The Montreal Canadiens were oh-so close to a record-setting winning streak this year. What are the 10 most unbeatable streaks in NHL history?
The Montreal Canadiens were that close. Well, kinda. Even if they’d beaten the Vancouver Canucks on the road Tuesday night to start the season 10-0-0, the Habs needed another win in Edmonton Thursday to reach 11-0-0. Doing so would’ve eclipsed the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs’ and 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres’ record of 10 consecutive victories to start a campaign. Coming within two Ws of the mark suggests the 10-0-0 start isn’t unbeatable. The 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks opened 21-0-3. The NHL does have a few truly unbreakable streak records, however. Some look absurd on paper simply because they were forged before the modern era. Stats were downright zany back then. Others are the product of the high-flying Live Puck era in the 1970s and 1980s. Most of these streaks are the products of their time periods and environments, but, hey, we call them unbeatable for a reason. I present to you the top 10, plus some honorable mentions.
HONORABLE MENTIONS * The Washington Capitals went 8-67-5 in their debut season, 1974-75, setting modern-day NHL futility records with 20 points and a .131 points percentage. So, as you can imagine, they endured some lengthy losing skids. They share the record for
longest losing streak with the equally pitiful 1992-93 San Jose Sharks at 17 games. * Doug Jarvis owns the
iron man streak among skaters at 964 games. Jay Bouwmeester’s run ended at 737 last season, while Andrew Cogliano sits at 622 and counting. But Jarvis will be tough to surpass. * The Detroit Red Wings have reached the playoffs 23 consecutive years, but they need seven more berths to beat the Boston Bruins’ remarkable 29 straight playoff appearances, achieved from 1967-68 to 1995-96.
* The most agonizing thing about Guy Charron’s 11-season career, which included 734
games without a playoff appearance, is how close he was. He was a Montreal Canadien in 1970-71, for cryin’ out loud, but a January trade sent him, Mickey Redmond and Bill Collins to the Detroit Red wings for some guy named Frank Mahovlich. The Habs won the Stanley Cup that spring. Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester broke Charron’s record, setting longer streaks without making the post-season, but both changed teams and later made the playoffs, essentially reverting the streak to Charron.
THE 10 MOST UNBEATABLE STREAKS
10. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ 17-game winning streak, 1993 Think about how impressive the Habs’ run was to start this season. Now imagine almost doubling that success. The stacked ’93 Pens were unstoppable, armed with the first line of Mario Lemieux between Jaromir Jagr and Kevin Stevens, not to mention Hall of Famers Ron Francis and Larry Murphy. The most amazing thing about the ’93 streak: it started a week after Lemieux finished his radiation treatment for Hodgkin’s Disease. Mario caught fire, overcame a nine-point deficit to Pat LaFontaine in the scoring race and ended up winning the Hart Trophy.
Unbeatable because: Parity has never been stronger in the NHL. It’s the salary cap era. The 2012-13 Pens rattled off 15 in a row, but 18 straight would be a monumental task.
9. The Calgary Flames’ 264 straight games scoring at least one goal, 1981-1985 The date range gives this one away. It was the high-flying 1980s and nobody could keep Kent Nilsson off the scoresheet in his heyday.
Unbeatable because: Goalies are better, faster, and equipped with bigger equipment. Scoring today has dropped more than two full goals per game since Calgary’s streak. Shutouts happen all the time. The Anaheim Ducks have as many games as they have goals. The next four longest non-shutout streaks all occurred between 1980 and 1993.
8. Gerry Cheevers’ 32-game unbeaten streak, 1971-72 The Big, Bad Bruins of the early 1970s filled the net thanks to the brilliance of Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, and they weren’t in the business of losing often. Rock-solid stoppers Cheevers and Eddie Johnston won 27 games each that year, and Cheevers only lost five of 41 games. Within that stretch, he posted a 24-0-8 undefeated streak.
Unbeatable because: Again, parity is factor. Also, with 3-on-3 overtime and the shootout, it’s far easier for a goalie to get a loss on his record, even if it falls under the loser point column.
7. Alec Connell’s 460-minute shutout streak, 1927-28 This streak obviously deserves the fattest asterisk on the list. Connell posted six straight shutouts in 460:49 with the Ottawa Senators back when the ole forward pass wasn’t legal yet. If you prefer Brian Boucher’s 332:01 with the Coyotes in 2003-04, so be it.
