Twenty-four straight games without a regulation or overtime loss.
“The Streak” — Chicago’s remarkable run to start the season, in which the Blackhawks collected points in each of their first 24 games — was so big, so impressive, so unprecedented that it went beyond traditional hockey conversation.
The Streak put Chicago in direct competition with the NBA’s Miami Heat (who ended up winning 27 straight) for the most dominant team in the two sports — a made-for-TV-and-blogs debate that led to a number of lengthy discussions, some good, some not so good.
But what, exactly, made The Streak so special? Consider the following:
— It’s really, really hard to build a dominant team in the NHL, where unlike the NBA with its luxury-tax system, there’s a hard salary cap. In 2013, Chicago’s cap payroll was about $67 million. The lowest cap payroll in the NHL belonged to Phoenix, which came in around $50 million. There’s a lot of parity in hockey, and that’s a big reason why.
— Chicago came within spitting distance of one of the great all-time records in NHL history: Philadelphia’s 35-game unbeaten streak (25 wins, 10 ties) during the 1979-80 campaign. What made Chicago’s season special, though, was that the ‘Hawks finished as Stanley Cup champs; the Flyers lost the ’80 Stanley Cup Final to the Islanders.
— Dating back to the 2011-12 campaign, the ‘Hawks streak extended to 30 games.
— The Streak played a huge role in Chicago capturing its second-ever Presidents’ Trophy as regular-season champions, and first in 22 years.
But like most good things, the streak did eventually come to an end — a thud, really, in a 6-2 loss to Colorado at the Pepsi Center on Mar. 8. When the ‘Hawks had time to reflect on what they did, the realization of going half of the season without suffering a regulation or OT loss started to sink in.
“It’s pretty amazing to make it this far,” captain Jonathan Toews said.
“We’re certainly proud of the start we had,” added Duncan Keith.
Yet it was the man overseeing it all — head coach Joel Quenneville — who perhaps best put The Streak in perspective. He noted the ‘Hawks pushed themselves almost as much as their opponents did, and were committed to achieving success as a group.
“We had a great start to the season — the guys bonded very quickly and the chemistry was there,” he told the Dan Patrick Show. “The guys gelled right from the get-go. It’s certainly been a lot of fun.
“The guys are pushing one another, they all want to play more and they all want more quality ice time. That’s what keeps it healthy around our team.”