Published January 13, 2015
What the Chicago Blackhawks accomplished until last Friday night, recording at least one point in 24 straight games (21-0-3) from the start of this truncated 2013 season, cannot be denied. It is a marvelous undertaking to navigate a tough in-conference schedule, in an era of parity, with virtually no time to properly assemble lines and assess health with a shotgun start due to a lockout.
What can be disputed, is that it stands as an NHL record.
If you've tuned into various cable outlets in the United States which purport to bring you all the latest hockey news over the last three weeks, you've heard the following:
1) The streak eclipsed the Edmonton Oilers' memorable run of 15 games from the start of the 1984-85 season and the Anaheim Ducks' pace of 16 straight from the beginning of the 2006-07 season for longest without a loss in regulation.
2) That the 24-game run is about to be etched into the record book as a single-season milestone.
3) You've also seen and heard ad nauseam that the Blackhawks' 30-game regular- season streak with at least one point dating back to last season is the second longest in NHL history -- eclipsing the Montreal Canadiens' string of 28 straight in the 1977-78 campaign, and only falling short of the Philadelphia Flyers' 35-game run in 1979-80.
Except it's false on all accounts.
Nothing sends me into a frothing mess, a combination of George Carlin, Lewis Black and Angry of Mayfair, like lazy and incorrect reporting on obvious facts by sources which are supposedly trusted to inform fans of what's going on.
All attempts by various media personalities on screen and in social media to combine and conflate what Chicago accomplished with its other NHL member clubs as the streak grew in number fails a simple test of scrutiny.
Crack open the Official NHL Guide and Record Book for 2013 (for Philadelphia fans who may be in denial, it's the one featuring the bearded, smiling faces of LA Kings and ex-Flyers Justin Williams, Simon Gagne, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter but try to get past that, OK?), flip through until you arrive at Page 158, and you'll find the section filled with various league records.
Under the section marked "Team Records," in huge print, there's a heading "Undefeated Streaks." Here you'll find the very first sub-heading "Longest Undefeated Streak, One Season" which is the 35 games by the Flyers from Oct. 14, 1979-Jan. 6, 1980 (25-0-10), and the Habs' streak (22-0-6) from Dec. 18, 1977-Feb. 23, 1978 immediately underneath.
An additional sub-heading "Longest Undefeated Streak from Start of Season," turns up the Oilers' 12-0-3 stretch in October and November of 1984.
In neither place will you find "Longest Consecutive Point Streak from Start of Season," which presumably would feature Chicago and then Anaheim, and in neither place is there an asterisk for the Blackhawks and Ducks feats taking place in the era where points are awarded like Halloween candy. However, you will find records related to the shootout, which extend only as far as 2005, when the extra round was introduced.
There's another important distinction to remember when addressing the nature of NHL records, and that the league has never, and does not, recognize streaks which are continuous from one year to the next. There are several which combine regular-season and playoff runs, but those are all within the confines of a single year.
If it were true that the Blackhawks set an NHL record by notching at least one point in 30 straight games from last March until this one, then there are a whole mess of memorable feats which need to be reconsidered.
One of the best individual runs is Wayne Gretzky's tear of 51 straight games with at least one point, done from October of 1983 until January of 1984 -- during which he racked up a mind-boggling 153 points. In fact, Gretzky ended his 1982-83 season with a point in the Oilers' last nine games (if his own recollection is correct), so the record would have to be amended to 60 if we're to believe what TV told us about Chicago -- but it isn't, so the point���s moot.
The same rules apply in Major League Baseball about hitting streaks which end officially one season and begin the next. There wasn't as big a campaign of misinformation from MLB sources when Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins hit safely in 38 straight between the end of the 2005 and start of the 2006 season in pursuit of Joe DiMaggio's immortal streak of 56 -- only a debate over whether it should count in full.
Clouding the issue further was Flyers GM Paul Holmgren's assertion late last week to NHL.com that the Blackhawks' run to glory was tougher to accomplish than the Flyers all-time North American professional record for games without a loss.
As a member of that 1980 Patrick Division champion and Stanley Cup finalist, Holmgren certainly should be heard on the subject, but by no means is his opinion to be taken as validation.
In fact, anyone who believes that the Blackhawks or Ducks came anywhere close to the Flyers and Oilers magnificence does an injustice to what the latter teams had to experience.
Those who may argue that the Oilers' record came with a crutch because, unlike the Flyers, they had the benefit of winning in a five-minute overtime misses the point; the extension of the game for another five minutes in 1983 did not fundamentally change the structure of how points were awarded like the addition of the overtime loss point did in 1999 and the addition of the shootout loss point did in 2005.
Until the end of the 1998-99 season, only three choices confronted teams: two points for a win, one for a tie and zero for a loss. That was the case in 1979-80 for Philadelphia and in 1984 for Edmonton, where neither had the benefit of crutch points for losing like Chicago and Anaheim has now.
The Ducks eventually lost in regulation in their 17th contest of 2006, and the Blackhawks in their 25th of 2013 -- but Anaheim was defeated four times beyond regulation and Chicago three. No matter how points are awarded, losses are losses. Neither the Flyers nor the Oilers suffered a loss of any kind during their respective record-setting performances.
No amount of graphics or studio analysts repeating talking points can reverse those facts, and it doesn't take much investigating to see the truth. Any opinion leader who tries to equivocate is doing a disservice to the teams which weren't rewarded at all with a crooked number in the only loss column that existed.
So, take heed that the Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers respective places in league history are secure. Know that the Chicago Blackhawks' memorable run during this truncated season will find a place in the hearts and minds of those who were lucky enough to witness it.
Just don't call it an NHL record -- and most importantly, don't let anyone else tell you that either.