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Saturday, April 20, 2019

NHL Presidents' Trophy Winners & Playoff Success

The Presidents' Trophy is awarded annually to the team with the best NHL regular season record. Since its inaugural offering in 1986, it has been awarded 33 times to 17 different franchises. The recipient is guaranteed home ice advantage for all four rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Unfortunately for recipients, regular season success and home-ice advantage does not always translate in postseason success. The chart below shows each Presidents' Trophy winner by year and playoff result.

Year         Presidents' Trophy            Playoff Result
2019 Tampa Bay Lightning Lost Preliminary (Columbus)
2018 Nashville Predators Lost Quarterfinal (Winnipeg)
2017 Washington Capitals Lost Quarterfinal (Pittsburgh)
2016 Washington Capitals Lost Quarterfinal (Pittsburgh)
2015 New York Rangers Lost Semifinal (Tampa Bay)
2014 Boston Bruins Lost Quarterfinal (Montreal)
2013 Chicago Blackhawks Won Stanley Cup
2012 Vancouver Canucks Lost Preliminary (Los Angeles)
2011 Vancouver Canucks Lost Final (Boston)
2010 Washington Capitals Lost Preliminary (Montreal)
2009 San Jose Sharks Lost Preliminary (Anaheim)
2008 Detroit Red Wings Won Stanley Cup
2007 Buffalo Sabres Lost Semifinal (Ottawa)
2006 Detroit Red Wings Lost Preliminary (Edmonton)
2004 Detroit Red Wings Lost Quarterfinal (Calgary)
2003 Ottawa Senators Lost Semifinal (New Jersey)
2002 Detroit Red Wings Won Stanley Cup
2001 Colorado Avalanche Won Stanley Cup
2000 St. Louis Blues Lost Preliminary (San Jose)
1999 Dallas Stars Won Stanley Cup
1998 Dallas Stars Lost Semifinal (Detroit)
1997 Colorado Avalanche Lost Semifinal (Detroit)
1996 Detroit Red Wings Lost Semifinal (Colorado)
1995 Detroit Red Wings Lost Final (New Jersey)
1994 New York Rangers Won Stanley Cup
1993 Pittsburgh Penguins Lost Quarterfinal (New York)*
1992 New York Rangers Lost Quarterfinal (Pittsburgh)
1991 Chicago Blackhawks Lost Preliminary (Minnesota)^
1990 Boston Bruins Lost Final (Edmonton)
1989 Calgary Flames Won Stanley Cup
1988 Calgary Flames Lost Quarterfinal (Edmonton)
1987 Edmonton Oilers Won Stanley Cup
1986 Edmonton Oilers Lost Quarterfinal (Calgary)

* New York Islanders
^ Minnesota North Stars

Of the 33 recipients through 2019, eleven (35%) qualified for the Final and eight (24%) won the Stanley Cup (1987, 1989, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2008, 2013). Of the 20 others, seven (21%) were ousted in the Preliminary round (1991, 2000, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2019), nine (27%) were eliminated in the Quarterfinal (1986, 1988, 1992, 1993, 2004, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018), and six (18%) stalled in the Semifinal (1996, 1997, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2015).

Only once in the past seven seasons has a Presidents' Trophy winner won the Stanley Cup (Chicago 2013). In fact, four teams during the past eleven years saw their season end in the opening round (San Jose 2009, Washington 2010, Vancouver 2012, Tampa Bay 2019). Interesting, only three times in the prior 24 seasons did winners suffer such a fate (Chicago 1991, St. Louis 2000, Detroit 2006).

Earlier this week the Presidents' Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round.  Once again, the regular season's best fails to achieve Stanley Cup success.

* See also NHL Playoff First Round Upsets.
* See also NHL Playoff Seeding And Stanley Cup Wins.
* See also Presidents' Winners & Defending Cup Champions.

