In team sports, a shutout (US) or clean sheet (UK) is a game in which one team prevents the other from scoring any points. While possible in most major sports, they are highly improbable in some sports, such as basketball.
Shutouts are usually seen as a result of effective defensive play even though a weak opposing offense may be as much to blame. Some sports credit individual players, particularly goalkeepers and starting pitchers, with shutouts and keep track of them as statistics; others do not.
A shutout in American football is uncommon but not exceptionally rare. Keeping an opponent scoreless in American football requires a team's defense to be able to consistently shut down both pass and run offenses over the course of a game. The difficulty of completing a shutout is compounded by the many ways a team can score in the game. For example, teams can attempt field goals, which have a high rate of success. The range of NFL caliber kickers makes it possible for a team with a weak offense to get close enough (within 50 yards) to the goalposts and kick a field goal. In the decade of the 2000s there were 89 shutouts in 2,544 NFL regular-season games, for an average of slightly more than one shutout every two weeks in an NFL season.
There are at least five instances in American football in which a team had been shut out throughout an entire season, and four in which a team has shut out all of their opponents in the season (the longest of these being the ten-game perfect season in which the 1933 Providence Huskies did not concede a single point).
The achievement of a shutout is much more difficult in Canadian football, where scoring and offensive movement is generally more frequent and a single point can be scored simply by punting the ball from any point on the field into the end zone.
In football and other sports with a goalkeeper, the goalie may be said to "keep a clean sheet" if they prevent their opponents from scoring during an entire match. Because football is a relatively low-scoring game, it is common for one team, or even both teams, to score no goals. A theory as to the term's origin is that sports reporters used separate pieces of paper to record the different statistical details of a game. If one team did not allow a goal, then that team's "details of goals conceded" page would appear blank, leaving a clean sheet.
In Major League Baseball, a shutout (denoted statistically as ShO or SHO) refers to the act by which a single pitcher pitches a complete game and does not allow the opposing team to score a run. If two or more pitchers combine to complete this act, no pitcher will be awarded a shutout, although the team itself can be said to have "shut out" the opposing team. The only exception to this is when a pitcher enters a game before the opposing team scores a run or makes an out and then completes the game without allowing a run to score. That pitcher is then awarded a shutout, although not a complete game.
The all-time career leader in shutouts is Walter Johnson, who pitched for the Washington Senators from 1907 to 1927. He accumulated 110 shutouts, which is 20 more than second placed Grover Cleveland Alexander. The most shutouts recorded in one season was 16, which was a feat accomplished by both Grover Alexander (1916) and George Bradley (1876). These records are considered among the most secure records in baseball, as pitchers today rarely earn more than one or two shutouts per season with a heavy emphasis on pitch count and relief pitching. Complete games themselves have also become rare among starting pitchers. The current active leader in shutouts is Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Entering his ninth season, he has recorded 13 shutouts, which ties him for 463rd all time. Only four pitchers whose entire careers were in the post-1920 live-ball era threw as many as 60 career shutouts, with Warren Spahn leading those pitchers with 63.
In the event a shutout happens while using several goaltenders, the shutout will be credited to the team who shut out the opponent. However, no single goaltender will be awarded the shutout. This has happened several times in NHL history, including:
February 2, 2011: The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the New York Islanders 3–0. With 16 seconds remaining in the game, Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro interfered with Penguins forward Matt Cooke. Penguins starter Brent Johnson, who at that point had stopped all twenty Islander shots, would leave his crease to engage DiPietro, sending him to the ice with one punch. Both Johnson and DiPietro were ejected from the game, receiving penalties for fighting and leaving their creases. Marc-André Fleury would finish the remainder of the game, for Pittsburgh, facing no shots.
February 28, 2013: The Chicago Blackhawks won 3–0 over the St. Louis Blues. Corey Crawford left the game after the first period for unspecified reasons, and was replaced by Ray Emery, who completed the second and third periods. This win also extended the Blackhawks' streak of games without a regulation loss to start a season to 20.
