A tale of two win streaks: one 16 games, one 17 games. One featuring shootouts and the other ending in a tie.
Tony McCune/Wiki Commons, Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
For nearly 24 years, the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins held the record for the NHL's longest winning streak at 17 games. Then came the 2015-16 Columbus Blue Jackets, who went on a run so majestic that it could not be ignored. On Thursday night, the Blue Jackets made history by ...
... oh, they lost? The streak ended at 16 games, huh?
Well, when you have a premise for a column all sorted out, you can't let one streak-ending loss derail your plan.
The Blue Jackets fell short of history when they lost 5-0 to the Washington Capitals, but winning 16 straight was still remarkable. Some members of that record-setting Penguins team were calling the Blue Jackets' streak more impressive than theirs before it ended Thursday. Were those players being diplomatic? Or are they right? Is the Blue Jackets 16-game run more impressive than the Penguins' 17-game stretch in 1993?
Only through objective analysis can we find the answer. Let's go on this journey together.
Blue Jackets: 16
Analysis: The Penguins won 17 consecutive games; the Blue Jackets won 16 consecutive games. Using basic arithmetic, we can conclude that 17 is greater than 16, therefore the Penguins have the advantage in this category.
Penguins: 96 (5.65 per game)
Blue Jackets: 62 (3.88 per game)
Analysis: This one seems like a slam dunk when we again use the laws of mathematics, but what happens when we consider the eras in which these teams played? The average goals per game in the NHL in 1992-93 was 3.63, which means the Penguins were two goals above that. The average today is 2.72, so the Blue Jackets are about 1.2 goals per game above that. So, let's see, subtract from the greater number and ...
... OK, this is also the Penguins. It probably evens out eventually.
Penguins: 48 (2.82 per game)
Blue Jackets: 27 (1.69 per game)
Analysis: Using those same averages, the Penguins were 0.81 better than average; the Blue Jackets were a full goal better than average. So while the Penguins' streak was fueled more by offense, the Blue Jackets rode their goaltender more effectively. See? There's not much separating these teams.
Blue Jackets: 2
Analysis: Advantage, Columbus! It's pretty crazy that the Penguins were unable to win a single breakaway contest despite the bevy of offensive superstars on the roster. Sure, you may say that the Penguins are at a disadvantage because the shootout didn't exist then, but too bad. This race is getting closer.
HALL OF FAMERS
Penguins: 5 (Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Joe Mullen, Jaromir Jagr, Larry Murphy)
Blue Jackets: 5 (Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Sam Gagner, Cam Atkinson, Brandon Saad)
Analysis: Total push, even when we factor in eventual sure-fire Hall of Famers. There's no denying these teams were equally loaded. It's great that two generations of fans get to experience these separate streaks and can argue over which team was better.
WINS AGAINST TEAMS OVER .500
Penguins: 10 of 17
Blue Jackets: 8 of 16
Analysis: A close loss for the Blue Jackets. But hey, it's not their fault they played so many below-average teams. They didn't make the schedule. Sure, the Blue Jackets' streak ended in a throttling while the Penguins saw theirs snapped by a tie that could have gone to one of those two shootouts the Blue Jackets enjoyed during their streak if they had existed in 1993. That's not the Blue Jackets' fault.
Penguins: 612-511 (+101)
Blue Jackets: 514-472 (+42)
Analysis: How important are shots, really? Wait, they've been proven to be a great predictor of success in recent years? Damn. OK, OK. There has to be one of these that allow the Blue Jackets to flex their muscles. Oh, wait! I know!
POWER PLAY GOALS
Blue Jackets: 15
Analysis: Oh come on! All anyone talked about during this streak was the Blue Jackets power play! And still, the Penguins win again?
POWER PLAY GOALS ALLOWED
Blue Jackets: 10
Analysis: I'd love to give this to Columbus, but they played one fewer game and in an era when it's more difficult to score goals. There's nothing of substance about the Blue Jackets' streak that stands above the Penguins' streak. Let's do one more and call it a day, because this is getting embarrassing.
Penguins: Scotty Bowman
Blue Jackets: John Tortorella
Analysis: The Penguins had a Hall of Fame coach that won nine Stanley Cups. The Blue Jackets have a coach that tried to fight another coach, ran Team USA into the ground at the World Cup last year, and has been fired twice since 2013.
On second thought, these Blue Jackets winning 16 in a row with Tortorella isn't just a hell of a streak. It's the most impressive feat in NHL history. Congratulations to them.
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