NHL
Updated January 3, 2024
BY Lines

Best NHL Records: Regular Season Records, NHL History, And More

The National Hockey League (NHL) is watched by many fans around the world. There are a handful of players who go on to build unforgettable Hall of Fame careers, and some of them solidify their resume by setting records.

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There are many of those records that will go unassailed for generations. Lines.com considers the following as some of the most unbreakable NHL records, based on popular opinion and statistical analysis.

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Regular Season Wins: 2022-23 Boston Bruins or 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens

The Boston Bruins set a new NHL record during the 2022-23 season with 65 wins, three more than any other team had been able to do in a dominant regular season in its 100-year-plus history. Only two other teams have ever been able to win more than 60 games (the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning, 62 each).But if any NHL record may be worthy of an asterisk or closer examination, it could be this one. That’s because it was set during the era of overtime, which began in the 1983-84 campaign, and the shootout, which was implemented for the 2005-06 season after the 2004-05 NHL lockout. That created extra opportunities to record additional wins with the elimination of tie games.

The Bruins during their record season got 54 wins in three periods, adding seven wins in overtime and four more via shootout for a 65-12-5 record.Compare that to the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens, who became the first team in the NHL to win 60 games in one season. Consider first that those Canadiens only played an 80-game season, whereas the Bruins played an 82-game season. Then factor in that the Canadiens did not have the benefit of additional victories playing beyond the standard three periods.

During their record season, the Canadiens played 12 tie games. If they had won only half of those games in overtime or a shootout, they would have had 66 wins in a season.

As it was, the Canadiens lost only eight games (!) that season (the Bruins lost 12, plus five in extra time), and with 132 points in the standings also set the record for best all-time points percentage (.825, compared to Boston at .823).

It can also be noted that the 1929-30 Boston Bruins had a 38-5-1 record for an incredible points percentage of .875.

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Scoring: Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers

Who else to discuss but Wayne Gretzky, the player fittingly known as “The Great One?” There is no doubt that he had an unbelievable dominance in the sport and before last season still held or shared 58 NHL records more than two decades after his final game. None are more impressive than his scoring records – for goals, assists and points.

Playing for Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers, Gretzky scored 894 goals during the NHL regular season, and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs scored 122 more for an eye-popping total of 1,016 career goals in the NHL.

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Goals

Regular Season894
Playoffs122
Total goals1016

Those goals obviously helped to boost his record total of points (goals-plus-assists).

His NHL record of 2,857 all-time best regular season points is an incredible 936 points ahead of the player in second place – Jaromir Jagr, who actually played in 246 more games. Even by taking away Gretky’s goals and leaving him just with his 1,963 assists, he would still be the all-time leading scorer in NHL history.

Points

Regular Season2857
Playoffs382
Total Points3239

He holds the single season points record with 215, set in the 1985-86 NHL season, is the only player to score more than 200 points ever in a season (four times), and has nine of the top 10 league’s best scoring seasons of all time.

Gretzky, who debuted in the 1979-80 season, also was voted winner of the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP a record nine times.

Current Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin was thought to have an outside chance at challenging Gretky’s record for goals, but his pace has slowed down considerably during the 2023-24 NHL season, meaning that should be another record held by The Great One that will stand the test of time.

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Wins, shutouts: Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils

A goalie has one job – to win the game – and no one has ever done that better than New Jersey Devils legend Martin Brodeur. Over his excellent NHL career, Brodeur amassed a total of 691 regular season wins, 140 more than his next nearest challenger. 

Add in 113 Stanley Cup Playoff wins (which ranks second in history behind Patrick Roy) in 205 playoff games played, and the total of 804 career wins is another virtually unbreakable record.

Brodeur also holds the record for regular season shutouts at 125, and playoff shutouts with 24. That includes a record seven games with a shutout in a single postseason, when the Devils won the 2003 Stanley Cup. 

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Brodeur was able to set such records because he was able to play so many games, another record of 1,266. Playing that amount of games did however lead to another more dubious record of 397 losses. But consider that is only five more than the player who ranks second all-time (Roberto Luongo, who played more than 200 fewer games).

Broduer also holds the records for 30-win seasons (14) and 40-win seasons (eight), two more of the most unbreakable records on the books.

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Goalie Ironman: Glenn Hall of the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks

When we think of an Ironman streak, we first think of a different sport: baseball and the mark held by Cal Ripken Jr. But this is hockey we’re talking about here, so the equivalent of that accomplishment can be seen in goalie Glenn Hall and skater Phil Kessel.

Hall was a goaltending pioneer who developed the butterfly style that is still used in today’s game. He accomplished his incredible Ironman streak of 502 consecutive games started and finished from the beginning of the 1955-56 season and ending in 1962 playing for the Detroit Red Wings and then the Chicago Blackhawks.

