The incredible 59-save game

I hope the defensemen bought Scrivens a beer after the game or something. - Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

A 59-save shutout is remarkable, more because of what it says about the performance of the defense than the goalie.

Ben Scrivens stopped all 59 shots he faced on Wednesday, and that's amazing. But the fact that he faced 59 shots at all is significantly more shocking than the fact that he stopped them all.

Hockey-reference.com has shot counts for individual games dating back to 1987-88, a total of 27,474 games. Just 12 of those saw one team get at least 59 shots. That's one every 2289 games. And it's even less common to face that many shots in regulation.

Over this period, 74 players had back-to-back shutouts that totaled at least 59 shots. It's a list that includes elites like Fredrik Norrena and Michael Garnett.

And even that dramatically undersells how common this is.

Brian Boucher once had five consecutive shutouts, but he faced just 21-35-26-27-21 shots in those games. He stopped 130 straight shots in those games, plus the last 12 of the game before that streak and the first three of the game after it, but he appears on this list only once, because only the second and third game in the streak combined for more than 59 shots.

The league average save percentage is about 0.910 these days. A .910 goalie will stop 59 straight shots about once out of every 261 tries. Obviously it's more common for better goalies -- if we think that Scrivens' .921 career save percentage represents his true talent, the frequency rises to once every 128 tries.

And that's assuming that saves come perfectly at random. If injuries or quality of competition or psychology or whatever lead to streakiness, then a 59-save string would be even more common than this. It might be something we'd expect a high-end goalie to do once or twice a year.

It's rare that all 59 of those saves occur within a single game. But that's just because the NHL only sees a game with that many shots about once every two years.

So while Scrivens had an incredible game and should be celebrated, the extent to which the Oilers' defense got annihilated should also be a big part of the story.

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