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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

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 621 best-of-seven playoff series since the league's origins through 2014, 111 (18%) have ended in a sweep.  The most sweeps in a single postseason during this span is five (1969, 1992).  Only twice since all postseason series were expanded to best-of-seven in 1987 has a Stanley Cup Playoff series gone without a sweep (1991, 2002).

Over the past 27 postseasons (since the 1987 expansion to best-of-seven series), a sweep has resulted in 59 of 405 series, representing 1 in 6.9 (14.5%) 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)
2000: 2 (2P)
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 (6/27 = 22%), though no team has been swept there since 1998 when the Detroit Red Wings disposed off the Washington Capitals. The Quarterfinal (18/108 = 17%), Preliminary (28/216 = 13%) and Semifinal (7/54 = 13%) rounds follow with a historically significant but decreasing likelihood of sweep.

The first sweep of the 2015 Playoffs occurred last night when Anaheim swept their opening round series against Winnipeg. Beware of the brooms.

* See also NHL Playoff Sweeps Without Surrendering Lead.

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