No offense to the puck set, but that Chicago Blackhawks’ points streak that got so much attention over the first half of the post-lockout NHL season has lost a little of its luster lately.
The hottest thing on ice so far in 2012-13 melts in comparison to what the Miami Heat have done in winning 26 consecutive games.
It’s not the Blackhawks’ fault that their sport allows for ties, awards and aligns its standings according to points rather than victories or winning percentages. It’s not their fault, entirely, that they have the gimmickry of the shootout as a less-filling way of determining outcomes. If you can earn a point when you lose – something Chicago did three times by shootout in its season-opening streak of 24 games with at least one point – it’s not quite the same as an undefeated streak, now is it?
The Miami Heat cannot tie. Overtime periods in the NBA accrue until the scoreboard shows someone ahead at a horn. There is no wacky dunk-off to sorta, kinda declare the winner, nor is there any tangible consolation to losing.
This is no kiddie sport where you get a trophy simply for showing up.
About the time the Blackhawks stretched their streak to its max, right wing Patrick Kane traded Tweets with LeBron James, whose Miami team was just matching the Clippers’ mark of 17 games for the NBA’s longest run this season. “Hey Chicago Blackhawks, u guys are AWESOME!! #streaking” James sent out to his followers. Kane responded: “Back at you LeBron. Keep rolling.”
The Heat did just that, even as the Blackhawks got stopped in Denver on March 8. With nine additional victories, the Heat have matched the longest winning streak in the other three major U.S. professional sports. Baseball’s 1916 New York Giants won 26 in a row from Sept. 7 through Sept. 30.
If Miami beats the Magic in Orlando Monday night for No. 27, only six foes and 12 days will stand between it and the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ record of 33 consecutive victories. After two days to savor that, the Heat would go for No. 34 at home April 9 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Then they would have five regular-season games left to push the record further, rest some players for the postseason or –- who’s to say they couldn’t? -– do both.
Here is a look at the longest winning streaks in major U.S. sports history (we’ll set aside for now those staggering marks in NCAA Division I basketball — 90 by the UConn women and 88 by the UCLA men back in the day):
Major League Baseball
Managed by the legendary John McGraw, the Giants of 1916 traded away a couple of future Hall of Famers — pitcher Christy Mathewson and outfielder Edd Roush — before the streak began that season. Another, George (Highpockets) Kelly, turned 20 that month and was just getting started. New York had a 17-game streak earlier that season — a whole lot of consecutive winning for a team that finished fourth in the National League and never once sat atop the standings. In fact, even though the Giants went from three games under .500 (59-62) to 23 over with the September streak, they didn’t budge from fourth place the entire time. This one has an asterisk, too, because of a tie — the Giants had won 12 in a row when the nightcap of a doubleheader against Pittsburgh was called at 1-1. (If you’re a stickler on this stuff, the 1935 Chicago Cubs won 21 in a row with no ties.)
National Football League
Pro football can come at the Heat’s streak in three different ways. If you’re looking for the longest winning streak, period, then look to the New England Patriots, who started a run of 21 triumphant outcomes on Oct. 5, 2003 and kept it going through Oct. 24, 2004, spanning both regular season and playoff games, including a Super Bowl.
The NFL’s longest streak of regular season games — that’s what Miami is doing, after all — belongs to the Indianapolis Colts, who won 23 in a row across the 2008 and 2009 seasons but stumbled in their wild-card game against San Diego at the end of 2008, losing in overtime. Then Peyton Manning & Co. went 14-0 in 2008 before losing again, this time to the Jets two days after Christmas.
Of course, if you want a winning streak fully contained in one season — which we presume will be the case with the Heat unless they pull off fo’, fo’, fo’, fo’ dominance in the playoffs — then it’s back to the Patriots. In 2007, New England won every game from its opener through the AFC championship — 18 straight — before faltering in Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants. And, memorably, the Dolphins went 14-0 in the regular season and rolled through the playoffs on their way to a Super Bowl title and a perfect 17-0 season in 1972.
National Hockey League
The Blackhawks’ consecutive points streak of 24 games to start the season — and 30 if you go back to the end of the 2011-12 regular season — left them shy of the NHL’s longest by those standards. In 1979-80, the Philadelphia Flyers recorded at least one point in 35 consecutive games.
But if you have a distate for ties when the talk turns to winning streaks, then the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins is your team to beat. Led by Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, that crew of defending Stanley Cup champions won 17 in a row — no small feat when the opponent at least has the option of playing for a tie, unlike in the other sports. The previous record had been 15 set by the 1981-82 New York Islanders en route to the third of their four straight championships.