PHILADELPHIA – If the Chicago Blackhawks stumble on their way to an NHL record for points in consecutive games, Bobby Clarke won’t be popping champagne.
And if they break the mark of Clarke’s 1979-80 Flyers, he won’t mope.
Unlike some former stars who hold their records more tightly than he ever gripped his two Stanley Cups, Clarke can appreciate the way Chicago has inched closer to Philadelphia’s record. The Blackhawks are up to 24 straight games this season—and 30 overall—as they chase Philadelphia’s NHL mark of 35 straight games with a point.
From Clarke’s perspective, the new era of great teams should rise to the level of the ones before them.
“All the records should be challenged and beaten by new generations,” Clarke said.
The great Flyers’ captain had one caveat.
“They can’t use last year’s games, that’s foolishness,” Clarke said Wednesday. “Can Sidney Crosby go back and take the points he got in the last 10 games and add them to this year and add them to the scoring race? Can the Flyers add their point total from the last 10 games and add them to this year so they can get a playoff spot? It’s legitimate if they do it in one season. It’s not legitimate if they use two season totals.”
The Blackhawks would love to do their part to rip off a 36-game mark in one season without a regulation loss. The Blackhawks are 21-0-3 for 45 points and have won a franchise-best 11 straight games after a 3-2 win over Colorado on Wednesday night. They would have to suffer an epic collapse to cough up the Presidents’ Trophy.
Winning it all, however, is the ultimate goal.
Winning the Cup with some panache would be even sweeter.
Only those ex-Flyers, who crafted a new era after the Bullies’ heyday faded, can appreciate Chicago’s streak.
Led by coach Pat Quinn, the Flyers opened the season with a win against the New York Islanders and a loss to the Atlanta Flames. On Oct. 14, 1979, the Flyers topped the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3. The World Series and NFL conference championship games would be decided before the Flyers lost again—7-1 to the Minnesota North Stars on Jan. 7, 1980. The record of 28 games set by the 1977-78 Montreal Canadians was passed with a 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Dec. 22, 1979.
“When we were at about 20 games, the media picked it up a lot more,” five-time NHL All-Star Brian Propp said. “It became a bigger and bigger deal. From that point on, we were very aware of where we were. Once we got past 29, we kept cruising to 35. It was pretty amazing.”
Chicago and Philadelphia’s achievement each come with an asterisk. Neither streak is an unbeaten one. Without the benefit of shootouts, the Flyers had 10 ties, including three straight, over that span. The Blackhawks lost three shootouts this season, even if a big 0 sits in the official loss column.
“It’s definitely a great time right now,” Blackhawks centre Marian Hossa said. “Everybody is enjoying coming to practice. We don’t practice as much, but it’s working so far. Everybody is hungry. We have a strong lineup and the guys are playing well.”
With 2010 Stanley Cup champion stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews leading the charge, the Blackhawks are the heavy favourites to win their second championship in four years.
“These guys are just hitting their prime,” Clarke said. “For the next five or six years, they’re going to be tough to beat.”
Forget five or six years from now. Ask any team this season.
Corey Crawford (three shutouts) and Ray Emery have emerged into the NHL’s best goalie tandem and Kane’s 12 goals and 27 points are among the best in the NHL.
“Somebody jumps up and contributes a little more,” each game, coach Joel Quenneville said. “Nobody wants to let each down and keeps pushing each other in the right way.”
Like Chicago, the Flyers used two goaltenders, leaning on Pete Peeters and Phil Myre over the streak. The Flyers went 25-0-10 to set the record.
Amid the hype, the Flyers can serve as a warning sign for the Blackhawks. Not even the greatest of streaks can forecast a Stanley Cup championship. The Flyers finished 48-12-20 with 116 points but lost the Stanley Cup finals in six games to the New York Islanders.
“It’s not, just because you have this streak, you’re going to the finals,” Propp said. “It’s a grind to get there. I don’t think you can take away from what we did during the regular season. It’s just a whole new ball game once the post-season starts.”
No team in any of the four major pro leagues has approached a streak like Philadelphia’s. The NBA’s Miami Heat have won 15 straight games—and many debaters would argue that streak is more impressive because there are no ties or points awarded for a loss.
Maybe, but that’s an argument for another day.
Should the Blackhawks top the Flyers, they won’t care what teams in other leagues do.
And the Flyers won’t stress over losing their record.
“Whatever Chicago does, it didn’t take away from what Philadelphia did,” Clarke said. “The players that were part of the Flyers in those days can still enjoy what we did and celebrate what we did.”
Dan Gelston can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APGelston