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Not exactly how New Jersey Devils fans wanted the streak to end. They had not one, not two, but three goals disallowed in a 2-1 home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night. That halted New Jersey’s incredible winning streak at 13 games.
It’s over, but it’s one of the greatest streaks in NHL history, tied for the seventh longest all-time.
It got me thinking: what are the NHL’s most amazing team streaks? Here are my picks for the top 10 ever. For this exercise, I went with a glass-half-full mentality, ignoring negative streaks (ie the Sabres’ NHL record 11-year playoff drought) and listing only positive streaks that teams theoretically want to achieve.
Pittsburgh Penguins’ 17-game winning streak, 1992-93
The 1992-93 Pens are in the discussion for the greatest team not to win a Stanley Cup, up there with the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning. Led by Mario Lemieux’s incredible return from mid-season cancer treatment, the Pens were absolutely unstoppable. Lemieux had a hilarious 27 goals and 51 points during the 17-game streak.
But is it unbeatable? No. The Columbus Blue Jackets were a game away from tying it in 2016-17 when they won 16 straight with a lunchpail squad coached by John Tortorella. The 1981-82 New York Islanders and 2012-13 Pens won 15 in a row. The Devils just made a solid run at the record. Given how often the streak has been threatened, it seems likely to fall someday.
Chicago Blackhawks’ 24-game point streak to start season, 2012-13
The 2012-13 Blackhawks were a wire-to-wire behemoth. They’re the only team in the last 46 years to finish with a points percentage north of .800, and they captured the Stanley Cup, cementing their status as one of the greatest teams of all time. The season was shortened to 48 games because of a lockout, so their season-opening points streak comprised half of their schedule.
But because the current standings format awards loser points for overtime and shootout losses, a 24-game points streak to open a season doesn’t feel completely unattainable. A team could lose half a dozen times in a 25-game stretch and still set the record.
Detroit Red Wings’ 23-game home winning streak, 2011-12
Of all Red Wings teams to put a streak like this together…who would’ve guessed it was the decidedly forgettable 2011-12 squad? They finished third in their own division and bombed out in Round 1 of the playoffs. Yet this team, led by Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom in his final season, was a force at Joe Louis Arena.
No other team has even won 20 straight at home since the 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers, so 23 is quite the mark. And yet…the Colorado Avalanche won 18 straight at home last season, while the Boston Bruins have won 11 in a row during their active home winning streak this season. It doesn’t feel completely impossible to win 24 straight at home.
Montreal Canadiens’ 10 consecutive overtime victories, 1992-93 playoffs
The Habs’ 10-game streak is remarkable, but not so much because of how impressive it was. To me, it was a happy fluke, and it cracks the list of greatest streaks because it’s so unlikely to happen again. Overtime is often decided by luck – a bounce, a screen, a deflection, a broken play caused by tired legs. The odds of winning the coin flip 10 times in a row are pretty tough. And to beat the record, you need at least 11 overtime games in a single postseason, which requires making it deep enough to find yourself in overtime at least 11 times. The overtime streak has me shaking my head at its improbability rather than feeling in awe of the team that set it.
Flames’ 264 regular season games without being shut out, 1981-1985
Yes, the Flames scored at least one goal in every regular season game from Nov. 12, 1981 to Jan. 9, 1985. The longest non-shutout streak this millennium is 175 games. Goalies are just so much bigger and better than they were in the 1980s that the idea of beating this record is ludicrous. That said…scoring reached a 26-year high last year, it’s currently tracking even higher this year, and league-wide save percentage sits at its lowest point since 2006-07. The Florida Panthers went more than 100 games without being shut out between last season and this past Sunday before their streak ended. So maybe there’s a glimmer of hope for some team to reach 265.
Philadelphia Flyers’ 35-game point streak, 1979-80
In its original incarnation, this streak would land in the ‘Untouchable’ bin – because it was an unbeaten streak. Ties existed in 1979-80. The Flyers genuinely went 35 games without losing.
But now, after the advent of shootouts and 3-on-3? It’s classified by the NHL as points streak. That means a team could sprinkle some losses amid a strong run of victories. It’s still an incredibly high bar to clear, with no team even coming within 10 of it since it was established as the record.
Boston Bruins’ 29 straight playoff appearances, 1968-1996
The Bruins reached the Big Dance 29 times in a row between 1967-68 and 1995-96, passing the torch from Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito to Ray Bourque and Cam Neely. But the NHL consisted of 12 teams, eight of which qualified for the playoffs annually, when the streak began. The league grew from 12 to 26 teams over the course of the 29-year run, but it was still far easier to earn a playoff seed during that period than it is today. The salary cap generates extreme parity, with the playoff field turning over by half a dozen teams seemingly every year, and only 50 percent of the 32-team field competes in the postseason.
The Detroit Red Wings made the playoffs 25 years in a row between 1990-91 and 2015-16, but more than half of their streak took place pre-salary cap. The Pittsburgh Penguins currently sit at 16 in a row, dating back to 2006-07, but will be hard pressed to keep their streak going another 14 years once Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang retire. To make it 30 years? No chance today. The sport changes far too much in a 30-year span.
Montreal Canadiens’ 10 consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances, 1951-1960
Another Habs record, which you’ll see below, gets more glory, but Montreal reaching 10 Finals in a row gets overlooked. No other team in NHL history has more than five straight trips to the Final! Spending an entire decade in the Final reflects their dynastic dominance and the fact they had a stranglehold on recruiting Quebec-based prospects, but it also reflects the fact they played in a six-team league at the time. If you finished fourth out of six teams and won a single playoff series, boom, you made it to the Stanley Cup Final. This record will never be beaten, period. It was just far easier to accomplish when it happened.
Montreal Canadiens’ five consecutive Stanley Cup victories, 1956-60
How untouchable are five straight Cups? Today, we call it a dynasty if you win two in a row, like the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 and 2021, or if you win three in five years, like the Blackhawks between 2010 and 2015. Not even the powerhouse Habs of the late 1970s, the stacked New York Islanders of the early 1980s and the high-flying Edmonton Oilers of the mid-1980s could go five in a row.
The Habs’ record of five straight had the circumstantial advantages of playing in a six-team league, and the nature of player recruitment at the time allowed Montreal to build a team that no one could dream of matching today. The 1955-56 Habs, for instance, had Jean Beliveau and Maurice Richard and Henri Richard and Doug Harvey and Bernie Geoffrion and Jacques Plante. Downright silly.
New York Islanders’ 19 consecutive playoff series wins, 1980-1984
The Isles won four straight Cups and reached the 1984 Final in their bid for a fifth straight. Their record trumps Montreal’s five straight championships, of course, because you only needed to win two series a year during the Original Six days. The Habs won “only” 10 playoff series during their five-year championship dynasty. The Isles almost doubled that streak. And did so playing in a 21-team field.
The Isles’ 19 straight series victories stand alone as hockey’s greatest team streak – and one of the greatest streaks in pro sports history.