Wed Apr 25 12:31pm EDT
The first rule of a streak do not talk about the streak — it goes back to one those sports psychologist ideas about staying in the moment.
Attention must be paid, though, to the Edmonton Oil Kings' 22-game run that's covered their last 11 games of the regular season and first 11 of the Western Hockey League playoffs. The Oil Kings might be loath to acknowledge it. On Tuesday, star centre Michael St. Croix quipped , "I'm pretty sure we're on a winning streak right now," after the Oil Kings shaded the Moose Jaw Warriors to take a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference final. However, the Laurent Brossoit-backed Oil Kings are the only unbeaten team remaining in the major junior playoffs after the Saint John Sea Dogs' overtime loss on Tuesday, so it's probably a good day to put what they've done into some rough historical perspective.
A 16-0 run to a league title has never happened in major junior hockey — and many would prefer it stays that way. Yet if the Oil Kings close out Moose Jaw on Wednesday, they will be just the third team to sweep three consecutive playoff rounds. And the 16-0 scenario is still in play.
From Dean Millard:
The 1989 Swift Current Broncos swept their way to a WHL title, however there were only three rounds to win, instead of the current four, so their streak was 12-0.
Since the four-round format no team has ran the table, but in the last few years there have been a pair of 12 game winning streaks.
Vancouver won their last 12 games to sew up a league title in 2006, While Calgary won its first 12 on route to the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2009 only to lose in the final to Kelowna.
As for a total win streak including the playoffs, it's 27 set but the 1980-81 Victoria Cougars, backstopped by Grant Fuhr.
So the current Oil King run puts them 2 playoff wins away from setting a record, and 6 from reaching the mark for longest run combined with a regular season streak. (Coming Down The Pipe!)
Of course, the only win teams care about is winning the final game of the season. Those 2006 Vancouver Giants did not reach the MasterCard Memorial Cup, although the following season Don Hay's team won it all as the host team after losing a thrilling seven-game championship series to the Medicine Hat Tigers. As Millard alluded to, in 2009 the Calgary Hitmen looked unstoppable through the first three rounds but lost the final to the Kelowna Rockets.
Whatever fate awaits Edmonton, the swath they're cutting through the Eastern Conference field borders on astounding. Coach Derek Laxdal's team has outscored opponents by a factor of three (48-16) during the playoff portion of the win streak. That rates better than the 50-22 goal differential they had during the regular-season part of their run. So at a time when the games are supposed to be getting tighter, the Oil Kings have put more distance between themselves and their opponents.
That is a tribute to Laxdal, GM Bob Green and the deep team they've assembled, particularly that defensive group with likely NHL first-rounder Griffin Reinhart (team-high +12 in the post-season) and Buffalo Sabres prospect Mark Pysyk. Offensively, they've been so balanced that two first-year players, 17-year-old Curtis Lazar and 18-year-old Henrik Samuelsson, are 1-2 in playoff scoring.
Whether it will continue is a guessing game. The Oil Kings only played their prospective championship-series opponents (no disrespect intended to the Warriors for looking ahead) once apiece, which hardly provides any template. They arguably outplayed the Tri-City Americans in an overtime loss in late January. They did score an 8-4 win over the Portland Winterhawks in October, but a game six months ago that Winterhawks star Sven Bärtschi missed carries little weight today.
Would people with no stake in the final cheer for the Oil Kings to do something that hasn't been done before, or pay more attention to see if they can be knocked off à la the 2007 New England Patriots? It might be human nature to go for the latter. It needs to be said, though, that a junior team rolling through the post-season unbeaten happens maybe once, twice in a lifetime. Here's a quick look at the last time it happened in each Canadian league.
WHL — The 1989 Swift Current Broncos went 12-0 while rolling to the title and followed it up by winning the Memorial Cup, beating the host Saskatoon Blades 4-3 on an overtime goal by Tim Tisdale to cap the all-Saskatchewan final. That was in a different era, with only three playoff rounds. How wide open was junior hockey in those days? The Broncos had five 100-point scorers that season.
OHL — Is this the cautionary example? In 1988, the Windsor Spitfires ran off 12 consecutive wins to take the J. Ross Robertson Cup and finished first in the Memorial Cup round-robin by going 3-0. But they had a three-day break before the championship game and got upended 7-6 in the final by the Trevor Linden-led Medicine Hat Tigers, who won a second consecutive title like Saint John is attempting to do this spring.
QMJHL — In 1986, the Hull Olympiques had a 15-0 playoff run fuelled by the late Pat Burns' coaching and the torrid scoring of Hockey Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille, who averaged nearly three points per game in the playoffs. Their third-leading scorer in the playoffs was Pat Brisson, Sidney Crosby's agent. (Why was it 15 games? The Q played best-of-9 series in those days. Imagine trying to get up for Game 5 when you're down 4-0.)
Like those '88 Spitfires, though, the 'Piques fell one win short of the ultimate prize, losing the final to the Jacques Martin-coached Guelph Platers. Curiously enough, that year's championship was held in Portland, where Edmonton's road to glory might take them. In the context of this season, that means nothing, but it is a neat coincidence.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.