If at the start of the season you bet on the Columbus Blue Jackets setting a new NHL winning streak record, you’re now on the precipice of a big pay day.
In the era of the shootout where ties are obsolete, it’s highly unlikely any team (not even these mighty Blue Jackets) will chase down the record for the NHL’s longest unbeaten streak — although they could call it the longest point streak now. That unbeaten run belongs to the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers who went 35 straight games without posting a loss. They had 10 ties sprinkled in to that streak, a benefit the Jackets won’t have.
But as far as a straight winning streak goes, Columbus is now one win away from matching history. Currently the youngest team in the NHL, the Jackets are motoring along with a 28.3 per cent power play conversion rate, 3.44 goals per game, an 11.4 shooting percentage and a .932 save percentage — all of which seem unsustainable rates.
Of course, they haven’t lost since Nov. 26, so the streak is inherently unsustainable anyway.
Still, don’t sleep on these Jackets as a threat. Although some or all of these numbers are likely to regress to some degree, there are reasons to believe they’re still a pretty darn good team anyway and deserve credit for how they’re adapting to a changing NHL — coach John ‘safe is death’ Tortorella should especially get kudos for how he’s allowed his team to play so far.
And how about this: consider the teams that surround the Blue Jackets on the league’s all-time winning streak list and you won’t see a dud or a fluke among them. Columbus can tie the record for longest winning streak when they play in Washington Thursday.
Here are the other teams included on the NHL’s all-time winning streak list:
1. 17 wins: 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins
This was a team that had four Hall of Famers on it, plus one or two others you could make a strong case for and Jaromir Jagr who will be inducted if he ever retires. The Penguins were coming off back-to-back Stanley Cups and were legitimate contenders again as winners of the Patrick Division with 56 wins — just six wins shy of the all-time record the Detroit Red Wings would set four years later.
Mario Lemieux led the Penguins with 69 goals and 160 points that season despite missing 24 games after being diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. Kevin Stevens (111), Rick Tocchet (109) and Ron Francis (100) also hit the century mark.
Pittsburgh’s run came at the tail end of the regular season, running from March 9-April 10 and ended when they tied New Jersey 6-6 in the last game of the regular season. The Pens went on to beat those Devils 4-1 in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but were knocked off by the Islanders in a seven-game Round 2 series that ended with a 4-3 loss in overtime.
2. 16 wins: 2016-17 Columbus Blue Jackets
With a game in Washington Thursday and at home against the New York Rangers Saturday, the Blue Jackets could stand alone with the record before the week is out — and literally bring it in with a (cannon) bang.
We’ve mentioned off the top about the unsustainable components of their run, but let’s put the nubers into historical context: no team has finished with a PP rate as high as theirs since the 1987-88 Calgary Flames and the last team to finish with a shooting percentage above 11 were the 2009-10 Washington Capitals. But here’s the thing: Sergei Bobrovsky actually is this good. Sure, he could end up with a save percentage closer to .925 than his current .934 rate, but that’s still excellent. He’s done this before and is no fluke. The 2013 Vezina Trophy winner had a .932 save percentage in 38 games during the shortened lockout season and a .923 save percentage in 58 games the following season.
Bobrovsky is back and, currently, has to be considered the leader in the Vezina Trophy discussion and even a part of the Hart Trophy debate. His performance should be enough to offset some of the regression that should come to other parts of the roster and keep Columbus chugging along. The big factor here is his health.
T-3. 15 wins: 2012-13 Pittsburgh Penguins
With 36 total wins in the shortened 48-game season, the Penguins took the Atlantic Division and looked to be Stanley Cup contenders once again after back-to-back first-round exits. Sidney Crosby led the team in scoring despite missing 12 games and pulled Chris Kunitz along with him as the winger scored 52 points in 48 games.
Pittsburgh’s streak lasted the entire month of March and ended in their first April game with a 4-1 loss to Buffalo. Pittsburgh made it to the Eastern Conference Final this season, but were completely overmatched by the Bruins, who swept them out of the post-season.
T-3. 15 wins: 1981-82 New York Islanders
When you’re in the same company as one of the NHL’s all-time greatest dynasties you know you’re doing something right. Already with two straight Stanley Cups under their belt, the Islanders cooked up a long mid-season winning streak that stretched from late January through late February before losing 4-3 in Pittsburgh. Another team loaded with Hall of Famers, the Islanders were led in scoring this season by Mike Bossy’s 64 goals and 147 points with Bryan Trottier the only other skater to hit 100 points as he reached 129.
The Islanders played the Penguins again on the last day of the regular season and lost, but then beat them 3-2 in the Patrick Division semifinal. New York lost just three more times in their next three playoff series and won their third Stanley Cup in a row.