Presidents' Winners & Defending Cup Champions

Since the inaugural offering of the Presidents' Trophy in 1986, awarded to the team with the best regular season record, its recipient has drawn the defending Stanley Cup champions eight times in the subsequent postseason. The chart below shows each meeting by year, matchup and outcome.

Year        
Matchup                                                                  
Outcome
1988 Edmonton Oilersover Calgary Flames
4-0 (Q)
1992 Pittsburgh Penguinsover New York Rangers
4-2 (Q)
1998 Detroit Red Wingsover Dallas Stars 
4-2 (S)
2001 Colorado Avalanche over New Jersey Devils*
4-3 (F)
2002 Detroit Red Wings over Colorado Avalanche*
4-3 (S)
2011 Vancouver Canucks over Chicago Blackhawks*
4-3 (P)
2013 Chicago Blackhawks over Los Angeles Kings*
4-1 (S)
2017 Pittsburgh Penguinsover Washington Capitals 
4-3 (Q)

*  Defending Stanley Cup Champion
(P = Preliminary, Q = Quarterfinal, S = Semifinal, F = Final)

In the first three postseason meetings between the regular season's best and defending league champs, the prior year's Stanley Cup champions won (1988, 1992, 1998) and went on to hoist consecutive Stanley Cups. The next four matchups saw the Presidents' Trophy winners oust the defending Cup champions (2001, 2002, 20112013) and win the Stanley Cup in every instance but one (Vancouver 2011).

The most recent clash occurred in the Quarterfinal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the 2016 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Presidents' Trophy winning Washington Capitals., snapping the previous streak of Presidents' Trophy winners advancing.

This meeting marks the 10th playoff series between the clubs, with Pittsburgh holding a 9-1 advantage and a 3-0 record during the Crosby-Ovechkin era. It's also the first time that the top two regular season finishers have met in the playoffs since 2001 when Colorado met New Jersey in the Stanley Cup Final.

The only opportunity for the 2019 Presidents' Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning to meet the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals would have been in the Conference Final. Tampa Bay was swept in their opening round series against Columbus, so we'll have to wait another year for such a matchup.

* See also NHL Consecutive Stanley Cup Wins.
* See also NHL Playoff Seeding And Stanley Cup Wins.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff First Round Upsets. * See also NHL Presidents' Trophy Winners & Playoff Success.

Today In NHL History - Good Friday Brawl

On April 20th in 1984, divisional rivals Montreal Canadiens and Quebec Nordiques engaged in a now famous fight known simply by its calendar namesake emanating from the perfect storm of NHL playoffs, politics and provincial pride.

The Good Friday Brawl fisticuffs ensued at the end of the second period of Game 6 of the Adams Division Finals and lasted for ten minutes before teams retreated to their respective dressing rooms. Upon surveying the damage to teammate Jean Hamel from a Louis Sleigher sucker punch, the Canadiens returned to settle the score in the final frame.

Montreal beat Quebec that night to seal the series by a margin of 4-2.

That's today in NHL history.

Friday, April 19, 2019

NHL Playoff Sweeps Without Surrendering Lead

When a team wins the first four games of a playoff series they are said to have swept the series and their opponent. When the victor does so NEVER trailing in any of the four games, they have completed the rare feat of a PERFECT sweep.

Of the 681 best-of-seven NHL Stanley Cup playoff series played through 2018, 117 (17%) have resulted in a sweep.  Only 18 of those 681 series (2.6%), however, ended in a perfect sweep or annihilation.

The chart below describes every such perfect sweep (or annihilation, if you prefer), showing the playoff year, matchup and round of the rarity.

