blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: NHL Playoff Sweeps Without Surrendering Lead

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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 606 best-of-seven NHL Stanley Cup playoff series played through 2013, 110 (18%) have resulted in a sweep and only 17 (2.8%) have ended in a perfect sweep or annihilation.  The last team to turn the trick was the Boston Bruins becoming the 17th team in NHL history to lead their opponent for an entire seven game series completing their improbable perfect sweep of 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.

Year       Matchup Round
1946   Montreal over Chicago   Semifinal 
1952 Detroit over Montreal   Final
1954 Montreal over Boston Semifinal
1960 Montreal over Chicago Semifinal
1960 Montreal over Toronto Final
1969 Boston over Toronto Quarterfinal
1969 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

*   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 (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 54 years ago, adding to their dreary postseason history.

The Canadiens are the first team to sweep a series in the 2014 Playoffs.  The Tampa Bay Lightning narrowly avoided annihilation leading the Habs for just 3:34 in Game 1.  The Los Angeles Kings are the only other team yet to win a game, though they led the San Jose Sharks for over 24 minutes in Game 2 and thus are now immune from annihilation.Beware of the brooms. But avoid annihilation at all costs.

* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Sweeps