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Some records may be etched in permanent ink

Thursday, 07.21.2011 / 6:51 PM / Inside the Numbers

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Once upon a time, Gordie Howe's 801 goals and Terry Sawchuk's 103 shutouts were deemed unbreakable -- records that would stand the test of time. Then, along came Wayne Gretzky and Martin Brodeur, who dropped the former Detroit teammates back to No. 2 in their respective categories.

Players like Gretzky and Brodeur have set standards for the players of today and tomorrow to shoot at. But there are some records that don't figure to be broken for a long time, if ever. Here are a few of them:

Longest consecutive point-scoring streak: Wayne Gretzky, 51 games

It would be easy to write multiple stories about the legion of Gretzky records that are all but impossible to break -- 894 goals and 2,857 points in a career; 92 goals and 215 points in single seasons, to name a few.

But just as Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak remains the gold standard in baseball, Gretzky's streak of getting at least one point in each of the first 51 games in 1983-84 is one that figures to be almost impossible to top. The only serious run at it came six years later, when Mario Lemieux had points in 46 consecutive games before injuries knocked him out of the lineup -- proving that health is as important a factor as skill.

For an answer as to why Gretzky's streak will be so hard to top, consider that aside from Lemieux's 46-gamer, only Gretzky (39 games in 1985-86 and 30 games in 1982-83) and Quebec's Mats Sundin (30 in 1992-93) have streaks as long as 30 games. Sidney Crosby's 25-game streak last season is the longest in the NHL since Sundin's run.

Consider also that not only did Gretzky score every night during the streak, he scored a lot -- the Great One piled up 153 points, or three points a game, during his run.

Most goals by a rookie: Teemu Selanne, 76 in 1992-93

Mike Bossy became the first player to break the 50-goal mark as a rookie when he scored 53 times for the New York Islanders in 1977-78. No other first-year player had even reached 40 goals. But Selanne, an unknown from Finland, entered the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992-93 and immediately began terrorizing goaltenders. He blew past Bossy's rookie record and didn't stop until he'd reached 76 goals, tying him with Buffalo's Alexander Mogilny for the League lead.

Selanne added 56 assists for 132 points, also a record for first-year players.

Since then, the only rookie to score more than 45 goals was Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who had 52 (and 106 points) in 2005-06. Like Selanne, he won the Calder Trophy.

Selanne has gone on to score more than 600 NHL goals, and there's a berth in the Hall of Fame waiting for him after he retires. But The Finnish Flash has never come close to matching his rookie magic -- he dropped to 25 goals and 54 points in 51 games in his second season and didn't reach 50 goals again until 1996-97, when he had 51 for Anaheim.

Most consecutive top-five finishes in the scoring race: Gordie Howe, 20


To watch clips of Howe on the NHL Network today doesn't do Mr. Hockey justice. From 1949-50, when he was a 21-year-old in a six-team League dominated by defense, through 1968-69, when he was a 40-year-old in an expanded 12-team League, Howe was one of the NHL's top five scorers. Every year. It's a record of consistency that no player in hockey -- or any other sport -- figures to match any time soon.

Howe won five scoring titles, the last in 1962-63. But he still had six more top-five finishes in him -- including the best season of his career, a 103-point performance as a 40-year old in 1968-69, when he finished third. He "slumped" to ninth in the League in 1969-70 with 71 points in 76 games -- at age 41.

As brilliant as Wayne Gretzky was, his streak of top-5 finishes ended at 13. No one else since Howe has even come close to matching his brand of consistent brilliance.

Most coaching victories with one team: Al Arbour, New York Islanders, 740

Arbour, who had coached for parts of three seasons in St. Louis after retiring as a player, didn't even want to come to Long Island when GM Bill Torrey tried to lure him after the expansion team's disastrous first season in 1972-73 -- he thought it would be too much like New York City. Luckily for both sides, Torrey got him to change his mind.

Arbour became a Long Island institution while leading the Isles from the rubble of that first season to the Stanley Cup semifinals two years later. By 1980, they were Stanley Cup champions for the first time, then repeated the next three years before running up against the Edmonton Oilers in the 1984 Final, stopping the "Drive for Five" a few wins short.

Arbour left the Isles in 1986, came back again from 1988-94 before stepping down, then returned at the behest of then-coach Ted Nolan to coach his 1,500th game with the Isles (also a record) and notched the 740th and final win of his career when New York rallied to beat Pittsburgh 3-2.

Arbour's 782 career wins (he also had 42 with St. Louis) are second to Scotty Bowman. But considering that no one else is within 200 wins of his one-team mark (Lindy Ruff is next; he has 526 wins and counting with Buffalo) -- not to mention the attrition rate among NHL coaches -- Arbour's mark isn't likely to be challenged any time soon.

Most consecutive complete games by a goaltender: Glenn Hall, 502

It's said that a lot of life is simply showing up. Not only did Hall "show up" every night, he was as brilliant as he was durable.

Hall took the ice for the Detroit Red Wings' season-opener in 1955-56 and played all 70 games. He did the same thing the following season. The Wings sent him to Chicago in the summer of 1957, and he played all 70 games for the Hawks for five consecutive seasons, leading Chicago to a Stanley Cup in 1961.

Hall's streak of playing every minute of every game grew to 502 games. But in game No. 503, against Boston on Nov. 7, 1962, he had to be lifted in the first period due to a back injury. Hall wound up playing "only" 66 of Chicago's 70 games. Ironically, though his career lasted through the 1970-71 season, he played more than 50 games only once after 1963-64.

Given that the NHL season is longer, the travel is tougher and the game is far more physical, Hall's mark appears safe for the ages.

Best plus-minus total: Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins, plus-124 in 1970-71


Bobby Orr may not have been the greatest player in NHL history -- that's open to debate, and there are several worthy candidates. But no player in League history revolutionized the sport more than No. 4.

Before Orr, the job of a defenseman was to help keep the puck out of his own net. Defensemen would rarely "activate" (today's popular term) and get into the play. Then came Orr, who not only jumped into the play for the Boston Bruins but often led the rush -- yet he was such a brilliant skater that he was almost never out of position in his own zone.

In 1970-71, Orr became the only defenseman ever to exceed 100 assists in a season (he had 102) and finished with a mind-boggling plus-124 rating, nearly doubling his own 1968-69 record of plus-65 in the still-young statistic.

Montreal defenseman Larry Robinson came close to Orr's mark with a plus-120 rating in 1976-77, but no one else has ever been more than plus-98. With increased parity around the NHL, no one has put up a better rating in the last 20 years than the plus-60 by Detroit's Vladimir Konstantinov in 1995-96. The last player as high as plus-50 was Washington's Jeff Schultz, who reached that mark in 2009-10. Boston's Zdeno Chara was tops in the League last season at plus-33, barely a quarter of Orr's increasingly unreal total.

Orr's opposite is also the holder of a record that's not likely to be broken. Bill Mikkelson, who had been minus-54 as a member of the expansion Islanders in 1972-73, went a record minus-82 in 59 games with the expansion Washington Capitals two years later -- the same season Orr was plus-84 for the Bruins.

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery