blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: April 2019

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Battle of Alberta & NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

For the past four decades, the province of Alberta has hosted two NHL teams, the Edmonton Oilers (emigrating from the WHL in 1979) and the Calgary Flames (relocating from Atlanta in 1980). Separated by a mere 175 miles, these two franchises have forged one of the most intense rivalries in the game, playing hundreds of regular season games and five playoff series against each other, in what's known throughout the league as the "Battle of Alberta". The Oilers have qualified for the postseason 21 times, skating in the Cup Final seven times (1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 2006) and winning the Stanley Cup five times (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990). The Flames have skated in the playoffs 22 times, cracking the Cup Final three times (1986, 1989, 2004) and hoisting once (1989).

To put the early years of these fierce provincial foes in perspective, both teams made the playoffs each year from their inauguration through 1991, with one of them skating in the Stanley Cup Final for eight consecutive years (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990) and winning it six times during that span, spilling oceans of blood en route.

There were dark times too. Edmonton missed the postseason 18 times (1993-1996, 2002, 2004, 2007-2016, 2018, 2019), including a NHL record 10 consecutive postseason absences (2007-2016). Calgary failed to qualify for the playoffs 15 times (1992, 1997-2003, 2010-2014, 2016, 2018). 

Both missed the same postseason eight times (2002, 2010-2014, 2016, 2018), including seven of the past nine playoffs. On the other hand, both qualified for the same postseason 13 times (1981-1991, 2006, 2017), though it's only happened twice in the past 26 seasons (2006, 2017).

In terms of head-to-head playoff matchups, the Alberta teams have locked horns five times (1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1991). Edmonton has won all but one such series (1986), owing to a spectacular Steve Smith own goal, with the winner reaching the Stanley Cup Final four times (1983, 1984, 1986, 1988) and hoisting twice (1984, 1988) after such affairs.

Regarding other NHL teams facing both Alberta squads in the same postseason, only the Winnipeg Jets (1985, 1987), Los Angeles Kings (1989, 1990) and Anaheim Ducks (2006, 2017) have done it. To date, only the 2017 Anaheim Ducks have won series against both Alberta teams in the same postseason. 

Interestingly, when both Alberta sides have played the same opponent in a postseason, the victor has advanced to the Stanley Cup Final every time (1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, 2006) but once (2017), hoisting the Cup all but twice (2006, 2017).

The last time Edmonton and Calgary both qualified for the postseason was 2017.  Neither made it past the opening round, falling to San Jose and Anaheim, respectively.

For the sake of NHL fans everywhere, let's hope this playoff rivalry is sparked again soon.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

NHL Consecutive Stanley Cup Losses

Since the Stanley Cup was dedicated to NHL's top team in 1926, only five franchises (Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red WingsMontreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues) have qualified for consecutive Cup Finals and lost each time.  

Nine times the losing streak was limited to two years though twice a three year streak struck (Toronto 1938-1940, St. Louis 1968-1970).  The charts below describe these streaks by team and years, and vice versa.

Team                  Years
Toronto 1935-1936 (2), 1938-1939-1940 (3), 1959-1960 (2),
Detroit 1941-1942 (2), 1948-1949 (2), 1963-1964 (2)
Montreal 1951-1952 (2), 1954-1955 (2)
Boston 1957-1958 (2), 1977-1978 (2)
St. Louis 1968-1969-1970 (3)

Years                  Team
1935-1936 Toronto
1938-1940 Toronto
1941-1942 Detroit
1948-1949 Detroit
1951-1952 Montreal
1954-1955 Montreal
1957-1958 Boston
1959-1960 Toronto
1963-1964 Detroit
1968-1970 St. Louis 
1977-1978 Boston

In 2016, the Tampa Bay Lightning fell one game short of returning to the Stanley Cup Final for their second consecutive year.  Had they qualified and lost to their western conference counterpart, they would have become the sixth franchise on this inglorious list.

* See also NHL Consecutive Stanley Cup Wins.
* See also NHL Consecutive Stanley Cup Rematches.

NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Series Win Droughts

Every Stanley Cup winning season begins by qualifying for the postseason. Only 8 teams, however, take the second crucial step of winning a playoff series. For the remaining 23 teams, the playoff series win drought begins.

The chart below describes, in descending order, the number of seasons each of these 23 teams has gone without winning a series in the Stanley Cup playoffs, showing the last year they actually won a postseason series. Where no year appears, that team has NEVER won a playoff series.