Unbeatable because: Connell’s record comes from a different version of the sport altogether. The modern incarnation of the game doesn’t allow for 460 shutout minutes. That doesn’t make Connell’s streak any less unbeatable, though.
6. The Winnipeg Jets’ 30-game winless streak, 1980 At least Jets fans can rejoice about this one now. The 0-23-7 run from Oct. 19 to Dec. 20, 1981 all but cemented the top pick in the 1981 draft, which landed Winnipeg Dale Hawerchuk. The Jets won their season opener 6-2, believe it or not, before the nightmare began.
Unbeatable because: Coach Tom McVie lasted the first 28 games of the winless streak. Imagine that today. In our era of mad turnover, a team would hire and fire two coaches within that time. Someone would squeeze a win out of any team in today’s NHL long before 30 games arrived. John Tortorella didn’t need long to put Columbus on the board.
5. Punch Broadbent’s 16 straight games with a goal, 1921-22 Harry ‘Punch’ Broadbent, a pioneer power forward with the Ottawa Senators, sniped a hilarious 27 goals during his 16-game barrage in the Roaring 20s. Major stick taps to Charlie Simmer for his 13-game run 1979-80 and Mario Lemieux for tallying in 12 straight during the 1992-93 season.
Unbeatable because: Offense doesn’t flow like water anymore. The Sharks’ Patrick Marleau rifled nine goals in his first five games to open 2012-13, then had eight in his next 43 to finish the 48-game season.
4. The New York Islanders’ 19 straight playoff series victories, 1980-1984 Plenty of powerhouse teams, such as the late-1970s Habs dynasty, came close to this mark, but no franchise has sniffed it since the Islanders won four straight Stanley Cups to start the 1980s. The Isles were the first champions in the era of four playoff rounds after expansion from the WHA grew the NHL’s pool of teams. Their quartet of titles thus meant 16 straight series victories, and reaching the 1984 Stanley Cup final before falling to Edmonton upped the Isles’ total to 19.
Unbeatable because: Beating this record would mean winning five consecutive Stanley Cups. The Montreal Canadiens of 1955-56 to 1959-60 are the lone team to win five straight. No team has even won two straight since the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.
e Philadelphia Flyers’ 35-game unbeaten streak, 1979-80 The Broad Street Bullies appeared to be back and ready for their third Stanley Cup after a four-year run of Habs dominance. Coach Pat Quinn’s squad split its first two games before an amazing 25-0-10 run. The Minnesota North Stars put a stop to it with a 7-1 win Jan. 7.
Unbeatable because: Going 35 games without a defeat is a pipe dream in today’s balanced NHL. The 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks were historically dominant – enough for us to rank them among the top 25 teams of all-time in a special edition of THN – and even they could “only” muster a 21-0-3 run, 11 games short of equalling the Philly point streak. That’s not even technically an undefeated streak, anyway, as ties don’t exist anymore.
2. Wayne Gretzky’s 51-game point streak, 1983-84 The Great One’s video game stat run in his prime included countless unbeatable records. He had assists in 23 straight games. He posted 13 straight 100-point seasons, and no other player in history has recorded more than six straight. But Gretzky’s 51-game point streak is hockey’s answer to Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak. Gretzky opened 1983-84 with 153 points in 51 contests.
Unbeatable because: Consider that Jamie Benn won the scoring title with 87 points last season, and that only eight players averaged a point per game or better. Tallying a point in 51 consecutive games means playing insanely consistent point-per-game hockey for more than half a season. It’s never going to happen.
1. Glenn Hall’s 502 straight complete games played in net, 1955-1962 The Hall of Fame goalie Hall may or may not have vomited before all 502 of his starts before a back injury finally knocked him out in game 503. It’s a record so untouchable that it’s untouchable compared to the other untouchable streaks.
Unbeatable because: My senior editor Brian Costello put it best: if a goalie reached 10 percent of Hall’s streak and started 50 straight games, he’d be THN cover story material. A goalie could start every game for three years and not even be halfway to Hall’s streak. Breaking the record would require six straight full seasons of starts in net, plus 11 games in season No. 7. We’ll have goalies stopping pucks on the moon, or yet-to-be discovered Planet Zelgar, before any of them starts 503 consecutive games.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin