Twenty-two games without a regulation loss: the Chicago Blackhawks’ season-opening streak, which broke the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks’ start a few games back, reached 22 games with their 2-1 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.
Pick an uber-positive adjective and it’s been applied to the Blackhawks’ run: stunning, staggering, amazing, ridiculous, baffling…you get it. In the fast, physical and energy-draining game of hockey, it’s truly an impressive feat. And that’s just in what would be a normal season. See it during the lockout, and you get a whole new perspective. A massive amount of games played in a short amount of time, back-to-back contests aplenty, rest coming at a premium. It’s not easy to do, yet here the Blackhawks are.
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But their streak can no longer be measured at just 22. If you want to count regular-season games without a regulation loss, then it’s actually 28, dating back to last season. That equals the mark set by the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens for the second-longest run sans regulation defeat.
The Blackhawks streak is what it is. But how does it stack up to other feats of consistent greatness? Let’s look at a few others, shall we?
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UConn women’s basketball, 2008-11, 90 games
OK, I don’t care if it’s women’s basketball, men’s basketball, hockey, football or badminton: 90 straight victories are 90 straight victories. The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team has had a few stellar runs in its history – they had a 70-game winning streak a few years prior to this one – and this one tops them all. NCAA women’s basketball doesn’t have quite the parity that the men’s game does, but to establish this level of dominance is nevertheless stick-tap worthy.
UCLA men’s basketball, 1971-74, 88 games
The Bruins had some tremendous individual talents during this run, including Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) to Bill Walton. But the Bruins, much like the Blackhawks now, weren’t focused on individual numbers during this historic run. It was all about the team, and the UCLA system, under the great John Wooden, exemplified that.
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Philadelphia Flyers, 1979-80, 35 games
The next mark that the Blackhawks could equal or break was set by the Flyers, and it remains a North American pro sports record. The Flyers obviously locked up first place in the league thanks to their run, something the Blackhawks are hoping to do with theirs. Philly came close to winning a Stanley Cup that season but, alas, came up short. They lost in six games to the New York Islanders, who won the first of their four consecutive Cups.
Miami Dolphins, 1972, 17-0
Records are made to be broken; unless, apparently, it’s this one. The members of this perfect, Super Bowl-winning team continue to pop the bubbly every season another NFL team comes close to, but ultimately falls short of, equaling this mark. This record, more than any, speaks to how difficult it is to win week in, week out, in professional sports. And with this one, there’s no credit for a tie.
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Quick honorable mention here, however, to the Indianapolis Colts, who hold the NFL mark for consecutive regular-season games won, with 23, through 2008 and 2009.
Oklahoma Sooners, 1953-57, 47 games
Again, it’s all about how close someone can come to equaling your greatness. And in Division I football, the Sooners’ 47-game winning streak (winning, no tying) hasn’t even come close to being challenged. Oklahoma won two national titles during that run. Now that, folks, is called dominating.
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Martina Navratilova, 1984, 74 matches
Individual sports: there’s no one there to help you, no one to buoy you if you’re having an off day. Navratilova had tremendous tennis success whether it was in singles, doubles or mixed doubles competition, but this record is for her singles work. It’s an astounding mark, considering that women’s tennis in the 1980s wasn’t too shabby. She and Chris Evert had a tremendous rivalry. But in 1984 it was all Navratilova, whose vaunted streak ended in the Australian Open semifinals in December of that year.