Team       Seasons      Last Series Win
New Jersey
Los Angeles
New York^
Tampa Bay

* New York Islanders
^ New York Rangers

The Phoenix Coyotes hold the all-time series win drought record of 23 seasons going 14 seasons in Phoenix and 9 seasons in Winnipeg without a series win, a streak that was snapped in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The current leader is the Florida Panthers with 22 seasons separating them from a postseason series win. This postseason was special for the Columbus Blue Jackets who won the first playoff series of their 19 year existence sweeping the Presidents' Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning. Last year's postseason was special for the Winnipeg Jets (formerly Atlanta Thrashers), as they won their first ever playoff game on April 11, 2018 (6,767 days since their first game on October 2, 1999) as well as their first playoff series win, ending a 17 season drought on both counts.

Interestingly, all 7 Canadian teams (Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg) find themselves on the list. Unfortunately for the hockey-crazed nation, their teams also rank high on the Stanley Cup Championship drought lists, with 26 years separating the country from its last Cup win (Montreal 1993).

Of the eight teams advancing to the second round of the 2019 Playoffs, two (Boston, San Jose) won at least one playoff series last year. None of the others (Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, New York Islanders, St. Louis) won a series in the 2018 Playoffs. In fact, four of them didn't even qualify for last year's playoff (Carolina, Dallas, New York Islanders, St. Louis).

Playoff berths are harder to come by every year. Make the most of each opportunity as parity promises your window will likely quickly close.

* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Qualification Droughts.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Final Appearance Droughts.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Championship Droughts.

NHL Consecutive Stanley Cup Rematches

Since the Stanley Cup was first awarded to the NHL's best in 1926, only 10 times have the same two teams met in the Cup Final in consecutive years. Of those 10 meetings, the same team won both series 7 times and teams split 3 times. Put another way, the Cup champion has successfully defended its title in 7 of the 10 rematches (70%).

The chart below describes every consecutive Cup rematch by year.

Year       Matchup
1932   Toronto over New York*  
1933 New York* over Toronto  
1948 Toronto over Detroit
1949 Toronto over Detroit
1954 Detroit over Montreal
1955 Detroit over Montreal
1957 Montreal over Boston
1958 Montreal over Boston
1959 Montreal over Toronto
1960 Montreal over Toronto
1963 Toronto over Detroit
1964 Toronto over Detroit
1968 Montreal over St. Louis
1969 Montreal over St. Louis
1977 Montreal over Boston 
1978 Montreal over Boston   
1983 New York** over Edmonton     
1984 Edmonton over New York**
2008 Detroit over Pittsburgh
2009 Pittsburgh over Detroit

*   New York Rangers
** New York Islanders

Of the 9 teams (Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins) to compete in Stanley Cup Final rematches, all but two (Boston, St. Louis) have won at least one championship during a rematch series. Never have the same two teams met in more than two consecutive Stanley Cup Finals.

Though teams have enjoyed consecutive Stanley Cup wins (24 times) and suffered consecutive Stanley Cup losses (13 times) over the years, the rematch is a far rarer occurrence (10 times). 

With Washington and Vegas ousted in the opening round of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, there will be no rematch of last year's finalists in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

* See also NHL Consecutive Stanley Cup Wins.
* See also NHL Consecutive Stanley Cup Losses.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Game 7 History

When two teams split the first six games of a best-of-seven playoff series, a 'winner take all' Game 7 is staged. Heroes are born and victors crowned in this high-stakes affair. Not surprisingly, Game 7s have produced some of the most memorable moments in NHL postseason history.
Once reserved solely for the Semifinal and Final rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the best-of-seven format was expanded to include the Quarterfinals in 1968 and Preliminary round in 1987. Of the 681 best-of-seven NHL playoff series played through 2018, 169 (25%) have resulted in a Game 7 with the home team holding a healthy 98-71 (58%) edge. The team that scores first has a 126-43 (75%) edge, including a 5-0 record in 2016. 40 of the 169 (24%) Game 7s have gone to overtime, with the home and road teams each winning 20 times (50%).

Of the 169 Game 7s, 28 times a team trailing their series 3-1 won Game 7 and 4 times a team down 3-0 in their series won Game 7.  The most Game 7s in single playoff season is seven (1994, 2011, 2014). Only three times has a postseason gone without (1970, 1973, 1977).

