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NHL Off To a Record-Breaking Start

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 31: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals looks on after scoring his third goal of the game against the Montreal Canadiens as hats are thrown to the ice during the third period at Capital One Arena on December 31, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

If there’s one thing to know about sports, it’s that records exist to be broken, and in the NHL, there are a lot of them. However, in hockey, this task sometimes seems impossible. Generational talents like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Gordie Howe have locked up top spots for decades, seemingly untouchable in their excellence. However, this NHL season seems to have taken that personally. Both franchise and league records are falling consistently, with someone making history seemingly every night.

2022-23 NHL Season Has Multiple Records Broken

Team Records Falling

Both the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins broke records with win streaks this season, with the Devils tying a franchise record at 13 games, and Boston breaking an NHL record for the longest home win streak to start the season at 14. The Devils also set a new NHL record with 13 wins in December. The Devils currently sit second in the Metropolitan division with a 22-11-2 record and the Bruins leading the Atlantic at 28-4-3. You could argue that both the Devils’ and Bruins’ win streaks were the result of scheduling, with eight of the Bruins’ 14 wins and seven of the Devils’ 13 coming against teams sitting outside of the playoffs. However, maintaining the level of production that both teams did over that streak remains impressive. 

Individual Efforts

Individual players have also taken it upon themselves to shatter record after record. Phil Kessel of the Vegas Golden Knights broke Keith Yandle’s Iron Man record on October 25th, playing in his 990th consecutive game. Kessel has since extended the record, playing in his 1,013th game on December 13 against the Winnipeg Jets. Kessel hasn’t missed a game since 2009 and is well on his way to an unbreakable record of his own. Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils recorded the longest shift in NHL history, as the forward was on the ice for 6:02 at the end of the Devils’ loss to the New York Islanders on December 10.

Skaters have also been breaking franchise records. Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs had a 23-game consecutive point streak, breaking Daryl Sitler’s 1978 franchise record of 18 straight games. Marner was also closer to breaking Gretzky’s league record of points in 51 consecutive games than anyone has been since Patrick Kane went on a 26-game streak in 2015. Tage Thompson broke a Buffalo Sabres record when he put up five points in one period against the Columbus Blue Jackets and became only the second American player to score five goals in one game. 

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Ovechkin and the “Great One”

No talk of records in the NHL would be complete without discussing Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin has been relentless in pursuing some of the sport’s most “unbreakable” records. Ovechkin scored two goals against the Vancouver Canucks on November 29th to score 403 road goals, topping the “Great One” Wayne Gretzky’s record of 402 goals. He also gained on Gretzky’s overall goal record, becoming only the third player in league history to surpass 800 career goals with a hat-trick against the Chicago Blackhawks on December 13. And, of course, he passed Gordie Howe on December 23 with two goals against the Winnipeg Jets to make 803 career goals and put him second all-time. 

This level of skill and excellence in the league is not new. League scoring was the highest in the 2021-22 season since 1995-96, and if scoring continues at the same rate, the 2022-23 season will soar even higher. But the true reason behind the increase in remarkable performances is more unclear. Maybe it comes from teams getting a full off-season for the first time since the start of the pandemic. It could be due to a changing game, one that is more reliant on skill and less on the “enforcer” types of the ‘80s. Or it could just be that the players are better. Whatever the reason, it’s creating a sense of excitement, a notion that we, as viewers, could watch any of the NHL records be broken on any night. 

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