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Starkey: Penguins taking The Streak in stride

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 11:47 p.m.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma sets up his team during a first-period power play against the Capitals on Tuesday, March 19, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma sets up his team during a first-period power play against the Capitals on Tuesday, March 19, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

I get it: Nobody wants to talk about the streak.

I know why, too.

People do strange things during streaks. Some grow mustaches. Others stop bathing. Still others — like Penguins coach Dan Bylsma — quit doing laundry.

Rule No. 1 is you do not talk about The Streak. So I wasn't surprised at Bylsma's answer when I asked if he has developed any superstitious habits of late.

“I don't know what you're talking about. And yes,” he said, copping only to the laundry strike.

Nor was I surprised to find the players in lockdown mode Tuesday night after the streak reached 13 with a 1-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens.

Is the historic significance on your mind, Matt Cooke?

“Nope. It's all about the next opponent.”

Are you aware that the NHL record is 17 and was set by your forefathers — the 1992-93 Penguins?

“No idea,” Cooke said. “It doesn't matter. I mean, it's not what we're going for. We're playing to prepare ourselves for the playoffs.”

Seventeen also meant nothing to Brooks Orpik, who insisted he wasn't skirting the topic intentionally.

“We're having fun with the streak,” he said. “We know this was 13. But we're not putting any (emphasis) on it, to be honest.”

Fair enough. Understandable, too, because it's not like this is terribly new. These Penguins are the only team in NHL history to run off double-digit win streaks three years in a row — and they know it will mean nothing come May. Their season will be judged solely by their playoff performance. Which is as it should be.

But that doesn't mean the rest of us can't be amazed.

Try, if you can, to momentarily divert your gaze from The Cup (remembering that it's really hard to win) and take in what this team is doing. Right here. Right now.

A victory tonight over Winnipeg would make the Penguins the fifth team to win at least 14 games in a row. Should they then beat the Islanders on Saturday (don't get ahead of yourself!), they would join only two teams — the 1992-93 Penguins and the 1981-82 Islanders — as winners of 15 or more consecutive games.

That's pretty good company.

The '82 Islanders were in the midst of a dynasty (and it was the Penguins, by the way, who ended their winning streak at 15). The '93 Penguins might have been the most talented team of all-time. They'd won two straight Cups and featured four 100-point scorers. But they also provided a cautionary tale. Players have claimed that the 17-game winning streak toward the end of the season — their last game was a tie — turned out to be a curse.

Larry Murphy, a defenseman on that team, said the streak gave the Penguins a false sense of security heading into the playoffs, where they were upset by the Islanders.

The '92-93 Penguins bombed teams during their streak, winning by a combined 96-48. Contrast that to the club's current streak, which includes nine one-goal games.

The Penguins have outscored the opposition, 47-26. They have done so largely without Evgeni Malkin and within the confines of a condensed schedule, at one point winning six games in nine days. It looks as if they will have to forge ahead without Kris Letang and possibly Marc-Andre Fleury for a bit.

Truly, it's something to behold.

It's funny, too, how a man will treat another team's streak compared to his own. Bylsma was all over the Miami Heat's run as it stretched into the 20s.

“I've watched the Heat with some marvel,” he said earlier this week. “I don't feel the same way or look at our streak in that way — when the next big game is or when the record is.”

I do. And I hate to mention this, but the record could be tied and set with back-to-back games against the New York Rangers — the same team against whom the '93 Penguins won back to back to get to Nos. 16 and 17.

And I'll tell you this: If the Penguins set this record, you better believe they will someday look back with immense pride.

Even if they insist it means nothing to them now.

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