Over the past 31 postseasons since the 1987 expansion of all series to best-of-seven, a Game 7 has been played in 125 of the 465 series. Put another way, 28% or approximately every 1 in 3.6 playoff series have gone to seven games. The chart below describes Game 7s by year, noting the number and round in which a seventh game(s) occurred.

Year: Game 7s (Round)                   Year: Game 7s (Round) 
1987: 5 (1P, 3Q, F) 2002: 5 (2P, 2Q, 1S)
1988: 3 (1P, 1Q, 1S) 2003: 6 (3P, 1Q, 1S, F)
1989: 3 (2P, 1Q) 2004: 5 (3P, 1S, F)
1990: 4 (3P, 1Q) 2006: 3 (1P, 1S, F)
1991: 4 (3P, 1Q) 2007: 1 (1P)
1992: 6 (6P) 2008: 3 (3P)
1993: 4 (1P, 2Q, 1S) 2009: 6 (2P, 3Q, F)
1994: 7 (4P, 1Q, 1S, F) 2010: 4 (2P, 2Q)
1995: 4 (4P) 2011: 7 (4P, 1Q, 1S, F)
1996: 2 (1Q, 1S) 2012: 4 (3P, 1Q)
1997: 3 (3P) 2013: 5 (3P, 2Q)
1998: 1 (1Q) 2014: 7 (3P, 3Q, 1S)
1999: 3 (2P, 1S) 2015: 5 (2P, 1Q, 2S)
2000: 3 (1P, 2S) 2016: 5 (2P, 2Q, 1S)
2001: 4 (3Q, F) 2017: 3 (2Q, 1S)

2018: 3 (1P, 1Q, 1S)

(P = Preliminary, Q = Quarterfinal, S = Semifinal, F = Final)

Breaking it down by round, the most Game 7s over the past 31 seasons on a percentage basis have occurred in Semifinal (18/62 = 28%) and Quarterfinal (35/124 = 28%), followed by the Stanley Cup Final (8/31 = 26%) and Preliminary (67/248 = 27%) round. Interestingly, 6 of the past 17 Finals and 6 of the past 9 Semifinals have been decided by a seventh game. In sum, the likelihood of a Game 7 in a NHL playoff series since 1987 is 1 in 3.5 for the Semifinal and Quarterfinal with a slight decrease to roughly 1 in 3.65 for the Preliminary round and 1 in 3.75 for the Stanley Cup Final.

The charts below show the total number of Game 7s played by each NHL team along with their win/loss records, with all-time statistics on the lefthand side and data since 1987 on the righthand side.

NHL Game 7s All-Time                   NHL Game 7s Since 1987
Team: Series (Record)       Team: Series (Record)
Boston: 26 (14-12) Pittsburgh: 16 (10-6)
Detroit: 25 (14-11) Boston: 15 (9-6)
Montreal: 23 (14-9) New Jersey: 15 (7-8)
Toronto: 23 (12-11) Washington: 15 (4-11)
Pittsburgh: 17 (10-7) Detroit: 14 (7-7)
Philadelphia: 16 (9-7) Toronto: 12 (6-6)
St. Louis: 16 (8-8) New York*: 11 (9-2)
New York*: 15 (9-6) Philadelphia: 11 (6-5)
New Jersey: 15 (7-8) Montreal: 10 (7-3)
Washington: 15 (4-11) San Jose: 10 (6-4)
Chicago: 14 (7-7) Vancouver: 10 (6-4)
Calgary: 12 (5-7) Colorado: 10 (4-6)
Los Angeles: 11 (7-4) St. Louis: 10 (4-6)
Edmonton: 10 (6-4) Los Angeles: 8 (6-2)
San Jose: 10 (6-4) Chicago: 8 (5-3)
Vancouver: 10 (6-4) Anaheim: 9 (3-6)
Colorado: 10 (4-6) Edmonton: 8 (5-3)
Anaheim: 9 (3-6) Tampa Bay: 8 (5-3)
Tampa Bay: 8 (5-3) Calgary: 8 (2-6)
Minnesota^: 7 (3-4) Buffalo: 6 (1-5)
New York**: 7 (3-4) Ottawa: 6 (0-6)
Buffalo: 7 (1-6) Dallas: 5 (2-3)
Ottawa: 6 (0-6) New York**: 5 (2-3)
Dallas: 5 (2-3) Carolina: 4 (4-0)
Carolina: 4 (4-0) Minnesota^^: 3 (3-0)
Minnesota^^: 3 (3-0) Nashville: 3 (1-2)
Quebec: 3 (2-1) Phoenix: 3 (0-3)
Nashville: 3 (1-2) Florida: 2 (1-1)
Hartford: 3 (0-3) Hartford: 2 (0-2)
Florida: 2 (1-1) Minnesota^: 2 (0-2)
Phoenix: 2 (1-1) Winnipeg~: 2 (0-2)
Winnipeg~: 2 (0-2) Winnipeg+: 1 (1-0)
Winnipeg+: 1 (1-0) Quebec: 1 (0-1)
Oakland: 1 (0-1)