In those days, the NHL season was 70 games long, so Hall’s streak is the equivalent of more than seven straight seasons. Consider that no modern goalie has ever played in all 82 games of even one regular season, let alone seven in a row! Only 113 goalies in all of NHL history have played at least 70 games in a season.

That clearly shows that Hall’s record might be the most unbreakable of all of the ones on this Lines.com list.

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Skater Ironman: Phil Kessel

At one time, it looked like the skater’s record of 964 straight games played held by defenseman Doug Jarvis would never be surpassed. But even on a list such as this, the old saying still applies – records are made to be broken – and that indeed was proven true when not one but two players were able to set new records by passing Jarvis.

Interestingly, Jarvis never played in an NHL game that was not part of his record streak, which ended during his final season of 1987-88.

Defenseman Keith Yandle broke Jarvis’ seemingly unbreakable mark on Jan. 25, 2022 when he played in consecutive game No. 965. He eventually pushed his streak to 989 consecutive games, which still stands as the record by a defenseman.

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That’s because the new record was set by a forward, Phil Kessel, who passed Yandle with his 990th consecutive game the very next season on Oct. 25, 2022. It is even more impressive when one considers that Kessel was given a cancer diagnosis when he was just 19 years old.

He overcame that and many other challenges along the way to push the NHL record to 1,064 consecutive games played. He could still add to that number as he has not yet announced his retirement since the end of the 2022-23 NHL season even though he is not so far playing in 2023-24.

Plus/minus: Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins, Larry Robinson of the Montreal Canadiens

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The plus/minus statistic is a way to measure how well someone’s team is playing while he is on the ice, with a plus given when his team scores a goal during even-strength play and a minus when his team is scored upon.

Based on that, there perhaps was no greater player in NHL history than Boston Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr.

Orr holds the single season plus/minus record at an incredible +124, set in the 1970-71 season. He ranks second in the NHL behind Larry Robinson in all-time plus/minus at +582, with the former Montreal Canadiens defenseman the leader at +722. 

But consider that Orr has such a substantial career number having played less than half of the season games that Robinson did. In fact, Orr is the only player ranked in the top 10 who played fewer than 1,000 NHL games due to a career cut short by injury.

Among active players, Brad Marchand of the Bruins is the NHL’s best – at only +290!

In addition, Orr, Robinson and Wayne Gretzky are the only players to ever be +100 in any single season (since the statistic has been kept), so it is clear that Orr’s single-season mark and Robinson’s career record are in very little jeopardy of being challenged.

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Stanley Cup championships: Henri Richard of the Montreal Canadiens

Sports fans have a weird logic when it comes to debates about the GOAT (greatest of all time) in any particular sport. In the NFL, people say Tom Brady is the GOAT because of his seven Super Bowl wins.

By that logic, should former Montreal Canadiens great Henri Richard be considered the GOAT of hockey because he was able to win the Stanley Cup 11 times? Perhaps not, but hoisting Lord Stanley that many times is certainly one of the greatest NHL records of all time and definitely one of its most unbreakable.

The Canadiens are the team with the most Stanley Cup titles in franchise history, 24, which is almost twice as many as the second-best club, the Toronto Maple Leafs with 13. The Detroit Red Wings with 11 are the only other NHL team with more than six titles.

For Richard to have won the Stanley Cup championship 11 times himself, even while playing for the best team of its time, solidifies how impressive the accomplishment is.

Richard isn’t the only one with his surname to hold an NHL record. His brother is none other than Maurice “Rocket” Richard, who has also etched his name in the history books, specifically in the Stanley Cup Final, with 34 goals in that round of the playoffs alone.

Henri won his first Stanley Cup in 1956 and his record for championships will likely never be approached. Most of those close to him are his retired Canadiens teammates such as Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer (10 each). His brother Maurice has eight.

Among active players, there are six who have won the Stanley Cup three times each, a long, long way from even challenging Richard.

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Goals by a rookie: Teemu Selanne of the Winnipeg Jets

Rookie records are among the most difficult to set because a player has only one chance to do so. That makes what Teemu Selanne did for the Winnipeg Jets during the 1991-92 NHL season even that much more impressive.

“The Finnish Flash” scored 76 goals and 132 points in his first go-round in the NHL, both records for a rookie campaign.

There have been many spectacular players to debut in the NHL since then – including Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Connor McDavid – and none have come anywhere close to challenging Selanne’s record. And with first-year players getting younger and younger all the time, it’s unlikely anyone will do so in the future, either.

Since Selanne’s incredible debut, only three other rookies have scored as many as 40 goals or scored as many as 86 points in their first season.

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Overview

These NHL records are perhaps the most unbreakable not only in hockey but in any other sport as well. And if an NHL player does manage to break one of these records, it resets the bar even higher for other players that follow. 

Which one may be broken next?


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