Two things about the Islanders’ epic, monumental, mind-bending, eye-opening, record-breaking, rollercoaster of a mid-autumn, semi-miracle point streak:
1. It’s only November, people. Relax. This all might end up meaning little come spring.
2. It’s big fun. What’s the point in being a fan if you cannot enjoy something like this, no matter its implications in the bigger picture?
Regarding Point No. 1: The team-record 17-game point streak the Islanders currently own after losing to the San Jose Sharks, 2-1, in overtime on Saturday night is no guarantee of playoff glory.
History shows us this when recalling long streaks by New York-area teams.
Take the 1916 baseball Giants, please. They went 27 games without a loss — 26 wins and a tie — after winning 17 in a row earlier that season. Yet they somehow won only 86 games and finished fourth in the National League, seven games behind first-place Brooklyn. They had the seventh-best record in the majors!
But in fairness, that was one of the strangest teams in the history of sports. They started 2-13 and were 59-62 when their record streak began.
There are many other examples of streaking teams that did keep it going to the finish line.
The 1969-70 Knicks won a then-NBA-single-season-record 18 in a row, and later won it all. The 1990 Giants won a team-record 10 in a row, then won the Super Bowl. The 1939-40 Rangers had a 19-game unbeaten streak and won the Stanley Cup.
The Mets have won 11 in a row five times, and on three of those occasions, they later won the pennant. The other two times, they missed the playoffs.
The Jets won a team-record nine in a row in 1986, then lost their next five — all by at least two touchdowns.
April, May and June are a long, long way down the road, and there is no sport whose playoffs are more difficult to predict and analyze than hockey. So we shall see.
Regarding Point No. 2: What the Islanders have done in the first quarter of the season is remarkable, but it should not come as a shock no matter how little was expected of them by the hockey world two months ago.
They had the fifth-best record in the NHL last season, then returned their roster almost intact, and they have arguably the best general manager/coach duo in sports. So why not pick up where they left off?
It does not always work out that way. Sometimes familiarity breeds complacency, and it looked as if that might be the case when they got off to a 1-3 start.
But since then, the Islanders have won every which way, including back-to-back late comebacks from multiple-goal deficits against the Flyers and Penguins.
They are 9-0-8 in regulation time, which does not sound quite as impressive as saying they have a 17-game point streak, but the fact that they won in overtime or a shootout in six of those eight games that were tied after the third period speaks to their grit.
Adding to the fun for Islanders fans has been the fact that the rest of New York-area sports has been in a bit of a rough patch, to put it kindly.
Can the Islanders be the team that ends a New York championship drought that has lasted since Super Bowl XLVI in early 2012?
The odds are against them, only because the odds are against any individual team in the 16-team Stanley Cup tournament regardless of its regular-season record. But as of Thanksgiving week, there is no reason to give them lesser odds than any other contender.
There we go looking ahead again, though. That’s not what this is or should be about. The playoffs will be what they will be. For now, just enjoy the show.
Here is our list of the most impressive regular-season unbeaten streaks in New York-area sports history:
1. 1969-70 Knicks, 18 games
No one knew in the fall of 1969 the Knicks were en route to their first championship, but the NBA took notice when they fashioned an early, then-league-record 18-game winning streak, the last victory coming when they scored six points in the final 16 seconds to beat player/coach Bob Cousy and the Cincinnati Royals, 106-105.
2. 1981-82 Islanders, 15 games
The 2019-20 Islanders’ 16-game unbeaten streak entering Saturday is impressive, but under hockey’s rules in the pre-overtime era, they would have been 9-0-7 in that stretch. That is what was most amazing about the 15-game streak in 1982: No ties. Twelve of the 15 wins were by three or more goals, only two by one goal.
3. 1916 Giants, 27 games
John McGraw’s baseball Giants started 2-13, then won 17 in a row, then were muddling along at 59-62 in early September when they won 26 in a row — interrupted by a tie with the Pirates in the second game of a doubleheader as darkness descended. Oh, by the way, every win came at home, part of a 31-game homestand!
4. 1990 Giants, 10 games
The Giants cruised through the first part of their schedule behind quarterback Phil Simms — who would break a foot in Week 15 and miss the run to Super Bowl XXV — beating the Redskins, Colts, Rams and Lions by double digits for wins 7, 8, 9 and 10. They would lose four of their last six but more than made up for that in January.
5. 1947 Yankees, 19 games
The Yankees’ first post-World War II championship team did not mess around in winning 19 in a row from late June through July. Their run differential was plus-78, and in 13 of the 19 games they allowed two runs or fewer. They won 97 games, finished 12 ahead of the second-place Tigers and beat the Dodgers in the World Series.
6. 1940 Rangers, 19 games
The Rangers’ next-to-last Cup winner displayed its defensive prowess during a 14-0-5 stretch that began 80 years ago Saturday. In the first 15 games of the unbeaten streak, they allowed two or fewer goals. Goaltender Dave Kerr would finish that season with a league-best 1.80 goals-against average and eight shutouts.