*   New York Rangers
** New York Islanders
^   Minnesota North Stars
^^ Minnesota Wild
~  Winnipeg Jets (1979-1996)
+  Winnipeg Jets (2011-Present)

Boston has skated in the most Game 7s (26) in NHL history with Boston, Detroit and Montreal winning the most (14). Over the past 31 seasons, however, Pittsburgh has played more Game 7s (16) than anyone else and winning the most (10). Carolina, Minnesota Wild and the Winnipeg Jets (2011-Present) have never lost a Game 7; Ottawa, Hartford, Phoenix, Winnipeg (1979-1996) and Oakland have never won a Game 7; and Columbus has never skated in one.

In terms of winning more than one Game 7 in a single postseason, 22 teams have done it twice with only two teams winning three best-of-seven series in a Game 7 in a single playoff (Boston 2011, Los Angeles 2014). The chart below lists all NHL teams that have ever won two or more Game 7s in a single postseason, indicating year and rounds in which they turned the trick.

NHL Game 7s Won Same Year
Year: Team (Round)
1950: Detroit (S, F)*
1964: Toronto (S, F)*
1968: St. Louis (Q, S)
1990: Chicago (P, Q)
1993: Toronto (P, Q)
1994: New York^ (S, F)*
2001: Colorado (Q, F)*
2002: Colorado (P, Q), Toronto (P, Q)
2003: New Jersey (S, F)*, Minnesota (P, Q)
2004: Tampa Bay (S, F)*
2006: Carolina (S, F)*
2009: Carolina (P, Q), PIT (Q, F)*
2010: Montreal (P, Q)
2011: Boston (P, S, F)*
2012: New York^ (P, Q)
2014: Los Angeles (P, Q, S)*
2015: Tampa Bay (P, S)
2016: St. Louis (P, Q)
2017: Pittsburgh (Q, S)*

* Stanley Cup Champion
^ New York Rangers

(P = Preliminary, Q = Quarterfinal, S = Semifinal, F = Final)

The 2018 postseason featured three Game 7s, with the team that scores first going 2-1, home teams holding a 1-2 record, and none recovering from a 3-1 series deficit.
Game 7 ... kill or be killed.

* See also NHL Playoff Comebacks Trailing 3-0.
* See also NHL Playoff Comebacks Trailing 3-1.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff First Round Upsets.
* See also Canucks Game 7 Overtime & Stanley Cup Finals.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

NHL Presidents' Trophy Winners & Playoff Success

The Presidents' Trophy is awarded annually to the team with the best NHL regular season record. Since its inaugural offering in 1986, it has been awarded 33 times to 17 different franchises. The recipient is guaranteed home ice advantage for all four rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Unfortunately for recipients, regular season success and home-ice advantage does not always translate in postseason success. The chart below shows each Presidents' Trophy winner by year and playoff result.

