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Blackhawks' 20-game start among best in history

by John Kreiser

The Chicago Blackhawks are off to the best 20-game start in NHL history -- they are the only team in League history to get points in each of their first 20 games. But in terms of where they rank among the best-ever 20-game segments, regardless of when they occur in a season, they're a step behind the best.

No team has won 20 in a row -- the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins hold the record with 17 consecutive wins, two of which came in overtime. The Blackhawks improved to 17-0-3 by beating St. Louis 3-0 on Thursday, giving them 37 points, one short of the most ever in a 20-game segment at any point in an NHL season. The Montreal Canadiens went 19-1-0 (38 points) in a 20-game segment of the 1967-68 season, still the best of any team in that number of games. Four other teams went 18-1-1 for 37 points; only the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings did so after the re-introduction of overtime. Seven more had 36 points; two were 16-0-4 and five teams went 17-1-2.

If the Hawks were playing under the rules that were in place before the shootout was adopted in 2005, their point total would shrink enough to drop them out of the best 20-game segments in League history. Chicago has just 12 regulation wins; three more came in overtime (not adopted until 1983-84); and two others (as well as three losses) were in shootouts.

If the Blackhawks were playing under the pre-1983 rules, in which games deadlocked after 60 minutes were counted as ties, they'd be 12-0-8 (32 points); move them into the overtime/pre-shootout era and that improves to 15-0-5 (35 points).

No. 3 with a bullet -- Another mark within the Blackhawks' reach is the most consecutive games with at least one point. Chicago stretched its streak to 26 games (the Blackhawks finished last season 3-0-3) by beating the Blues.

The Hawks now are two games behind the 28-game streak set by the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens. The all-time mark of 35 (25 wins, 10 ties), set by the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers, remains some distance away.

Depending on No. 91 -- Few teams' point total coincides with one player's production as the New York Islanders' does with John Tavares.

The fourth-year center is tied for second in the League with 13 goals and is tied for fourth in scoring with 25 points. But his points have come in just 13 of New York's 21 games -- and the Islanders are a different team when No. 91 hits the score sheet.

In the 13 games in which Tavares has at least one point, New York is 8-4-1 -- a pace that would easily get the Islanders into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But in the eight games in which he's been held off the score sheet, the Isles are 0-7-1; the lone point came Thursday in a 5-4 overtime loss to Toronto.

Tavares enters the weekend with a minus-9 rating, as does linemate Matt Moulson. But stats can be deceiving -- both players have been on the ice for five of the League-high six empty-net goals allowed by the Islanders this season (all of which came in February). Linemate Brad Boyes is minus-12, but has been on the ice for all six of the empty-netters.

In all, Tavares has been on the ice for 27 empty-net goals in his three-plus seasons, accounting for well over half of his career mark of minus-46.

No home advantage -- Maybe the Islanders should wear their road whites when they host Ottawa on Sunday, because they're not faring very well when they wear their home jerseys at the Nassau Coliseum.

Evgeni Nabokov
Evgeni Nabokov
Goalie - NYI
RECORD: 8-7-2
GAA: 3.04 | SVP: 0.899
The overtime loss to the Maple Leafs dropped the Islanders to a League-worst 2-8-1 in their own building. They've lost four in a row there and are 0-2-1 during their seven-game homestand. In contrast, New York is 6-3-1 away from Long Island, including victories at Toronto, Montreal, Pittsburgh and the Rangers.

Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, the losing goalie Thursday, is 6-1-1 in eight road games this season and is 13-4-3 in his previous 20 road games, dating to February 2012. In contrast, he's 4-9-2 in his last 15 home games at the Coliseum.

More surprising is that the St. Louis Blues also have run into troubles at home. The Blues are 4-5-1 at Scottrade Center this season, including a 1-5-1 mark in February. The five regulation losses are just one fewer than St. Louis had all of last season, when the Blues went 30-6-5 and tied Detroit for the most points in home games.

Working overtime -- Fans at HP Pavilion in San Jose lead the League in bonus hockey this season.

Thursday's 2-1 shootout loss to Detroit marked the sixth time in the past seven games the Sharks have gone to the tiebreaker to decide the outcome. San Jose has split the six games.

The Sharks and Nashville Predators lead the NHL with six shootouts apiece, part of a trend that has seen more than two-thirds of this season's 38 tiebreakers played between Western Conference teams. The Buffalo-Florida game on Thursday was just the 12th between Eastern Conference teams; the Red Wings and Sharks played the 26th tiebreaker in the West.

Practice makes perfect -- The play of Tuukka Rask has been more than enough to quiet any fears of goaltending problems in Boston following Tim Thomas' decision to sit out the season. And while he gets plenty of help, Rask seems to up his game when he sees more shots.

After making 36 saves in Tuesday's 4-1 win against the Islanders, Rask has allowed three or fewer goals in each of the last 16 games in which he's faced 35 or more shots -- and has surrendered more than three in just two of 27 such games in his NHL career.

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