blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Sweeps

Thursday, April 19, 2018

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 666 best-of-seven playoff series since the league's origins through 2017, 115 (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 30 postseasons (since the 1987 expansion to best-of-seven series), a sweep has resulted in 63 of 450 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 (6/30 = 20%), though no team has been swept there since 1998 when the Detroit Red Wings disposed off the Washington Capitals. The Quarterfinal (19/120 = 16%), Preliminary (31/240 = 13%) and Semifinal (7/60 = 12%) 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.

* See also NHL Playoff Sweeps Without Surrendering Lead.

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