As the holiday season approached, Buffalo was prepared to celebrate the fantastic season of captain Jack Eichel, who had helped the team out of the November doldrums by going on an epic point streak, reaching 17 games on December 17. He was poised to tie the team record of 18, set by legendary forward Gilbert Perreault in 1971.
Tragically, Eichel was allegedly stricken with the flu and unable to dress for the record-tying game. The NHL deemed the streak snapped. Eichel did add a point in his next game, but all for naught. Perhaps a new point streak has been begun.
Regardless, it was a fun ride, and as we have been doing at Die by the Blade, it gave us a chance to look back at Perrualt’s streak, and how he got there.
Perreault was Buffalo’s first-ever draft pick, and fresh off of his Calder Trophy season, in which he set the scoring record for a rookie with 38 goals - 72 points overall. The 1971-72 season was a tough one for the fledgling team, with the Sabres managing only 16 wins in their second season. Still, between October and December, Perreault managed to continue to wow fans, with points in 18 straight. He finished with 74 points and tied rookie Rick Martin, who broke Perreault’s brief rookie scoring record.
It was a special season for the Sabres, despite finishing with fewer wins in the standings than they did in their first campaign. Perreault and Martin, who played together in juniors, rekindled the fire they started there. Late in the season, the team added Rene Robert. The French Connection was born. The trio was obviously iconic, and is idolized in bronze outside of KeyBank Center.
Perreault grew to garner regard from some of hockey’s best. Mythically, Bobby Orr said, “His head and shoulders go one way, his legs go the other way, and the puck is doing something else. When I first saw it, I couldn’t believe it.” His importance to the team’s history is written all over the record books. His 1191 games for the Sabres will likely never be approached, especially in the free-agent era - it’s twentieth in league history. He also holds the record for most goals (512), assists (814), points (1326), and was named to the NHL’s Top 100 Skaters list to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the league. According to teammate Lindy Ruff, he was a one-man penalty killing unit. “They came to take it from him, he’d beat one guy, they came to take it from him again, he beat another guy, and he went on for 30 seconds just stick-handling and keeping the puck away,” Ruff said. “And then when he was done he dumped it in and changed. There’s nobody else who could do that.”
The Sabres’ fiftieth anniversary season is a great opportunity to look back at some of the greatest moments in the team’s history, and Perreault’s streak - and even his career - certainly shines brightly. His eighteen point streak will be hard to break, but as Phil Esposito once predicted Perreault could have broken his scoring records, if there is one player that can surpass Perreault, it would be Jack Eichel.