Year         Presidents' Trophy            Playoff Result
2019 Tampa Bay Lightning Lost Preliminary (Columbus)
2018 Nashville Predators Lost Quarterfinal (Winnipeg)
2017 Washington Capitals Lost Quarterfinal (Pittsburgh)
2016 Washington Capitals Lost Quarterfinal (Pittsburgh)
2015 New York Rangers Lost Semifinal (Tampa Bay)
2014 Boston Bruins Lost Quarterfinal (Montreal)
2013 Chicago Blackhawks Won Stanley Cup
2012 Vancouver Canucks Lost Preliminary (Los Angeles)
2011 Vancouver Canucks Lost Final (Boston)
2010 Washington Capitals Lost Preliminary (Montreal)
2009 San Jose Sharks Lost Preliminary (Anaheim)
2008 Detroit Red Wings Won Stanley Cup
2007 Buffalo Sabres Lost Semifinal (Ottawa)
2006 Detroit Red Wings Lost Preliminary (Edmonton)
2004 Detroit Red Wings Lost Quarterfinal (Calgary)
2003 Ottawa Senators Lost Semifinal (New Jersey)
2002 Detroit Red Wings Won Stanley Cup
2001 Colorado Avalanche Won Stanley Cup
2000 St. Louis Blues Lost Preliminary (San Jose)
1999 Dallas Stars Won Stanley Cup
1998 Dallas Stars Lost Semifinal (Detroit)
1997 Colorado Avalanche Lost Semifinal (Detroit)
1996 Detroit Red Wings Lost Semifinal (Colorado)
1995 Detroit Red Wings Lost Final (New Jersey)
1994 New York Rangers Won Stanley Cup
1993 Pittsburgh Penguins Lost Quarterfinal (New York)*
1992 New York Rangers Lost Quarterfinal (Pittsburgh)
1991 Chicago Blackhawks Lost Preliminary (Minnesota)^
1990 Boston Bruins Lost Final (Edmonton)
1989 Calgary Flames Won Stanley Cup
1988 Calgary Flames Lost Quarterfinal (Edmonton)
1987 Edmonton Oilers Won Stanley Cup
1986 Edmonton Oilers Lost Quarterfinal (Calgary)

* New York Islanders
^ Minnesota North Stars

Of the 33 recipients through 2019, eleven (35%) qualified for the Final and eight (24%) won the Stanley Cup (1987, 1989, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2008, 2013). Of the 20 others, seven (21%) were ousted in the Preliminary round (1991, 2000, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2019), nine (27%) were eliminated in the Quarterfinal (1986, 1988, 1992, 1993, 2004, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018), and six (18%) stalled in the Semifinal (1996, 1997, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2015).

Only once in the past seven seasons has a Presidents' Trophy winner won the Stanley Cup (Chicago 2013). In fact, four teams during the past eleven years saw their season end in the opening round (San Jose 2009, Washington 2010, Vancouver 2012, Tampa Bay 2019). Interesting, only three times in the prior 24 seasons did winners suffer such a fate (Chicago 1991, St. Louis 2000, Detroit 2006).

Earlier this week the Presidents' Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round.  Once again, the regular season's best fails to achieve Stanley Cup success.

* See also NHL Playoff First Round Upsets.
* See also NHL Playoff Seeding And Stanley Cup Wins.
* See also Presidents' Winners & Defending Cup Champions.

Presidents' Winners & Defending Cup Champions

Since the inaugural offering of the Presidents' Trophy in 1986, awarded to the team with the best regular season record, its recipient has drawn the defending Stanley Cup champions eight times in the subsequent postseason. The chart below shows each meeting by year, matchup and outcome.

1988 Edmonton Oilersover Calgary Flames
4-0 (Q)
1992 Pittsburgh Penguinsover New York Rangers
4-2 (Q)
1998 Detroit Red Wingsover Dallas Stars 
4-2 (S)
2001 Colorado Avalanche over New Jersey Devils*
4-3 (F)
2002 Detroit Red Wings over Colorado Avalanche*
4-3 (S)
2011 Vancouver Canucks over Chicago Blackhawks*
4-3 (P)
2013 Chicago Blackhawks over Los Angeles Kings*
4-1 (S)
2017 Pittsburgh Penguinsover Washington Capitals 
4-3 (Q)

*  Defending Stanley Cup Champion
(P = Preliminary, Q = Quarterfinal, S = Semifinal, F = Final)

In the first three postseason meetings between the regular season's best and defending league champs, the prior year's Stanley Cup champions won (1988, 1992, 1998) and went on to hoist consecutive Stanley Cups. The next four matchups saw the Presidents' Trophy winners oust the defending Cup champions (2001, 2002, 20112013) and win the Stanley Cup in every instance but one (Vancouver 2011).

The most recent clash occurred in the Quarterfinal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the 2016 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Presidents' Trophy winning Washington Capitals., snapping the previous streak of Presidents' Trophy winners advancing.

This meeting marks the 10th playoff series between the clubs, with Pittsburgh holding a 9-1 advantage and a 3-0 record during the Crosby-Ovechkin era. It's also the first time that the top two regular season finishers have met in the playoffs since 2001 when Colorado met New Jersey in the Stanley Cup Final.

