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

Sunday, June 5, 2016

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 651 best-of-seven playoff series since the league's origins through 2016, 113 (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 29 postseasons (since the 1987 expansion to best-of-seven series), a sweep has resulted in 61 of 435 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) 2002: 0
1988: 2 (1Q, F) 2003: 2 (1P, 1S)
1989: 3 (2P, 1Q) 2004: 1 (1Q)
1990: 2 (1P, 1S) 2006: 2 (1P, 1Q)
1991: 0 2007: 1 (1P)
1992: 5 (2Q, 2S, F) 2008: 2 (1P, 1Q)
1993: 3 (2P, 1Q) 2009: 4 (3P, 1S)
1994: 2 (2P) 2010: 1 (1S)
1995: 4 (3Q, F) 2011: 3 (1P, 2Q)
1996: 2 (1P, F) 2012: 1 (1Q)
1997: 2 (1Q, F) 2013: 2 (1P, 1S)
1998: 3 (1P, 1Q, F) 2014: 1 (1P)
1999: 3 (3P) 2015: 2 (1P, 1Q)
2000: 2 (2P) 2016: 0
2001: 3 (2P, 1Q)

(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 (6/29 = 21%), though no team has been swept there since 1998 when the Detroit Red Wings disposed off the Washington Capitals. The Quarterfinal (19/116 = 16%), Preliminary (29/232 = 12%) and Semifinal (7/58 = 12%) rounds follow with a historically significant but decreasing likelihood of sweep.

With the San Jose edging Pittsburgh in Game 3 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final cutting their series lead to 2-1, for the first time since 2002 there will be no sweeps in the playoffs and for the 17th consecutive season there will not be a sweep of the NHL's Stanley Cup Final.

* See also NHL Playoff Sweeps Without Surrendering Lead.

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