Year       Matchup Round
1946   Montreal over Chicago   Semifinal 
1952 Detroit over Montreal   Final
1954 Montreal over Boston Semifinal
1960 Montreal over Chicago Semifinal

Montreal over Toronto Final
1969 Boston over Toronto Quarterfinal

St. Louis over Philadelphia Quarterfinal
1977 Montreal over St. Louis Quarterfinal
1978 Montreal over Toronto  Semifinal
1979 New York* over Chicago Quarterfinal
1987 Detroit over Chicago  Preliminary
1989 Pittsburgh over New York**    Preliminary
1992 Chicago over Detroit  Quarterfinal
1995 Detroit over San Jose Quarterfinal
2000 Detroit over Los Angeles Preliminary
2009 Detroit over Columbus Preliminary
2013 Boston over Pittsburgh Semifinal
2015 Chicago over Minnesota Quarterfinal

*   New York Islanders
** New York Rangers

The Montreal Canadiens lead the league with six perfect sweeps and are the only team to do it twice in a single postseason. That happened in 1960 when Montreal annihilated both the Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs en route to their fifth straight Stanley Cup championship. Chicago, on the other hand, owns the honor of being on the losing end of a perfect sweep four times, leading all teams in this category.

Breaking it down by round, the most annihilations have happened in the Quarterfinal (7), followed by the Semifinal (5), Preliminary (4) and Final (2).  The last team to be so swept in the Cup Final was the Toronto Maple Leafs 55 years ago, adding to their dreary postseason history.

Of the two sweeps thus far in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Columbus over Tampa Bay, New York Islander over Pittsburgh), both victims managed to hold a goal lead at some point during a game of the series avoiding the distinction of making this historic list. Pittsburgh narrowly escaped this honor, leading their series for only 3 minutes and 41 seconds thanks to opening goals in games 2, 3 and 4 from Gudbranson, Wilson and Guentzal.
Beware of the brooms. But avoid annihilation at all costs.

* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Sweeps

Today In NHL History - Sedin's Disallowed Goal

On April 19th in 2010, Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin deflected a puck off his skate and past Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick in Game 3 of the opening round of the 2010 playoffs, pulling his team within a goal three minutes into the third period.

Ruled a good goal by on-ice referee Steve Kozari, NHL SVP Mike Murphy and the off-ice video review crew overturned the ruling after a lengthy six minute review, causing CBC's Hockey Night In Canada broadcaster Jim Hughson to remark "Wow, that is a most interesting call".

NHL Rule 78.5(ii) states a goal shall be disallowed "when the puck has been kicked using a distinct kicking motion." A "distinct kicking motion" is defined by Rule 38.4(iv) as "one which, with a pendulum motion, the player propels the puck with his skate into the net." Rule 49.2 clarifies, however, that "a puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player’s skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal".

Absent evidence of a "distinct kicking motion", Murphy was invited to speak with Ron Maclean on HNIC and share the reasoning behind his decision to overturn the on-ice ruling and disallow Sedin's goal.

The interview appeared to further confuse an already perplexed panel.

Maclean: Tell us exactly how you came to your conclusion.

Murphy: ... It [the puck] had to be propelled some way. We felt it was the skate and not a distinct kicking motion but with a kicking motion that made it move back the other way. It wasn't a deflection. It wasn't a redirect. It was a kick. So that's the decision we came up with.

Maclean: If he's just making a stop ... and it [the puck] hits his skate and changes direction, is that a kicking motion?

Murphy: No ... We'll let that stand as a goal. We felt that wasn't the case here. He knew what he was doing.
When questioned the next day as to how Murphy could have known that Sedin "knew what he was doing", Commissioner Bettman deflected the question and controversy, electing instead to defend his staff:
"Mike Murphy was trying to explain at one o'clock in the morning as best he could exactly what was going on. And if he wasn't as articulate as perhaps those looking to parse his words would like, so be it. But as I said, I have complete confidence in Mike Murphy, Colie Campbell, and the entire hockey operations department. I think this whole tact of innuendo and insinuation is both insulting and pure fantasy. And I suggest everyone move on and focus on the fact we are having a dynamic playoffs."
Interestingly, a near identical goal was scored by the same player three months earlier. After video review, that goal was allowed to stand.

