Observing the landscape of the NHL over the last week, one cliche stands out: It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
Teams like the Calgary Flames, who got off to a rough start, bounced back and ended up riding one of the NHL’s longest winning streaks this season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning endured a difficult two-month stretch that saw them land in the basement of the East. They’re now within a point of the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Boston Bruins spent most of the season treading water until they fired former coach Claude Julien. They have been on a roll since naming Bruce Cassidy the interim head coach.
Conversely, teams like the Philadelphia Flyers fell into a downward spiral after hitting a long winning streak in December. The Columbus Blue Jackets have leveled out following an incredible streak that lasted over a month.
If it seems like so many teams have gone on long winning streaks in the NHL this season, it’s because they have. In this week’s edition of Around The NHL, we’ll look at some of these winning streaks, as well as which of these teams set a new franchise record, an unexpected contender for both the Rocket Richard and Art Ross Trophies, and a playoff game in Norway that turned into the longest game in hockey history.
The Calgary Flames Are The Latest To Join The Double-Digit Win Streak Club
On Monday night, the Flames tied the longest win streak in franchise history when they beat the Penguins 4-3 in a shootout for their 10th straight win. Their recent string of success briefly vaulted them into the top three of the Pacific Division, although the streak came to an end two nights later in a 5-2 loss to the Bruins.
The streak was notable because it made Calgary the fourth team in the NHL this season to put together a winning streak of 10 games or longer. That had never happened before in NHL history. The other teams to accomplish that feat this season are the Flyers (10 games), the Minnesota Wild (12 games), and the Columbus Blue Jackets (16 games).
Columbus’s 16-game streak was one short of tying the NHL record. On top of that, the Washington Capitals nearly made it five teams when they won nine consecutive games.
What’s intriguing is how each team has followed up their extended runs of success. Philadelphia has fared the worst, as they followed up their 10-game streak by going 3-9-3 in their next 15 games. They’re currently six points out of the last playoff spot.
After a loss to Columbus ended their 12-game surge, Minnesota followed it up by going 5-0-1 in their next six. However, they’ve hit a recent slide losing three in a row and falling three points behind Chicago for the Central Division lead.
The Blue Jackets were the talk of the hockey world when they reeled off their 16-game winning streak, which came to an end in a 5-0 loss in Washington on January 5. Before that setback, it looked like the Jackets would at least tie the Pittsburgh Penguins’ record of 17 straight wins, set in the 1992-93 season.
However, Columbus went 5-7-0 in the 12 games after their incredible run, and have regressed to the mean since that time. Before the streak-busting loss to the Capitals, the Jackets were 27-5-4. Since then, they’ve gone 18-13-2.
I expect Calgary to have a similar experience over the course of the remaining three weeks of the regular season. It takes a lot to keep a long winning streak going. As we’ve seen from the Flyers and Jackets, it can be difficult to maintain that momentum after watching a long streak come to an end. It’ll be intriguing to watch how the Flames respond to their streak reaching its conclusion.
Brad Marchand In Contention For The Art Ross And Rocket Richard Trophies
Yep, you read that right. That isn’t a typo. Brad Marchand was once known primarily as a super pest and is still known as a player that has had his share of run-ins with the Department of Player Safety. However, Marchand is now leading the league in goals. He’s tied for the league lead in points.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen the gradual metamorphosis of Marchand from being a thorn in the side to being one of the league’s most productive forces with the puck. Marchand’s 37 goals are two ahead of Sidney Crosby entering Friday night’s games, while his 79 points are tied with Connor McDavid.
We expected to see Crosby and McDavid among the league leaders in both goals and points. Nobody saw Marchand being in the running for the Art Ross Trophy. The Richard Trophy was a possibility as Marchand’s 37 goals a season ago were the sixth-most in the NHL.
However, his point total was 61 in 77 games, good for 35th in the league. Before last season’s breakout, Marchand’s previous career-high in goals and points was 28 and 55, respectively, during the 2011-12 season.
Heading into the season, many people were expecting McDavid to be a favorite for the Art Ross. As it turns out, he’s going to have some unexpected competition over the final few weeks of the season.
Norwegian Hockey Teams Play 11 Periods Of Hockey
On Sunday night, the Storhamar Dragons and Sparta Warriors, two teams Norway’s top hockey league, the GET-ligaen, entered Game 5 of their playoff series tied 2-2. Little did the two squads know that both teams were about to make hockey history.
Eight-and-a-half hours and nearly eight complete overtime periods later, Storhamar came out on top by a 2-1 score. Joakim Jensen earned the OT winner with 2:46 remaining in the 11th period of play, giving Storhamar a 3-2 series lead. The shots on goal? 96-93 in favor of Storhamar.
Can you imagine making 94 saves in a game and losing? How about having to take that bus ride home after such a marathon affair? That must have been brutal.
This game set a record for the longest game in hockey history, featuring 217 minutes and 14 seconds of play. The Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Maroons set the previous record in 1936 by playing for 176 minutes, 30 seconds, ending on a goal by Mud Bruneteau in the sixth overtime.
Storhamar and Sparta played for so long that the local police department got calls concerning people that were thought to be missing. They put out a pair of tweets that roughly translated to the fact they were notifying people that their loved ones weren’t missing, they were just watching a marathon of a hockey game:
Hamar; Grunnet hockeykampen mellom Storhamar og Sparta, som har vart noe lengre enn vanlig, er det folk som savner sine kjære.
— Politiet i Innlandet (@politiinnlandet) March 13, 2017
Flere henvendelser til politiet om dette. Til info så er ikke kampen ferdigspilt.
— Politiet i Innlandet (@politiinnlandet) March 13, 2017
Storhamar forward Joey Tenute said in an interview in the hours after the game that he and his teammates were doing whatever it took to keep their bodies fueled and hydrated.
“It just seemed like every time you would look up at the clock there would be one minute left in another overtime and another overtime,” said Joey Tenute, forward for the Dragons.
He says that in the blur of all the action, his teammates went into survival mode in this crucial playoff game. During breaks, they would try to refuel as much as possible just to keep their energy up.
“There was pizza going around at some point, some pasta, some bread and peanut butter, sports drinks.
“Guys were getting taped up and battling through cramping … it happened really fast and looking back now it it’s almost surreal that it actually happened.”
Despite winning the longest game in hockey history, Storhamar lost the series. They lost Game 6 4-1 and then dropped Game 7 by a 1-0 score.
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