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

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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 606 best-of-seven playoff series since the league's origins through 2013, 110 (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 26 postseasons (since the 1987 expansion to best-of-seven series), a sweep has resulted in 58 of 390 series, representing 1 in 6.7 (15%) 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)
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 (6/26 = 23%), though no team has been swept there since 1998 when the Detroit Red Wings disposed off the Washington Capitals. The Quarterfinal (18/104 = 17%), Preliminary (27/208 = 13%) and Semifinal (7/52 = 13%) rounds follow with a historically significant but decreasing likelihood of sweep.

The first sweep of the 2014 Playoffs occurred last night when Montreal swept their opening round series against Tampa Bay.The San Jose Sharks will attempt to follow suit tomorrow night when they take their 3-0 series lead into Game 4 against the Los Angeles Kings.  Beware of the brooms.

* See also NHL Playoff Sweeps Without Surrendering Lead.

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