Let’s Go Streaking

I must give forewarning because the title may have been misleading – what I’m looking at is the Chicago Blackhawks and the Miami Heat winning-streaks – or, in Chi Town’s case – points streak. It’s not looking at the other activity of streaking…at least not in the Shire anyway…at least not until May…at least excluding the Penguin Plunge…

Things have gotten heated on social media as of late, especially on Twitter, when ESPN asked whose streak was more impressive. The question received well over 10,000 tweet responses; all from omniscient, second comings of the Schwab who felt that their answer was correct.

So, whose streak impresses more?

Is it the Chicago Blackhawks who garnered a point in 24 straight games in the NHL (before falling to the Avalanche 6-2 on Friday night) or does that right belong to the NBA’s Miami Heat who had their superstars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade explode, each scoring above 24 points per game and nearly 6 assists during their current, 17-game win streak?

Well, there is a very fundamental discrepancy between the two. Miami hasn’t lost in 17 consecutive games while Chicago has avoided defeat in regulation for those 24 contests. So, really, for Chicago it’s a point-streak, not a win-streak as the Blackhawks have fallen three times in overtime.

How the NHL works is such: that a win rewards the victorious team with two points, an overtime-loss (including shootouts) with one point and a regulation loss warrants zero points. Therefore, to lose in overtime can perversely observed as a win for the defeated team.

It must be taken into account, however, that there is a margin of parity in the NHL, whereas no one pretends that anything of the sort presents itself on the hardwood. To prove that point: the point-percentage (games in which teams gained at least one point divided by the total games) for the Blackhawks was .634 whereas the Heat’s opponent winning percentage during their winning series tallies a .481.Even that number is skewed because of a few teams with absurdly high winning percentages, but there are 9 teams under .500 the Heat have taken on and defeated.

Those numbers don’t tell the entire tale because, of those 9 teams, five were 15 games under the 50-50 line, which is extremely high and shows the Heat have inflated their record with wins such as those. Those numbers are comparable because the NBA does not allow ties and NHL teams Chicago faced can accumulate anywhere from at least 2, to 6 draws. To eliminate draws would reduce the percentage drastically, but it would still be close to the Heat’s opponents winning percentage (.477).

Upon further examination of the two teams schedules would reveal that 20 out of the 24 teams Chicago challenged, the organization had between 10 and 13 wins out of a 24-game schedule and 19 of 24 had above-.500 records. Those near .500 records show that on any given night, anyone can skate away with the W. That’s parity at its finest. The Heat played 7 out of 17 teams with records above .500 – therefore, analytics say that Chicago has navigated a more challenging course this season. Also, Chicago won its first 12 games even, though 10 of them were on the road and their season led-off against the defending-champion Los Angeles Kings. Oh, and the NHL started during a strike-shortened season where many players were out of shape and the teams were not cohesive. There cannot be anything tougher than that.

Both teams play tenacious defense. The pair of goaltenders for the Blackhawks – Corey Crawford and Ray Emery – split playing time and yet both are in the top-four in save percentage and goals-against average. That includes Emery who started a perfect 10-0-0 for the season – a historic milestone for the tendy as Emery is the first ever to accomplish such a feat. A point for Miami is that they allowed less than 100 points in 12 of their 17 games and are averaging a mere 94.9 points per game. Their streak includes making another team from the Windy City – the Bulls – look dismal and stifled their offense as the Heat only gave up 67 points.

The unreal series of wins has been unusual in that there has not been a competitive, alpha-male spirit surrounding the coinciding streaks. In fact, there has been much love between the teams, including LeBron tweeting out that the Blackhawks were “awesome” and Bryan Bickell of the ‘Hawks reciprocating. Everyone has been tossing in their countenance as Mr. Hockey, Wayne Gretzky, offered to debate Mr. Basketball, Michael Jordan, on whose streak was more impressive. That would be more “awesome” than LeBron’s compliment, or even Barney Stinson, if it would happen.

The biggest knock against the Heat’s streak is that it’s hardly the best this season as opposed to the Blackhawks who are doing the best ever. The Los Angeles Clippers became domineers of the Staples Center by winning 17 in a row earlier this season.

It’s safe to conclude that the Blackhawks have the greater streak.

Just to be clear, though. How much do streaks really mean? Ask the 2007 Patriots who went on an 18-game tear but lost when it counted, or the 2002 Athletics who won 20 games in a row (a MLB record), or the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers who strung together a North American sports history record by going unbeaten in 35 straight contests. Other than winning a bunch of games in a row, those teams all have one thing in common: They all lost in the championship.

The season becomes nothing without a title, that’s something both the Blackhawks and the Heat should make sure to remember.

 

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