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Blackhawks or Heat: Who ya got? A PHT-PBT original

Mar 6, 2013, 1:55 PM EDT


As you may have heard, the Chicago Blackhawks are on quite a roll.

As you also may have heard, so too are the Miami Heat.

You may also have heard some national pundits yelling at clouds discussing which streak is more impressive — Chicago going 23 games without a regulation loss, or Miami winning 15 in a row.

In the spirit of healthy debate (as opposed to loud noises), I reached out to ProHockeyTalk’s Jason Brough for a pleasant email exchange.

To: Jason Brough, ProHockeyTalk
From: Kurt Helin, ProBasketballTalk

Gentlemen, we have been brought here to discuss what seems to be the sports bar debate of the week — at least in some mythical sports bar where the NHL and NBA demographics overlap — and that is the Miami Heat streak of 15 straight wins vs. the Chicago Blackhawks streak of 23 games in a row earning a point.

The challenge is, this isn’t even comparing apples and oranges. It’s more like comparing apples and barbecue brisket. But because of my giving nature, I’m willing to concede one point from the start — the Blackhawks streak is already historic to its sport in a way the Heat streak is not yet. I think it’s just hard for some basketball (and maybe general sports fans) to get their arms around what the Blackhawks streak means, really. So, what does it mean?

From Jason at ProHockeyTalk: Oh, so that’s how you’re going to play this. Like a respectable human being. I was thinking we were going to argue LIKE THIS and belittle one team’s remarkable accomplishment, because that’s what sports in the modern age is all about. Think of the page views! But I guess if you want to be boring, I’ll just answer your question politely.

Of all the remarkable things about the Blackhawks’ streak, perhaps the most remarkable is this: It’s really, really hard to build a dominant team in the NHL, where unlike the NBA with its luxury-tax system, there’s a hard salary cap. Chicago’s cap payroll is about $67 million. The lowest cap payroll in the NHL belongs to Phoenix, at about $50 million.. And let’s not forget the best hockey player can, at best, play half the game. Nobody sits on the bench all game, except the backup goalie. Oh, and by the way, the ‘Hawks’ backup goalie has been great this season. Have the Heat been getting unexpected contributions, or has it mostly been LeBron?

Kurt: Oh, I’m not going to stay respectable — WE ARE GOING TO ARGUE! I expect we will degenerate into a dozens battle soon.

First though, it’s not just been LeBron James, although he remains the best basketball player walking the planet and that’s a good guy to have on your team. LeBron’s playing at a Jordanesque level right now and while that pisses off people who hate LeBron/want to defend Michael Jordan (as if he actually needs defending) it’s just a fact. But like I said it’s not just LeBron, Dwyane Wade has been great during the streak. In his last five games Wade has been averaging 27.4 points a game on 59 percent shooting. Chris Bosh has had good games. They are defending. It’s a team thing, just with LeBron as the head of the snake.

Here’s where I see the streaks as different — the ‘Hawks streak is meaningless come the playoffs. Last season the eight-seed Kings won the Stanley Cup and got to take it around Manhattan Beach all summer. Playoff hockey and regular season hockey seem largely unrelated, and while Bill James and his stats friends embrace the randomness it means that this streak is dead come the playoffs. It’s seeding and nothing more. In the NBA, only one team outside a top three seed has won a title since going to this playoff format (and that Rockets team traded for Clyde Drexler midseason). What the Heat are doing will carry over to the games that matter. What the ‘Hawks are doing becomes irrelevant. Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong.


PHT’s Jason: You’re wrong.

Not insanely wrong, but wrong nonetheless. It still helps to have home-ice advantage in the playoffs. And in a league like the NHL, where parity reigns, any advantage is worth having. Have you seen the atmosphere at the United Center for ‘Hawks games? Let’s just say, it doesn’t have the same sad, Derrick Rose-less feel as when the Bulls play. Chicago will take as many home games as it can get. As for the Kings, they were far from a typical No. 8 seed. They badly underachieved during the regular season given the players on their roster. (Sort of like another Los Angeles team you may be familiar with, though I’m not sure that one can win a title.) Plus, the Kings got Jeff Carter in a late-season trade. Not sure he had the same impact as Clyde with the Rockets, but he did score eight times in the playoffs, tied with Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar for the team lead.

That said, I will give you this: the Blackhawks are beatable. Do you think the Heat are beatable?

Kurt: If you keep insulting basketball I’m going to bring up how foolish the NHL looked during its lockout. That was embarrassing. The NBA would never… oh, wait. Nevermind.

I heard an interesting thing All-Star weekend from a person with another team, who said the Spurs actually are the team best suited to beat the Heat. San Antonio has veterans who have won, they move the ball very well and move off the ball (which is how to attack the Miami pressure), they have Tim Duncan and the size to score inside, and they have role guys who buy the system. It makes sense. Except I don’t see the Spurs getting past the Thunder (they couldn’t last year and the Thunder are improved). So while no team “can’t be beat” it’s hard to see how anyone beats the Heat if they are focused. And the reason they have won 15 in a row is they are focused.