March 26, 2013: The Pittsburgh Penguins won 1–0 over the Montreal Canadiens. At the start of the third period, Marc-André Fleury was replaced by Tomáš Vokoun after sustaining an unspecified injury late in the second period. Fleury stopped all of 25 shots, while Vokoun stopped all of 12.
February 3, 2014: The Detroit Red Wings won 2–0 over the Vancouver Canucks. Jonas Gustavsson stopped all eight shots faced in the first period, but did not return for the second period due to dizziness. Jimmy Howard stopped all 16 shots in the remainder of the game.
April 8, 2014: The Tampa Bay Lightning won 3–0 over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ben Bishop stopped all three shots faced in the first period, but fell awkwardly making a glove save and left the game. Anders Lindbäck stopped all 25 shots in the remainder of the game.
February 22, 2015: The Vancouver Canucks won 4–0 over the New York Islanders. Ryan Miller stopped all ten shots faced in the first period. However, early in the second period, he was run into by teammate Jannik Hansen, who crashed into the net and made contact with Miller's right leg. Eddie Läck then stopped all 27 shots in the remainder of the game. Neither goaltender was given a shutout, but Miller was awarded the win because the Canucks led 1–0 at the time of Miller's injury.
December 5, 2015: The Minnesota Wild won 3–0 over the Colorado Avalanche. Devan Dubnyk stopped all six shots faced in the first period and the first five shots faced in the second period, but he suffered a mild groin strain just after making a save on Avalanche forward Jarome Iginla and eventually left the game midway through the second period. Darcy Kuemper then stopped all nine shots in the remainder of the game to conserve the shutout. Neither goaltender was credited with the shutout, but Kuemper was awarded the win because Dubnyk suffered the injury before the first goal of the game was scored.
December 15, 2016: The New York Rangers defeated the Dallas Stars 2–0. Henrik Lundqvist stopped every shot he faced in the first period until Cody Eakin ran into Lundqvist behind the net. Lundqvist sat out for 5:31 in the first period while being checked for injury. In those five-and-a-half minutes, backup goaltender Antti Raanta faced zero shots on goal. Lundqvist returned roughly five minutes before the end of the first period and finished the game, stopping a total of 27 shots. Neither goaltender was credited with a shutout, but Lundqvist was awarded the win due to being on the ice when the game-winning goal was scored shorthanded by Rick Nash at 7:08 of the third period.
April 1, 2017: The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the New Jersey Devils 3–0. Michal Neuvirth stopped the first four shots faced in the game, but collapsed on the ice during a stoppage in play at 7:37 of the first period and had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher. Anthony Stolarz then stopped all 23 shots in the remainder of the game. Neither goaltender was credited with the shutout, but Neuvirth was awarded the win since the Flyers led 1–0 at the time of his collapse.
October 22, 2019: The Minnesota Wild defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3–0. Alex Stalock made 16 saves in relief of the injured Devan Dubnyk who made nine saves before leaving the game at 1:59 of the second period after he went down during a collision in the goal crease. Neither goaltender was credited with the shutout, but Dubnyk was awarded the win since the Wild led 3–0 when he left the game.
Clean sheets are not common in either rugby union or league, since it is relatively simple to score a penalty kick. The 2005 Gillette Rugby League Tri-Nations final was the first time that Australia had been "nilled" since 1981. There is no alternative term for the occurrence of a team failing to score, except to say that the team scored "nil" (or "zero" or "nothing" in North America). For example, the December 2006 Celtic League match between Munster and Connacht ended 13–0 to Munster; it was, therefore, said that Munster won "thirteen–nil."
Recent examples of clean sheets in international rugby union include England vs Scotland in 2014, France vs Italy in 2015, France vs Argentina in 2016, Scotland vs Italy in 2017, New Zealand vs South Africa in 2017, New Zealand vs Australia in 2019, and Wales vs Italy in 2020.
Generally, a team that is well-disciplined defensively, as well as behaviorally (not giving away penalty kicks), is most likely to not concede scores. This may also occur if there is a significant difference in class between the two teams, for example, when Scotland beat Spain (who were playing in their only Rugby World Cup) 48–0 in the 1999 Rugby World Cup, or when Australia beat Namibia 142–0 in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.