Clouding the waters of incompetence with conspiracy, allegations of partiality surfaced as an interview from earlier that season between LAKings.com and the club's former player (10yrs), captain (7yrs), and coach (4yrs) turned NHL SVP revealed Murphy's bias towards the team.
LAKings.com: You were with the Kings from early on in the team’s existence – how have you seen the team change in the time since then?

Murphy: Well I have seen some obvious changes with the colors of the uniforms and the logo and the different arena where they play. What has not changed is the great group of solid hockey fans in Southern California that support and love the Kings, even with the changes. I think it would be so neat to see the Kings succeed and win a Stanley Cup because it would do just a tremendous amount for the Southern California market and the Kings franchise. They have been hard working and very close in a number of years, so that would be nice to see.
The disallowed goal preserved the Kings 4-2 lead en route to a 5-3 win, taking a 2-1 series lead over the Canucks. The win, however, would be the last for Los Angeles as Vancouver ultimately cinched the series 4-2.

That's today in NHL history.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Sweeps

When a team eliminates their opponent using the minimum number of games without sustaining a single loss in a multi-game series they are said to have swept the other team. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs that means winning the first four games of a best-of-seven series.

Of the NHL's 681 best-of-seven playoff series since the league's origins through 2018, 117 (17%) have ended in a sweep.  The most sweeps in a single postseason during this span is five (1969, 1992).  Only three times since all postseason series were expanded to best-of-seven in 1987 has a Stanley Cup Playoff series gone without a sweep (1991, 2002, 2016).

Over the past 31 postseasons (since the 1987 expansion to best-of-seven series), a sweep has resulted in 65 of 465 series, representing 1 in 7 (14%) of all playoff series. The chart below describes playoff sweeps by year, noting the number and round in which sweep(s) occurred.

Year: Sweeps (Round)       Year: Sweeps (Round) 
1987: 3 (2P, 1Q) 2006: 2 (1P, 1S)
1988: 2 (1Q, F) 2007: 1 (1P)
1989: 3 (2P, 1Q) 2008: 2 (1P, 1Q)
1990: 2 (1P, 1S) 2009: 4 (3P, 1S)
1991: 0 2010: 1 (1S)
1992: 5 (2Q, 2S, F) 2011: 3 (1P, 2Q)
1993: 3 (2P, 1Q) 2012: 1 (1Q)
1994: 2 (2P) 2013: 2 (1P, 1S)
1995: 4 (3Q, F) 2014: 1 (1P,)
1996: 2 (1P, F) 2015: 2 (1P, 1Q)
1997: 2 (1Q, F) 2016: 0
1998: 3 (1P, 1Q, F) 2017: 2 (2P)
1999: 3 (3P) 2018: 2 (1P)
2000: 2 (2P)
2001: 3 (2P, 1Q)
2002: 0
2003: 2 (1P, 1S)
2004: 1 (1Q)
2005: N/A

(P = Preliminary, Q = Quarterfinal, S = Semifinal, F = Final)

Breaking it down by round, the most sweeps on a percentage basis have happened in the Stanley Cup Final (6/31 = 19%), though no team has been swept there since 1998 when the Detroit Red Wings disposed off the Washington Capitals. The Quarterfinal (19/124 = 15%), Preliminary (33/248 = 13%) and Semifinal (7/62 = 11%) rounds follow with a historically significant but decreasing likelihood of sweep.

The preliminary round of the 2018 Playoffs had two sweeps, the Sharks disposing of the Ducks and the Golden Knights slaying the Kings. In both instances, the loser avoided a perfect sweep managing to hold a goal lead at some point during a game in the series.

Thus far, the 2019 Playoffs have provided two sweeps in the preliminary round, with the Columbus Blue Jackets upsetting the President's Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders beating the Pittsburgh Penguins


* See also NHL Playoff Sweeps Without Surrendering Lead.