December 30, 2010

Memories of Wayne Gretzky's 51 Game Point Streak

On Wednesday night Sidney Crosby's amazing 25 game point scoring streak came to an end, thanks to the most unlikely of opponents - the lowly New York Islanders. The goaltender who accomplished the feat was Rick DiPietro.

Which instantly reminded me of Markus Mattsson. Mattsson is a long forgotten goaltender known for two trivia questions:
  1. On November 2, 1978, Mattsson, then with the WHA's Winnipeg Jets, surrendered Wayne Gretzky's first goal with the Edmonton Oilers.
  2. On January 28th, 1984, Mattsson, then with the Los Angeles Kings, held Wayne Gretzky pointless for the first time that season, ending Gretzky's 51 consecutive game point streak.
Playing just as an important role in the ending of that famous streak was the Kings' Dave Taylor. About a week earlier, Taylor slammed Gretzky with a devastating but clean hit. Gretzky suffered a severe shoulder bruise.

Had his record breaking streak not been on the line, Gretzky almost certainly would have stopped playing. But he soldiered on, extending the streak by three games (including a 2 goal, 4 point, 1 armed performance against Vancouver in game 50). After getting shutout in game 52, Gretzky did sit out the next six games to recover from the injury. But, as the league's biggest draw, Gretzky still participated in the annual All Star Game first!

Gretzky returned from the injury and scored points in 20 out of the 22 remaining games. He finished that season with an unthinkable 87 goals, 118 assists and 205 points in 74 games. In the amazing 51 game scoring streak he registered 61 goals and 92 assists for 153 points!

By the way, the record of 51 consecutive games with a point could be considered to be even higher. Gretzky's 51 straight games was from the start of the 1983-84 season. But he ended the previous season with a 10 game point scoring streak. Shouldn't the record be considered 61 games?

Here is a few more interesting numbers from Gretzky's amazing streak and season:
  • Twice Gretzky scored 8 points in a single game during the streak - 3 goals, 5 assists against New Jersey and 4 goals and 4 assists against Minnesota. He also had 7 points against Winnipeg, 6 against Quebec and 5 points on seven occasions (plus twice more after the streak ended).
  • Gretzky barely extended the streak to 44 games. In that 44th game he scored an empty net goal with just two seconds left in the game. It was his only point of that night.
  • Gretzky scored his 50th goal of the season in game 42. He had his 100th point in game 34!
  • The Oilers went 1-5 and were outscored 38-19 in the six games Gretzky missed.
  • The Oilers would win their first Stanley Cup that spring. Including playoff goals, Wayne Gretzky scored 100 goals that season.


JeffB said...

I vote we call it a 61 game point streak. It wasn't his fault summer arrived and he did score in 61 consecutive regular season games.

I suppose with that line of thinking we need to take into account the playoff games in between as well though...

Anonymous said...

It should be a 61 game regular game point streak...seems to me in all sports streak records can & do overlap from season-to-season (records of all types are separated into regular season & playoffs.....e.g. Babe Ruth's / Hank Aaron's home run records are only regular season homers, etc. etc. etc.)