Penguins chasing NHL record winning streak; will they break Mario’s mark?

Perhaps we’re all streaked out.

Perhaps the Chicago Blackhawks sucked all the air out of the room with their 24 “having not lost in regulation and earning at least a point” game streak earlier in the season. Perhaps the Miami Heat really jaded us on winning streaks with theirs, presented by ESPN.

Maybe it’s March Madness or springtime weather or the release of that weird sequel/quasi-reboot of “G.I. Joe.” (Anyone else a little freaked out by Joseph Gordon-Levitt sitting this one out, but suddenly Bruce Willis is in the movie? Dude, we saw “Looper.” We know what’s up.)

Perhaps we’re all overwhelmed. The Pittsburgh Penguins are getting an MVP season out of the best player in the world, and added three significant names – Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray and especially Jarome Iginla – in the last week. The winning streak seems like a footnote.

The Penguins are closing in on the NHL record for longest team winning streak. They’re at 14 straight wins; the record is 17, held by the 1992-1993 Pittsburgh team.

True to form, the only team that can beat the Penguins are the Penguins

The streak began as the month began: With a chaotic 7-6 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in overtime, on Brandon Sutter’s goal 52 seconds into the extra frame. It’s continued through Thursday’s 4-0 win over Winnipeg, with the chance to extend it again against the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon.

From the Post Gazette:

Oh, they're well aware of the roll they're on -- "It's pretty cool," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said -- but it isn't a topic of discussion among the players very often. If ever.

"We never really talk about it," center Brandon Sutter said. "We just kind of keep playing and try to keep doing what we're doing. There's really nothing to be said about it now."

… They've found a way to consistently win close games -- eight of their victories in the streak have been by one goal -- and their penalty-killing has returned to what has been, in recent years, its usual rarefied level: Opposing power plays have scored on just three of 26 tries in the past 10 games.

A few more facts about the Pens’ streak:

• They’ve scored 51 goals during the streak, averaging 3.64 goals per game.

• They’ve allowed 26 goals, or 1.89 goals per game. The season leader for GAA on the season are the Ottawa Senators at 1.95 GAA.

• Sidney Crosby had a point in every game save for one: March 16 vs. the New York Rangers. He has 25 points in the 14 games, including a 5-assist effort against the Islanders on March 10.

• Chris Kunitz had 11 goals in the 14 games.

• Malkin played in just four of the games, and had four points.

• Before his injury, Marc-Andre Fleury won eight of the 14 games, giving up one goal or less in each of his last five starts. He had a 1.97 GAA overall with a .928 save percentage. Call him Mr. March: Fleury is now 28-10-3 in the month over the last four seasons.

The only other teams to reach 14 straight wins were the 1929-30 Boston Bruins, the 2009-10 Washington Capitals (14), the 1981-82 New York Islanders (15) and 1992-93 Penguins.

That Penguins team went undefeated from March 9 through April 10, fueled by the return of Mario Lemieux from Hodgkin's Disease (March 9 was his second game back). He scored 51 points during the streak.

Yes: 51 points in 17 games. Because Mario, that’s why.

To break the NHL record, the 2012-13 Penguins will have to defeat these teams:

The Penguins are 3-1 against the Islanders. They defeated Buffalo in their only meeting. They defeated the Rangers three times without a loss, shutting them out twice.

Writing this post virtually assures that the Penguins will lose to the Islanders today, but if that jinx doesn’t take hold, the road ahead is manageable. Factor in the jolt from Iginla joining the team on Tuesday, and it’s entirely plausible that history will be made.

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