January 06, 2012
On January 6, 1980, the Flyers and Sabres were knotted at 2 heading into the third period. Just 3 minutes and 45 seconds into the final period, Bill Barber scored on Buffalo goaltender Don Edwards to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead. A lead which the Flyers would not relinquish. While a win in January doesn’t usually amount to much when looking at the NHL regular season as a whole, Barber’s game winning goal on this date 22 years ago elevated the ’79-’80 Flyers to a place no other professional sports team has ever, or will ever reach.
The win over Buffalo marked the 35th game in a row in which the Flyers were unbeaten, the longest such streak in professional sports. After a 1-1 start, “The Streak” started with a win in the 3rd game of the regular season. On October 14th, 1979 the Flyers beat the Leafs at home on a late goal from Bob Kelly. For the next 84 days, the Flyers would not lose.
Over the course of The Streak, the Flyers won 25 games and tied 10. They played every team in the league, except the Washington Capitals, earning at least one point in each contest. On December 9th, the Flyers tied the Blackhawks 4-4 pushing the streak to 24 and surpassing the previous team record of 23. On December 22nd, they went to the Boston Garden, a building in which the Flyers hadn’t won in nearly 5 years. However, the tear continued and the Flyers dominated en route to a 5-2 win and their 29th straight game without a defeat. This win set a new NHL record. The previous record (28 games) was held by the ’77-’78 Montreal Canadiens.
Finally, on January 7, 1980, the Flyers streak came to an end in a 7-1 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota North Stars
Credit for the streak lays mainly with the Flyers goaltending. In this case, it was the tandem of Phil Myre and rookie Pete Peeters who carried the team through almost 3 months of unbeaten play. Myre and Peeters shared duties, with a virtual even split in starts during the 35 game streak. Fittingly, both played in the 35th game against the Sabres as Myre started but became ill and needed to be replaced by Peeters. Offensively, Ken Linseman, Reggie Leach, and rookie Brian Propp led the way.
If you watched HBO’s 24/7 series on the Flyers and Rangers Road to the Winter Classic, you got to see the teams celebrate the New Year. For some reason, I imagine watching the ’79-’80 Flyers ring in the New Year 33 games into their streak with with only 1 loss would have been much more entertaining.