Saturday, June 8, 2013

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 591 best-of-seven NHL Stanley Cup playoff series played through 2012, 108 (18%) have resulted in a sweep and only 16 (2.7%) have ended in a perfect sweep or annihilation.  Last night, however, the Boston Bruins became the 17th team in NHL history to lead their opponent for an entire seven game series when they completed their improbable perfect sweep against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2013 Playoffs. The chart below describes every such perfect sweep (or annihilation, if you prefer), showing the playoff year, matchup and round of the rarity.

Date: Matchup (Round)
1946: MTL over CHI (S)
1952: DET over MTL (F)
1954: MTL over BOS (S)
1960: MTL over CHI (S)
1960: MTL over TOR (F)
1969: BOS over TOR (Q)
1969: STL over PHI (Q)
1977: MTL over STL (Q)
1978: MTL over TOR (S)
1979: NYI over CHI (Q)
1987: DET over CHI (P)
1989: PIT over NYR (P)
1992: CHI over DET (Q)
1995: DET over SJS (Q)
2000: DET over LAK (P)
2009: DET over CLB (P)
2013: BOS over PIT (S)

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

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 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 (6), 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 53 years ago, adding to their dreary postseason history. Avoid this broom at all costs.  It smacks of humiliation.