Shelly Anderson's Slap shots: 4/23/06

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New Jersey

became the first NHL team to finish the regular season with an 11-game winning streak. The record had been nine, shared by the 1954-55 Detroit Red Wings and the 1986-87 Montreal Canadiens. Detroit won the Stanley Cup that season; Montreal advanced to the conference final.

In addition, the Devils had the biggest comeback of any division winner since the league started using the two-conference, four-division format in 1974-75. New Jersey went from 19 points out of the Atlantic Division lead Jan. 6 to the division title. In 1993-94, Detroit overcame an 18-point deficit to win a division title.

If Detroit wins the Stanley Cup, Chris Chelios would replace Lester Patrick as the oldest player on a championship team. Chelios would be 44 years, 4 months. Patrick was 44 years, 3 months as a goaltender with the 1928 New York Rangers.

Heading into the playoffs, Carolina defenseman Glen Wesley had played in 144 career postseason games, the most without winning a Stanley Cup among active players.

Evidence of increased offense abounded during the regular season. Players put together 29 point streaks of 10 games or more; there were seven in 2003-04. There were five 50-goal scorers after no one reached that plateau in 2003-04. There were 23 players with 82 or more points, meaning they averaged at least one point a game; there were five such players in '03-04. There were 79 hat tricks; in '03-04, there were 46.

Fight fans aren't going to like this. Of the 1,230 games this season, 873, or 71 percent, were fight-free. That's up -- or down, depending on your perspective -- from '03-04, when 724 games (59 percent) were punch-free.

Looking back at the 2003 playoffs, Anaheim's J.S. Giguere was 7-0 in overtime games that postseason, the first NHL goaltender to win his first seven overtime playoff decisions. He went 168 minutes, 27 seconds and stopped 95 shots in overtimes that playoffs.

Yet another testimonial on the improved game since the NHL instituted new rules and better enforcement this season. This one comes from Minnesota forward Wes Walz: "Before this season, I don't think I sat down and watched more than three games of hockey in four years. ... The game is way better than it ever was. I've watched more hockey this year simply because I'm a fan, and it's more enjoyable to play.



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