Speaking of lockout, I’m curious — how are guys holding up physically? The reduced recovery time of a condensed schedule wore down NBA players and, while the NBA is a physical league (just ask Blake Griffin), the NBA doesn’t allow checking and full contact.

(Unless it’s from J.J. Barea, then it’s just cute.)


PHT’s Jason: How are guys holding up? The answer is, not well. Granted, how much all the injuries we’re seeing in hockey has to do with the lockout is impossible to say. But I feel like I’ve written the word “groin” more than usual this season. And not in the “Serge Ibaka slapped one” way.

In fact, if the Blackhawks are going to be stopped, injuries may be what does it. So far, they’ve been pretty lucky in the health department. Dave Bolland and Corey Crawford have missed some time, but that’s nothing compared to what teams like the Flyers, Red Wings, Senators, Blues, and others have experienced. Fingers are always crossed in the NHL, especially when you have key players with concussion histories, as the ‘Hawks do with Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook. But for now, everyone’s enjoying the ride. The Blackhawks host struggling Colorado tonight and get the Avs again Friday night in Denver. Then it’s Edmonton and Columbus, two more bad teams. Which is to say, this streak could go on for a while longer. Jinx!

Kurt: Frankly, we’ve all been typing “groin” too much this season.

So to sum up, you admit that the Heat streak is better than the Blackhawks’ and that hockey is the sport for people who can’t understand the subtleties of NASCAR. At least that’s what I got out of it. Maybe you saw it differently.

PHT’S Jason: Basketball sucks.

  1. baned0n - Mar 6, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    Seems to me that the way to compare the streaks is to compare them relative to the best ever in the respective leagues.

    The Blackhawks streak is now something like 6 short of the all time point streak if you go back to last season. They’re also about 7 short of the all time win streak.

    The Miami Heat are 18 games behind the all time NBA win streak.

    The Heat’s streak is impressive, of course, but it’s just not as historical as the Blackhawks streak.

    • kopy - Mar 6, 2013 at 3:21 PM

      The Miami Heat are also 2 games behind the streak that the LA Clippers just had this same season.

      It’s a nice streak, but it isn’t even the best in the NBA this year. Why would it touch the Blackhawks?

  2. miamatt - Mar 6, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    I suppose the numbnuts who claim the Heat’s title in a lockout year “doesn’t count” or “deserves an asterisk” will now be forced to concede that Miami’s current streak is more impressive than that of the Blackhawks.

  3. bucrightoff - Mar 6, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    Kurt might have had a chance if not for saying the Thunder are better this year than last. Sorry, but not having Harden in the playoffs is going to be massive. He made the difference in the San Antonio series last year.

    • Kurt Helin - Mar 6, 2013 at 3:24 PM

      The Thunder are better — last season they scored 109.8 points per 100 possessions, this season it is 113.1 (their defense was almost identical the last two seasons, 103.1 and 103.2). They will miss Harden in the playoffs, but the fact is Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka are all under 25 and are coming off their first Olympics, which seemed to push all of them to new levels.

    • bucrightoff - Mar 6, 2013 at 3:27 PM

      I see what you’re saying, but we all know in the postseason the game becomes much different. The game slows down, rotatations shorten, and having a guy like James Harden who can create offense for himself and others means so much more than a guy like Kevin Martin. If OKC plays Miami again I think the Heat match up even better this year than last.

      • basedrum777 - Mar 6, 2013 at 3:49 PM

        Is that the same James Harden who DISAPPEARED against Miami last year? Yeah I’m not sure it’ll make a difference as OKC doesn’t match up well with MIA but Harden did zero to help that case last year. That’s why they didn’t pay him…

  4. Stiller43 - Mar 6, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    “Here’s where I see the streaks as different in the streaks — the ‘Hawks streak is meaningless come the playoffs. Last season the eight-seed Kings won the Stanley Cup and got to take it around Manhattan Beach all summer. Playoff hockey and regular season hockey seem largely unrelated, and while Bill James and his stats friends embrace the randomness it means that this streak is dead come the playoffs.

    It’s seeding and nothing more. In the NBA, only one team outside a top three seed has won a title since going to this playoff format (and that Rockets team traded for Clyde Drexler midseason). What the Heat are doing will carry over to the games that matter. What the ‘Hawks are doing becomes irrelevant.”

    The fact no one outside the 3 seed has won means:

    – in the NBA, the better team usually always wins (you can predict almost every single playoff team before the season, save for maybe the 8 seed). Most knew (thought) the heat would be easily in the finals. In hockey, a lot of people picked the rangers or flyers to win the east. Halfway through the season, theyre fighting for a playoff spot.

