Flyers Greatest Moments: The Streak
At the start of the 1979-80 season, the Flyers opened with a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders on Oct. 11. Two nights later, they lost to the Atlanta Flames, 9-2. Their third game of the season was the next night on Oct. 14, and the Flyers squeaked out a 4-3 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
That was the start of a streak that lasted nearly three months and spanned 35 games. Nothing has approached it since either.
Here is a look back at another Flyers Greatest Moment, the Streak.
Over the course of the 35-game unbeaten streak, the Flyers posted a 25-0-10 record, but the 35 games didn’t come without some close calls.
After the 4-3 win over Toronto to start the streak, the Flyers won the next two games handily against Atlanta and Detroit. They appeared to be on their way to a fourth-straight win against Montreal, but let a 6-2 lead get away and played to a 6-6 tie with Montreal on Oct. 21.
In the sixth game of the streak, the Flyers were deadlocked with the Red Wings at four when Reggie Leach scored with one minute left in regulation to give the Flyers the win.
The 13th game of the streak was another tie, a 3-3 decision against St. Louis. They also tied Edmonton, 2-2, in the 17th game of the streak.
At the start of December, the Flyers played to three straight ties to extend the streak to 22. There was another tie against the Blackhawks in the 24th game of the streak.
The streak was in danger against Buffalo on Dec. 15, but two third-period goals from Bob Dailey and Rick MacLeish extended the streak to 26 games. The next two games of the streak were both ties. The 28th straight game without a defeat came very close for comfort, as a Behn Wilson goal with 4:08 remaining in the third tied the game against Pittsburgh.
The 28th straight game without a defeat matched the NHL record, previously set two seasons earlier by the Montreal Canadiens.
The 29th straight game without a defeat came on Dec. 22 at Boston Garden. The Flyers got a goal from Bobby Clarke at 5:58 of the first and a power-play tally from Bill Barber at 8:51 to open up a 2-0 lead. Ken Linseman scored 56 seconds into the second for the eventual game-winning goal. Goals by Tom Songin and Mike Milbury separated by just 1:07 cut the lead to one, but Jimmy Watson answered back just 30 seconds later to restore the two-goal lead. Bob Kelly capped the scoring at 10:21 of the third to complete the victory.
With the record in hand, the Flyers streak reached 30 games with a 4-2 win over Hartford on Dec. 23 at the Spectrum. It was the last game of the unbeaten streak played in Philadelphia. The Flyers tied in their next game in Hartford, 4-4, on Dec. 26. They won their next two games to close out the 1979 portion of the schedule, then won their first of 1980 against the Rangers.
The final game of the unbeaten streak came on Jan. 6 in Buffalo. The Flyers scored first when Al Hill got on the board at 12:34 of the first. A Rick Martin power-play goal at 15:36 tied the game, then Danny Gare scored at 5:44 of the second to give Buffalo the lead. Dennis Vervegaert tied the game at 16:46. In the third, the Flyers scored the only two goals of the period, with Barber striking at 3:45 and MacLeish capping the scoring at 14:47. The streak had reached 35 games with the 25th win.
On the final game of a six-game road trip on Jan. 7, the streak finally came to an end against the Minnesota North Stars. The Flyers struck first with Barber tallying at 3:49 of the first, but it was all Minnesota after that. Mike Eaves scored on the power play at 13:16, Greg Smith scored at 14:25 and Steve Payne at 18:54 to make it 3-1. Late in the second, Craig Hartsburg scored on the power play at 15:33 and Mike Polich added another just 21 seconds later to make it 5-1. The rout was on and it was capped with goals by Ron Zanussi and Bobby Smith in the third.
At the conclusion of the 35-game streak, the Flyers had a 26-2-10 record on the season. Three nights later, the Flyers won on home ice against Winnipeg and proceeded to carry an unbeaten streak on home ice to 26 games. That came to an end on Feb. 7 with a 4-1 loss to Vancouver. The 26-game home unbeaten streak ranks third all-time behind the 1970-71 Boston Bruins (27 games) and the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens (34 games).
Powered by the 35-game streak, the Flyers finished the 1979-80 season with a 48-12-20 record, easily claiming the Patrick Division title. They appeared to be an immovable force in the playoffs too, sweeping the Oilers in the preliminary round and winning in five games against the Rangers in the quarter-finals and against the North Stars in the semi-finals to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. They fell just short of the title to the New York Islanders, the team they had defeated to open the season, in six games.
Still, the unbeaten streak is something that has been in the record books ever since. The Flyers had actually come close to setting the record back in 1975-76, putting together a 23-game unbeaten streak that matched the 1940-41 Boston Bruins. Many of the longest unbeaten streaks were established prior to the Flyers run in 1979-80 and with the structure of the standings changing over time -- the elimination of ties following the 2004-05 NHL lockout made unbeaten streaks even more difficult to achieve -- not many teams have even come close to the Flyers 35-game record.
In the post-lockout era, the 2016-17 Columbus Blue Jackets posted a 16-game winning streak. Beyond that, the most recent teams to achieve a streak of 16 games or more were the 1996-97 Flyers, who went 17 straight games without a loss, and the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins, who had an 18-game streak. In that 18-game streak, the Penguins won 17 straight games, which is an NHL record. The Blue Jackets’ 16-game streak is second on the list.
Additionally, there has been no unbeaten streak in professional North American sports that has topped the Flyers 35-game streak. The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers hold the NBA record with 33 straight wins. The New England Patriots won 21 consecutive games from Week 5 of the 2003 NFL season to Week 6 of the 2004 NFL season. The 2017 Cleveland Indians set a modern-era record with a 22-game winning streak, coming five games short of the overall record set by the 1916 New York Giants -- (Note: the 1916 Giants’ 27-game unbeaten streak contained 26 wins and one tie.)
A few other facts and figures from the Flyers 35-game unbeaten streak:
- The Flyers set an NHL record for the most standings points and fewest losses after the first 23-37 games of a season.
- The only team the Flyers didn’t play during the streak was the Washington Capitals.
- Of the Flyers 10 ties during the streak, they scored the last goal just twice.
- In the record-setting 29th game of the streak, Bobby Clarke recorded his 900th career point.
- The Flyers were outshot in eight games during the streak, including a 40-25 deficit in the Dec. 1 tie against Toronto.
You can watch a video from the NHL 100 celebration on the Streak below:
The series of Flyers Greatest Moments will continue on Friday with a look back to the debut of Eric Lindros.