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

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

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 726 best-of-seven playoff series since the league's origins through 2021, 124 (17%) have ended in a sweep.  The most sweeps in a single postseason during this span is five (1969, 1992).  Only four 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, 2020).

Over the past 34 postseasons (since the 1987 expansion to best-of-seven series), a sweep has resulted in 72 of 510 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) 2019: 4 (2P, 1Q, 1S)
2001: 3 (2P, 1Q) 2020: 0
2002: 0 2021: 3 (2P, 1Q)
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 (6/34 = 18%), though no team has been swept there since 1998 when the Detroit Red Wings disposed off the Washington Capitals. The Quarterfinal (21/136 = 15%), Preliminary (37/272 = 14%) and Semifinal (8/68 = 12%) rounds follow with a historically significant but decreasing likelihood of sweep.

Thus far, the 2022 Playoffs have delivered one sweep with the Colorado Avalanche eliminating the Nashville Predators in four straight games. Nashville narrowly avoided a perfect sweep holding a third period lead in Game 4 for just under five minutes, before Colorado answered back with three straight goals to clinch the win.


* See also NHL Playoff Sweeps Without Surrendering Lead.

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