Last week, Andrei Vasilevskiy posted a super shutout against the New York Islanders. You’re probably thinking, “that’s great!” Or maybe, “heck yeah, go Vasy!” Or even more likely, “uh, what’s a super shutout?” Well, a super shutout is a real and important thing that has existed ever since I made it up after the game against the Islanders.
The field of hockey statistics is expanding rapidly. Seemingly every month, someone is releasing a new way to measure performance that introduces meaningful insight and better ways to evaluate hockey players and teams. Keeping up with the latest innovations is a challenge and what we think we know today will probably change fundamentally in the next twelve months.
The people doing that work are amazing and deserve tons of credit. And in fully the opposite spirit of that important work, I propose the introduction of super shutouts. Super shutout is a dumb name for a dumb idea about something that happens maybe once a season and is meaningless in any sort of larger context.
Typically, when working in statistics, the goal is to identify something that helps give a better indicator of future outcomes. Instead of doing that, I’ve chosen to call attention to a silly bit of trivia so that we can all go, “wow, that’s interesting” for approximately 45 seconds and then move on with the rest of our lives.
But back to super shutouts, which, again, are a real thing that exists. A super shutout occurs when a goalie takes a shutout all the way through overtime and the shootout. That means no goals allowed in regulation, no goals allowed during the 3v3 Mountain Dew Extreme Overtime, and no goals allowed in the aggressively unsatisfying shootout.
The importance of these events should be obvious. In one way, as discussed above, they aren’t important all. But in a different way, they’re fun and cool and get us excited and yelling the goalie’s name and high-fiving our pets and whatnot. And really, in the grand scheme of life, what’s more important? Predicting what will happen in future hockey games or high-fiving your pets? I mean, I know which one is more important to me. Pet high-fives. No contest.
But just how many pet high fives have we seen as a result of super shutouts over the years? That’s impossible to know because everyone high fives their pets a different amount of times after a super shutout. After Vasy’s last week, I high fived the following animals:
Ripley (dog): 1
Dozer (dog): 0.5 (he can get mean if you mess with his hands so I didn’t push my luck)
Chewy (dog): 0 (he’s 16 years old and he doesn’t know what’s going on)
Fluff (cat): 5 (she won’t leave me alone)
Peanut Butter (cat): 1
Mia (cat): 0 (she’s only interested in my existence insofar as I provide her with food)
Cows, sheep, chickens: 0 (listen, I’m as excited as anyone about super shutouts but I’m not walking out to the pasture to high five the farm animals)
[Alan? Uh, that’s a lot of pets. Everything okay? — Acha]
So that’s 7.5 high fives from me. Who knows what’s going on in other people’s houses. Could be anything. So maybe instead of focusing on the pet high fives, we should focus on the actual super shutouts, which are much easier to count. And in fact, there have been thirty since the NHL instituted the shootout following the 2005 lockout. I know this because I pulled the data from Hockey Reference and NHL.com. Yes, seriously, NHL.com.
The following chart shows all of the super shutouts sorted by the number of saves including the shootout.
The player who appears most on this list is Ryan Miller. He’s had three super shutouts, which I’m sure will be at the forefront of his hall of fame candidacy. If we’re ranking the top three accomplishments of his hockey career, it probably goes super shutouts, 2010 Olympics MVP and silver medalist, and getting out of Buffalo.
Before Vasilevskiy’s showing against the Isles, the most recent super shutout occurred a little over a year prior in December of 2017. In that game, Ondrej Pavelec took out the New York Rangers proving that only the best goalies in the world could possibly ever accomplish this amazing feat and it isn’t just a random thing that happens sometimes.
In terms of quality, Vasilevskiy’s effort is pretty high on the list. His 39 total saves is the 9th most ever in a super shutout. Craig Anderson’s 50 saves against the Leafs is the best ever and Cory Schneider’s 20 against Columbus should barely even count.
From now on, whenever your team goes into the third period with game tied at zero, don’t think of the game as boring. Because being in the super shutout zone is never boring. Instead, know you might be about to witness history. Trivial history, yes. But still history. So when that time comes, be ready. Live in the moment. And if it happens, you know what do. High five the shit out of your pets.