Monday, April 1, 2013

Pens v. Hawks: Which Streak is More Impressive?

As the shortened 2012-13 NHL season winds down to it's conclusion (most teams will play their 36th out of 48 games this week) the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks sit atop their respective conferences with relatively large cushions between them and the second place team. Both teams wield two of the most impressive streaks in NHL history.

The Blackhawks started the season gaining at least one point in each of their first 24 games, making Chicago the home of the longest point streak to start a season in NHL history. Recently though, an impressive streak in it's own right has been thrown together by the Penguins, who are currently riding a 15 game win streak into April, only two games short of the NHL record of 17 in-a-row. With all this said, one can't help but ask the question: which streak is more impressive?

First, the Blackhawks case. Chicago's streak started on January 19th when they ruined the LA Kings' Stanley Cup celebration with a 5-2 victory to usher in the new season.

The point streak would rage on for six weeks before hitting it's peak on March 3rd in Hockeytown itself, Detroit, Michigan. The 10-8-3 Detroit Red Wings were looking to end their division rivals' streak after losing an early season matchup with the Hawks 2-1 in OT. With all of America and Canada tuned in to the nationally broadcasted showdown, the Hawks barely escaped Detroit with their streak intact. With only 2:02 remaining in the third period and Chicago down 1-0, Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane would finally bury a power play equalizer to keep the point streak alive. Kane would go on to score the only goal of the shootout to earn Chicago the full two points.

After 24 games, the Blackhawks streak would come to an end on March 8th in a 6-2 lose against the Colorado Avalanche. Over the course of the streak, the Hawks would average 2.8 goals and 1.8 goals against per game. It's also worth noting that the Blackhawks point streak included an 11 game win streak and five victories by three goals or more.

As Chicago's streak came to an end, the Penguins were laying down the framework for a streak of their own in western Pennsylvania. On March 2nd, the Penguins defeated the Montreal Canadians 7-6 in OT to snap a two game losing streak. Since then, the Pens have won 14 in-a-row, gone undefeated in the month of March, and now are only two wins away from tieing the NHL's record for longest winning streak at 17 games. With newly acquired veterans Jarome Iginla, Brendan Morrow, and Douglas Murray all in the lineup for Pittsburgh, the Pens look unstoppable.

But, of course, we wouldn't want to make things too easy on Pittsburgh, would we?

As has been the case for most of the streak, injuries to key players could slow the Pens pursuit of history. Going into the Penguins next game against Buffalo on April 2nd, the Pens could be without netminder Marc-Andre Fluery (18-5-0, .918 SV%), defensemen Kris Letang (28 Pts), Paul Martin (6 G, 15 Ast), and after suffering a broken jaw in the Penguins most recent win against the New York Islanders, league-leading scorer Sidney Crosby (15 G, 41 Ast).

If the Penguins defeat the Buffalo Sabres on April 2nd, they will play for the longest win streak in NHL history against the New York Rangers on April 5th.

The Penguins streak has included four shutouts, six wins by two goals or more, and only three games going to overtime, one of which was a shootout victory. If Pittsburgh's streak extends past 17 wins, it would have to go down as the most dominate streak in recent NHL history. Even if the Pens were to drop one of their next few games, it is hard to argue that Pittsburgh has been more dominate over the course of their streak then the Blackhawks were during their run. Sorry Chicago, as impressive as 24 straight games with a point is, the Penguins take this faceoff.

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