The Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins are the two most talented teams in the NHL, they have the two best records and their incredible 2013 seasons are highlighted by remarkable streaks.
Chicago started the season by going a record 24 consecutive games without losing in regulation, which shattered the previous mark of 16 by the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks. Included in that great run of success was a franchise record of 11 straight wins.
Four days before the Blackhawks were finally defeated in regulation by the Colorado Avalanche on March 6, the Penguins began an impressive streak of their own with a thrilling 7-6 road victory against the Montreal Canadiens.
Fast forward 26 days and the Penguins have won 15 straight games and are now three wins away from breaking the all-time NHL record for the most consecutive victories in a single season (17), which was set by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh team that included Hall of Famers such as Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis.
With their 2-0 victory on Saturday afternoon against New York Islanders, the Penguins went undefeated in March, and made some history too (via Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
Long winning streaks are not uncommon with the Penguins, who have now gone on three 11-plus game winning streaks over the last three years.
Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp commented on both streaks after Friday's loss to the Anaheim Ducks (via Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times):
Is Sharp right, or is one of these streaks more impressive? Let's find out.
Level of Competition
One of the most impressive parts of the Penguins' streak is the fact that they have played so many of the best teams in the Eastern Conference this month and still haven't lost.
|Stat||Wins vs. Top-Eight Teams||Wins vs. 2012 Playoff Teams|
There's a perception among some fans that the East has been the stronger conference by far this season, but when you look at the standings, that's not the case.
|# of Teams||50+ Pts||40+ Pts||Positive GD||Top 10 in GF||Top 10 in GA|
The Penguins have played eight teams currently in the top eight of the Eastern Conference standings, and five of those victories were against the Boston Bruins (twice), Montreal Canadiens (twice) and Winnipeg Jets, who, along with Pittsburgh, occupy the top four spots in the standings.
None of those victories were the result of shootouts.
The Blackawks have a 2-0-3 record against the Western Conference's top four teams (Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild), and one of those wins was in a shootout. Chicago is also 2-1 against the Los Angeles Kings this season, who are flying under the radar a bit as the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Both streaks have included wins against a lot of good teams, but the Penguins deserve a slight advantage in this category because a higher percentage of their streak has been made up of wins against top-eight teams.
Wins in Regulation, OT and Shootout
|Stat||Games in Streak||W in Reg.||W in OT||W in SO||1-Goal W||W Trail First|
When the Penguins began their winning streak, the Blackhawks had the best record in the NHL by 13 points and seemed destined to earn home-ice advantage throughout the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. With 28 straight points, Pittsburgh now owns the NHL's best record at 28-8 (56 points) as of March 30.
Pittsburgh's impressive defense during its streak is the main reason why this team has needed overtime just three times.
The Penguins don't allow opposing teams to hang around and they capitalize on their scoring opportunities late in games.
Of the 52 goals that the Penguins have scored during their streak, 21 of them (40.3 percent) have come in the third period, which is really impressive. Pittsburgh has also allowed the first goal in half of its games during the streak, but this team doesn't get rattled and is fully confident in its ability to earn a comeback victory.
Chicago went to overtime 10 times during its streak, and even though a "win is a win," a smaller percentage of their wins came in regulation compared to Pittsburgh. With that said, the Penguins earn a very small advantage in this category.
The Penguins offense has been firing on all cylinders during this streak, with three goals or more scored in 10 of their 15 straight wins. They also have 10 comeback wins, including one two-goal comeback and one three-goal comeback.
The fascinating part of Pittsburgh's offensive success is the fact that superstar center and reigning scoring champion Evgeni Malkin has missed 10 of these wins because of an injury, while Norris Trophy candidate and No. 1 defenseman Kris Letang has missed five games during the streak.
Finding ways to win on a consistent basis without the second-best player in the world and the league's highest scoring defenseman is astonishing, and it proves how much scoring depth the Penguins have on their roster.
In addition to their goal scoring, the Penguins have also dominated defensively for most of this streak. Pittsburgh has allowed just 0.80 goals per game over the last 10 matchups including three straight shutouts.
The Blackhawks have also dealt with injuries to key players this season, including top-six forwards Marian Hossa and Sharp. However, Sharp played in every game during the Blackhawks' point streak and Hossa missed just one game in that span.
Chicago has been more balanced offensively with all four lines contributing, but the Penguins' top six of Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Brenden Morrow and Malkin represents the best two lines in hockey.
Despite having to be without two of their three best players for a combined 15 games, the Penguins have scored more goals than any team in the NHL and have averaged less than one goal against in their last 10 games.
No other team in the NHL would win 15 straight games if its second-best player and No. 1 defenseman missed that much time with injuries. Chicago would not have gone 24 games without losing in regulation if Patrick Kane (second-best player and leading scorer) and Duncan Keith (top defenseman) missed a combined 15 games.
Which Streak Is More Impressive?
The Blackhawks' streak was incredible, but winning 15 straight games (12 of them in regulation) is the more impressive run of success.
In a point streak, a team just has to win or reach overtime and the streak is alive, regardless if it wins or loses in the extra period. In a winning streak, there is a lot more pressure because the Penguins have to take two points from every game.
The level of difficulty in a winning streak is much higher than a point streak, which is why no team has ever won more than 17 games in a row in NHL history, while five teams have taken a point from at least 23 straight games.
The Penguins have more wins in this streak (15) than nine NHL teams have over the entire season, and four other teams have only 14 wins.
Consider the incredible defensive improvement by the Penguins while also maintaining their position as the league's highest-scoring team, and you have to give the advantage to Pittsburgh.
Right now, the Penguins' streak is a little more impressive, and if they extend it to 18 and break the NHL record, there will be no debate.
Do you agree? Is the Penguins' streak more impressive? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston. All salary information courtesy of Cap Geek.