News Column

Blackhawks Truly Defying Odds

March 5, 2013

By Kevin Allen

Enjoy the Chicago Blackhawks' 22-game season-opening point streak, because you are witnessing an event that likely won't happen again for centuries.

Richard Cleary, professor of mathematical sciences at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., pegs the probability of its occurrence at once every 700 years.

"It's the 'start of the season' thing that really makes it unlikely," he said. "The chance of some team getting points in 22 games in a row at some point in the season is much higher."

In other words, because an NHL team usually plays an 82-game schedule, it has 60 chances to start a 22-game streak of not losing in regulation. But a team has one opportunity to begin the season with a 22-game streak.

The Blackhawks (19-0-3) will be going for No. 23 today at home against the Minnesota Wild.

"What they have done is phenomenal," Nashville Predators general manager David Poile said. "If you ever thought something like this could happen, it wouldn't be in a condensed, 48-game schedule."

The Blackhawks have accomplished this in a season that offers less rest, tougher travel and seemingly a greater chance of injuries. They are in the midst of a stretch of playing seven games in 11 days.

"With all due respect to other teams that have had long streaks," Poile said, "I think this current era in the NHL has the most parity the league has ever had. There are no nights off. On any given night, anyone can beat anyone else."

Over the 22 games, the Blackhawks have won 12 one-goal games. They have trailed four times in the third period. They have been behind in a game 13.6% of the time and leading 44.2%.

Their closest brush with losing in regulation came in the ninth game against the Calgary Flames when Jay Bouwmeester scored with 34.2 seconds left to give the Flames a one-goal lead. But Marian Hossa scored with 3.1 seconds left, and the Blackhawks won in the shootout.

Sunday, Patrick Kane scored the tying goal against the Detroit Red Wings with 2:02 remaining in regulation and then scored the game-winner in a shootout.

"It's amazing," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "In a competitive league, they're not making it competitive. They find a way to win."

Twelve Chicago players have scored game-winning goals.

"What makes it fun is that it has been a different guy every night," Kane said.

Cleary, who teaches a math and sports course at his university, based the probability of the streak on the fact that a top NHL team earns a point in about 75% of its games. The math, he says, works out to a probability of it happening between one and two times every 1,000 years.

"Randomness is a lot streakier and clumpier than people expect," he said.

Cleary is also a hockey fan who appreciates what it has taken for the Blackhawks to accomplish the streak.

If the Blackhawks can win today and at home on Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche, Chicago will have gone half the season without a blemish in its regulation loss column.

"When you see the zero in the standings," Cleary said, "it is eye-popping."

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Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013


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