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The Most Dominant NHL Playoff Runs Ever

No Stanley Cup winner has ever swept all four rounds to hoist the championship, but these teams came close.

Led by the legendary Wayne Gretzky, the 1987/88 Edmonton Oilers have come the closest to a perfect postseason, winning the Stanley Cup in 18 games, while five other teams have managed it in 20 games - including the 2022 champions Colorado Avalanche.

Prior to the format change from three rounds to four, the 1976/77 Montreal Canadiens produced the most dominant run taking just 14 games to lift the Cup.

The average number of games needed to win the Stanley Cup in the current format is 22, with the most played by a champion being 26.

Montreal Canadiens (1976/77)

The Canadiens (12-2-0) were coached by Scotty Bowman, widely considered the best of all-time, who had the likes of Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt, Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe, as well as the spectacular goaltending of Ken Dryden to call upon.

The Hall of Fame star cast swept the St. Louis Blues in the first round, needed six games to get by the New York Islanders, but then completed a sweep in the Final against rivals Boston Bruins.

Ten years later, the NHL changed the playoff format to the current four-round, 16-win system, so the opportunity for another team to win the Stanley Cup in 14 games has since disappeared.

But, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been similarly unbeatable runs in the playoffs.

Edmonton Oilers (1987/1988)

Edmonton’s 1988 run of 16-2 to become Stanley Cup Playoff Champion remains unmatched since the NHL moved to four best-of-seven rounds.

Arguably the best team ever assembled, the Oilers battered opponents with Gretzky scoring 12 goals and an incredible 43 points in the 18 games.

Hall of Famers Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson joined Gretzky on the Oilers roster, making them practically impossible to stop, particularly with the legendary Grant Fuhr backing them up in goal.

Gretzky won four cups with the Oilers between 1984 and 1988, and their only one without him in 1990 remains their last. 

Colorado Avalanche (2021/22)

The Colorado Avalanche ended a 21-year wait for a third Stanley Cup Championship last season in sensational style going on a 16-4 to end the Tampa Bay Lightning’s three-peat dream and hoist the trophy.

After sweeping the Nashville Predators and Oilers on way to the Final, the Avalanche came close to matching the Oilers’ 1988 record, going up 2-0 against the Lightning (16-2), but in the end needed six games to get rid of their resilient Final opponent.

Nathan MacKinnon led the deep squad with 13 goals and defenseman Cale Makar proved himself the most dominant blue-liner in the game currently, putting on a show which saw him score 21 points (eight goals, 21 assists) to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the post season.

Detroit Red Wings (1996/97)

Exactly 20 years after guiding the Canadiens to their historic run, Bowman was again celebrating a Stanley Cup victory after his team ran through the competition (16-4).

Like last season’s Avalanche, the 1997 Detroit Red Wings completed two sweeps on way to lifting the Cup, including in the Final against Philadelphia Flyers.

The Red Wings’ dominance of that post-season isn’t such a surprise in hindsight, with a roster built with Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, Nick Lidstrom, Larry Murphy and had Mike Vernon in goal.

Los Angeles Kings (2011/12)

In their first year under coach Darryl Sutter, the Los Angeles Kings proved to be the ultimate dark horse contender, not only going on a historic run to the Cup, but becoming the first ever eighth seed to lift the trophy.

Backstopped by an up-and-coming Jonathan Quick, the Kings dumped out the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks over five games in the opening round and used that confidence to blitz by far higher-seeded opponents to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup (16-4).

Quick had an incredible .946 save percentage and 1.41 goals-against-average (GAA) over the 20 games, which are the best numbers for a winning Stanley Cup goalie in history and won him the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Canadiens (1992/93) and New Jersey Devils (1994/95)

The 1992/93 Montreal Canadiens and 1994/95 New Jersey Devils are the other two teams to win the Stanley Cup in 20 games and both runs were career highlights for two of the best goalies to ever play the game.

Patrick Roy had a .929 save percentage and 2.13 GAA to win the Conn Smythe for a second time as a Stanley Cup Champion with Montreal, while Martin Brodeur was only 22 when he went 16-4 with a .927 save percentage and 1.67 GAA with the Devils to win the first of three Stanley Cups with the Devils.

Roy was later traded to Colorado where he again won the Conn Smythe and lifted two more Stanley Cups.

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