The only opportunity for the 2019 Presidents' Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning to meet the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals would have been in the Conference Final. WIth both teams exiting in the opening round, against Columbus and Carolina respectively, we'll have to wait another year for such a matchup.

* See also NHL Consecutive Stanley Cup Wins.
* See also NHL Playoff Seeding And Stanley Cup Wins.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff First Round Upsets. * See also NHL Presidents' Trophy Winners & Playoff Success.

Friday, April 19, 2019

NHL Playoff Sweeps Without Surrendering Lead

When a team wins the first four games of a playoff series they are said to have swept the series and their opponent. When the victor does so NEVER trailing in any of the four games, they have completed the rare feat of a PERFECT sweep.

Of the 681 best-of-seven NHL Stanley Cup playoff series played through 2018, 117 (17%) have resulted in a sweep.  Only 18 of those 681 series (2.6%), however, ended in a perfect sweep or annihilation.

The chart below describes every such perfect sweep (or annihilation, if you prefer), showing the playoff year, matchup and round of the rarity.

Year       Matchup Round
1946   Montreal over Chicago   Semifinal 
1952 Detroit over Montreal   Final
1954 Montreal over Boston Semifinal
1960 Montreal over Chicago Semifinal

Montreal over Toronto Final
1969 Boston over Toronto Quarterfinal

St. Louis over Philadelphia Quarterfinal
1977 Montreal over St. Louis Quarterfinal
1978 Montreal over Toronto  Semifinal
1979 New York* over Chicago Quarterfinal
1987 Detroit over Chicago  Preliminary
1989 Pittsburgh over New York**    Preliminary
1992 Chicago over Detroit  Quarterfinal
1995 Detroit over San Jose Quarterfinal
2000 Detroit over Los Angeles Preliminary
2009 Detroit over Columbus Preliminary
2013 Boston over Pittsburgh Semifinal
2015 Chicago over Minnesota Quarterfinal

*   New York Islanders
** New York Rangers

The Montreal Canadiens lead the league with six perfect sweeps and are the only team to do it twice in a single postseason. That happened in 1960 when Montreal annihilated both the Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs en route to their fifth straight Stanley Cup championship. Chicago, on the other hand, owns the honor of being on the losing end of a perfect sweep four times, leading all teams in this category.

Breaking it down by round, the most annihilations have happened in the Quarterfinal (7), followed by the Semifinal (5), Preliminary (4) and Final (2).  The last team to be so swept in the Cup Final was the Toronto Maple Leafs 55 years ago, adding to their dreary postseason history.

Of the two sweeps thus far in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Columbus over Tampa Bay, New York Islander over Pittsburgh), both victims managed to hold a goal lead at some point during a game of the series avoiding the distinction of making this historic list. Pittsburgh narrowly escaped this honor, leading their series for only 3 minutes and 41 seconds thanks to opening goals in games 2, 3 and 4 from Gudbranson, Wilson and Guentzal.
Beware of the brooms. But avoid annihilation at all costs.

* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Sweeps

Thursday, April 18, 2019

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 681 best-of-seven playoff series since the league's origins through 2018, 117 (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 31 postseasons (since the 1987 expansion to best-of-seven series), a sweep has resulted in 65 of 465 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 (6/31 = 19%), though no team has been swept there since 1998 when the Detroit Red Wings disposed off the Washington Capitals. The Quarterfinal (19/124 = 15%), Preliminary (33/248 = 13%) and Semifinal (7/62 = 11%) 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.

Thus far, the 2019 Playoffs have provided two sweeps in the preliminary round, with the Columbus Blue Jackets upsetting the President's Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders beating the Pittsburgh Penguins

* See also NHL Playoff Sweeps Without Surrendering Lead.

NHL Playoff Comebacks Trailing 3-1

Eight teams took a 3-1 series lead in their best-of-seven series in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including 5 of 8 Preliminary round matchups. All won (Boston, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay [2], Vegas, Winnipeg, Washington). While a 3-1 lead is always a good thing, it's never a sure thing.

Through 2018, teams have trailed 3-1 in a best-of-seven series 300 times.  Only 28 times has the trailing team comeback to win the series. Put another way, the team with a 3-1 series lead wins 90% of the time with the down-and-nearly-out team recovering only 10% of the time.

