Yes, Michael Leighton and Mike Smith draw largely upon magical runs in 2010 and 2012, respectively. However, it’s not exactly Mike Smith’s fault that the Arizona Coyotes have been brutal all these years. And Leighton’s is certainly no slouch when it comes to blanking the opposition, so much so that he holds the AHL record for career shutouts, with 48.
Petr Mrazek, for his part, earned his three playoff goose eggs the past two seasons in losing causes against the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning, all while putting up with the never-ending controversy over whether his Detroit Red Wings should play him or batterymate Jimmy Howard.
|7||John Ross Roach||29||7||24.1%|
Surprise of the day: Brent Johnson makes a list that does not involve goalie fights. Despite a solid 12-year career in the NHL, Johnson is often best remembered for KO-ing Rick DiPietro.
Typecast no more, my friend! Johnson’s three playoff shutouts came in 2001-02, during his stellar playoff run behind the St. Louis Blues.
The only goalies to play 100 or more NHL games without a shutout are Jacob Markstrom, currently of the Vancouver Canucks, and Eldon Reddick, who tended goal in the NHL during the late 1980s and early 1990s, primarily with the first edition of the Winnipeg Jets. Don’t feel too badly, though. Markstrom is 27 years of age and should get at least one at some point. For his part, Reddick won a Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers in 1990. And hey, they both played in the NHL; that’s pretty cool!
Oh, and Jaroslav Halak is second among active goaltenders for regular season shutout percentage, but has never recorded a playoff doughnut in 30 games, including during his single-handed defeat of the Washington Capitals in 2010. That said, he had one in the World Cup this past fall, and was genuinely astonishing in dragging Team Europe to the finals against Canada.
So what does all this mean? Well, to be honest, nothing. I mean, if you are into fantasy hockey, maybe pick up Jaroslav Halak when he returns to the NHL? Otherwise, just enjoy looking at shutouts in a way you perhaps hadn’t thought of before.
Happy trade deadline, everyone.
Peter Ferrell covers the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs, with a side of jersey and logo (over)analysis, for The Hockey Writers.