    – there is more parity in the NHL than the NBA. In the NHL, a few lucky/unlucky bounces, and a “lesser” team can easily beat you.

    Even if both streaks were at 15 right now, it would be the blackhawks. The fact the hawks have doubled it? It shouldnt even be a question.

  5. comeonnowguys - Mar 6, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    The Blackhawks had a five-day training camp, and then proceeded to play their first 10 of twelve games on the road against some of the best goalies in the conference. Including both goalies from last years Western Conference finals. That should have been good for at least two or three regulation losses right there.

    It’s kind of ridiculous what they’re doing.

  6. cosanostra71 - Mar 6, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    They lost to the Ducks in a shoot out! Go Ducks!

    • baned0n - Mar 6, 2013 at 3:00 PM

      Shootouts are like having a slam dunk contest to determine the winner of an NBA game after one OT.

      Dammit…the Heat would win that too.

      • cosanostra71 - Mar 6, 2013 at 3:23 PM

        Whatever, the Ducks still won!

  7. taktrevor - Mar 6, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    Kurt “wins” the debate, but not on merit.

    Since the NHL did away with Ties, and now uses OTLs, what is the context of the Blackhawks streak. I’m really curious to know in that regard. We can’t simply count them as completely even. They are losses, and while a point streak is a point streak and points are the point of playing, they have indeed lost.

    Miami is on a winning streak. It’s not historically good. It is entertaining however, and I have not found the Blackhawks to be entertaining, though I do watch hockey. (I watch everything. There is not an NBC Talk page I don’t read every post of, because I pretend SoccerTalk doesn’t exist.)

    So there’s that, which is nice.

    • comeonnowguys - Mar 6, 2013 at 3:27 PM

      They’re technically OTLs, but to get to that point, you have to be tied through regulation, then sudden-death overtime. All of the Hawks’ OTLs are from the skills competition that comes after one period of sudden-death overtime.

      The standard reaction after a shootout win: “That’s, um… two points? Wow.”
      The standard reaction after a shootout loss: “Wait, what?”

    • baned0n - Mar 6, 2013 at 4:08 PM

      If you’re going to fault the Hawks for OTL’s, then you have to equalize things for the Heat. On Feb 26th, the Heat beat the Kings, but only after 2 OT’s. Which means, like the Blackhawks, they were tied after a single OT.

      So if we’re gonna fault the Blackhawks for not winning after one OT, don’t we have to ding the Heat for the same thing?

      • taktrevor - Mar 6, 2013 at 4:28 PM

        I don’t fault the Hawks at all. I think they have the better streak overall, I’m just wondering when people call it historically good, what is it’s context against history.

        The Clippers have had a better run even this year, so it’s not that I think Miami has the better streak, I’m just enjoying theirs more.

        I said Kurt won, not because I agree, but because I thought he was funnier. I’m here to be entertained. This is an entertainment business.

  8. ThatGuy - Mar 6, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    The Heat’s streak isn’t even the longest streak in the NBA this season(Clippers had a 17 gamer). Point. Set. Match.

  9. 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 6, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    I hope we (yes, we) lose tonight. The streak is meaningless. All it does is give a-holes like you (yes, YOU) an opportunity to downgrade the Heat for something that has nothing to do with the brilliant basketball they’re playing. Who cares about what’s more impressive. Neither are impressive, how about that.

    The goal isn’t to be on a regular season win streak. The goal isn’t to win a corporate sponsored dunking exhibition. The goal isn’t to win MVP. The goal isn’t to win 72 regular season games.

    The goal is singular. At the end of the last game of the NBA Finals, David Stern begins his speech by congratulating Western Conference Team X on a well played series before handing Larry over to Micky Arison.

    • crosberries - Mar 6, 2013 at 4:44 PM

      Actually the Blackhawks streak is impressive. The heat…not at all

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 6, 2013 at 5:00 PM

        Exhibit A, Your Honor.

  10. jimeejohnson - Mar 6, 2013 at 9:03 PM

    Imagine basketball players on skates…Zdeno Chara on the basketball court. These two sports are mutually exclusive but incredible, nonetheless, in their own right. I’ll take skating on a creek at night under a clear sky over hoops under the lights anyday. Something about skating…

  11. letsgonuclear - Mar 7, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    The NHL streak can’t be compared to any actual winning streak. Because, you know, they didn’t actually win all of the games in their streak.

    “So if we’re gonna fault the Blackhawks for not winning after one OT, don’t we have to ding the Heat for the same thing?”

    Or not. Because Miami actually managed to end up winnig the game. Which is something Chicago has failed to do multiple times in this so-called “streak”.

  12. Jackson Scofield - Mar 7, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    letsgonuclear those losses are losses in name only, it was in a shootout, it’s like a slam dunk contest to decide a game. And the NHL has a lot more parity and the Hawks are doing something never done before, the Heat aren’t even the first to do what they are doing this year alone.

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