The chart below describes all 28 comebacks by year, team and round.

Year       Matchup Round
1942   Toronto over Detroit   Final 
1975 New York* over Pittsburgh   Preliminary
1987 New York* over Washington Preliminary

Detroit over Toronto Quarterfinal
1988 Washington over Philadelphia Quarterfinal
1989 Los Angeles over Edmonton Preliminary
1990 Edmonton over Winnipeg Preliminary
1991 St. Louis over Detroit Preliminary
1992 Detroit over Minnesota^ Preliminary

Vancouver over Winnipeg Preliminary

Pittsburgh over Washington Preliminary
1994 Vancouver over Calgary Preliminary
1995 Pittsburgh over Washington Preliminary
1998 Edmonton over Colorado Preliminary
1999 St. Louis over Phoenix Preliminary
2000 New Jersey over Philadelphia Semifinal
2003 Minnesota^^ over Colorado  Preliminary

Vancouver over St. Louis Preliminary

Minnesota^^ over Vancouver  Quarterfinal
2004 Montreal over Boston    Preliminary
2009 Washington over New York**      Preliminary
2010 Montreal over Washington Preliminary

Philadelphia over Boston Quarterfinal
2011 Tampa Bay over Pittsburgh Preliminary
2013 Chicago over Detroit Quarterfinal
2014 Los Angeles over San Jose Preliminary

New York** over Pittsburgh Quarterfinal
2015 New York** over Washington Quarterfinal

*   New York Islanders
** New York Rangers
^   Minnesota North Stars
^^ Minnesota Wild

In the 31 seasons since all playoff rounds were expanded to best-of-seven series in 1987, 26 teams have comeback from a 3-1 deficit to win their series. In the thirteen postseasons since the 2004 NHL Lockout, however, only eight teams (Washington 2009, Montreal 2010, Philadelphia 2010, Tampa Bay 2011, Chicago 2013, Los Angeles 2014New York 2014, New York 2015) have turned the trick. Breaking it down by round, such comebacks have happened only once in the Stanley Cup Final (Toronto 1942) and Semifinal (New Jersey 2000), and seven times in the Quarterfinal (Detroit 1987, Washington 1988, Minnesota 2003, Philadelphia 2010, Chicago 2013, New York 2014, New York 2015), with the remaining 19 comebacks occurring during the Preliminary round.

Of the 28 teams that completed the comeback, six (6/28 = 21%) won the Stanley Cup (Toronto 1942, Edmonton 1990, Pittsburgh 1992New Jersey 2000, Chicago 2013, Los Angeles 2014) and three more made it to the Final but failed to hoist the hardware (Vancouver 1994, Philadelphia 2010, New York 2014).

Only one team has ever recovered from a 3-1 deficit twice in the same playoff (Minnesota 2003). Similarly, only one team has ever comeback down 3-1 and blown a 3-1 lead in the same postseason (Vancouver 2003).

The chart below lists all teams involved in such 3-1 series comebacks, showing the total number of series involving such circumstances and their overall win/loss record.

Team       Series      Record
New York**
St. Louis
Los Angeles     
New York*
New Jersey
Tampa Bay
San Jose

*   New York Islanders
** New York Rangers

^   Minnesota North Stars
^^ Minnesota Wild

Only AnaheimBuffalo, Carolina, Columbus, DallasFlorida, Nashville, Ottawa and Winnipeg (formerly the Atlanta Thrashers) have never comeback from a 3-1 series deficit or blown a 3-1 series lead.  Vancouver leads all teams in comebacks trailing a series 3-1 with three such series wins.  Conversely, Washington has blown more 3-1 series leads than any other team, squandering five such series.

It's worth noting that in the thirteen postseasons since the 2004 NHL Lockout, twelve teams have squandered a 3-1 series lead only to stave off elimination by winning Game 7.  They are Carolina (2006), Vancouver (2007), Montreal (2008), Philadelphia (2008), Carolina (2009), Vancouver (2011), San Jose (2011), Boston (2013), Los Angeles (2014), St. Louis (2016), Pittsburgh (2017) and Boston (2018).  Seven of these games were decided by one goal and five in overtime.
In sum, with a 10% chance of recovery for teams trailing their series 3-1, it's statistically likely their season will soon end.

* See also NHL Playoff Comebacks Trailing 3-0.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Game 7 History.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff First Round Upsets.