Record-setting Flyers of old a lot like these Blackhawks
By NEIL HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org March 4, 2013 10:48PM
MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 01: 1980: Bobby Clarke #16 of the Philadelphia Flyers and Rod Langway #17 of the Montreal Canadiens look on (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)
When Brian Propp watches the Blackhawks, he is reminded of his rookie year in 1979. That’s because the former left winger said the Hawks have many of the same traits as the Philadelphia Flyers team that established an NHL-record with a 35-game unbeaten streak.
In fact, the five-time All-Star says what the Hawks have already accomplished compares to the Flyers’ historic run.
“Any time you see teams rattling off a streak like this, it’s amazing,” he said. “As close as all the teams are in today’s hockey, it’s even harder to put a streak like this together.”
It’s 22 games without a regulation loss and counting for the Blackhawks, who will try to extend what is an ongoing record for the longest points streak to start a season when the Minnesota Wild visits the United Center on Tuesday night.
“It’s great excitement, great for the city, great for the visiting team and great for the NHL,” Propp said. “After the lockout, this gives everybody something to talk about around the world.”
The Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and ’75. Propp joined a veteran team that included Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach, Rick MacLeish and Bill Barber for the 1979-80 season.
The Flyers opened with a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders, then lost to Atlanta 9-2 before starting the streak, which began Oct. 16 and ended with a 7-1 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 7, 1980.
The previous record had been 28, set by the Canadians.
“Everybody is playing their best game against [the Blackhawks],” said John Paddock, who also was a rookie left winger on that Flyers team. “It’s a big thing to stop their streak. There are never any easy games. We all like saying that, but they’re definitely getting everybody’s ‘A’ game. Everybody is gearing up for Chicago, and they’re persevering. That’s the amazing part.”
Paddock, the Flyers’ assistant general manager, noticed another similarity between those Flyers and these Hawks.
“Bobby Clarke was our leader whenever he stepped on the ice, and the Blackhawks have someone in Jonathan Toews who will put his mark on that team for 10 years,” he said. “You can’t have that kind of a streak without that kind of leadership.”
The NHL didn’t have overtime or shootouts back then. Now teams get points for losses in overtime games and in shootouts.
Still, Propp believes what the Hawks are doing is more difficult to accomplish.
“Every team is very even,” he said. “Look at the playoffs now. If you get in, you have a chance to win. In the ’70s and ’80s, you had eight or 10 teams that were powerful, and then there was a big dropoff. That makes me appreciate what they’re doing even more.”
The Blackhawks only can hope they avoid the Flyers’ fate. They lost to the Islanders in the Stanley Cup finals on Bob Nystrom’s overtime goal in Game 6.
It was the first of four Cups in a row for the Islanders.
“Every year in Philadelphia it was Stanley Cup or bust, but that streak made us want to win even more,” Propp said.
Propp and Paddock might admire what the Hawks have accomplished, but that doesn’t mean they are rooting for them to break the record they have owned for more than three decades.
“People who say records are made to be broken never had a record,” Propp said.
“I agree,” said Paddock.