The NHL playoffs are going to be tight, but we’ve seen tighter before


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There is one common phrase that transpires every NHL playoff broadcast about the fact that this is the most “balanced” postseason ever. It’s like these commenters get a bonus every time they talk about it. It’s disgusting and more importantly, it’s not right.

This year’s NHL postseason is the most competitive in a long time, that’s right. But only a lack of research suggests that the gaps between teams are record-breakingly small. That is, so far. The bubble could burst permanently in the next 24 hours and likely will by Saturday morning.

We conclude the first round of the 35th NHL postseason, in which first-round games are played best-of-seven, beginning in 1987 and every year except for the aborted 2005 season due to the league lockout. A staggering 15 teams are still fighting for the Stanley Cup to be added to Thursday night’s playlist, good job for Nashville shit the bed.

Next up is a quartet of Game 6, with a further three penultimate possible first round games taking place on Friday. Since moving to a seven-game first-round series, all seven teams currently trailing 3-2 would need to win their next game to set the NHL record. A total of six first-round series went to Game 7 in 1992, including one with eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh. All eight series had a Game 6 this season, meaning this year doesn’t break that record either. No team had won a first-round series the year before by a win or by a 4-1 lead and, oddly enough, ended up with the same result, a Pittsburgh championship.

Since that back-to-back championship won by Mario Lemieux 30 years ago, there has only been one other NHL postseason with seven first-round games 6-2010. Only two of those series achieved a winner-take-all Game 7. Should be a few processions of handshake lines do not occur Thursday night, the second most common game of 7s from a first round is four, and has occurred three times since 1987.

One reason the NHL has had an exceptionally even postseason is how uneven the regular season has been. Every Eastern Conference playoff team had 100 points or more. That the ninth best islanders had 84, the equivalent of eight wins behind triple-digit points. Six Eastern Conference teams had 75 points or fewer. If the top eight have been feasting on lesser teams for most of the year, they’re less jaded. The Western Conference was a bit more even, with 11 teams finishing the regular season with 89 points. The bottom five had 77 or less.

This season was there too more widespread star power than the league has seen. How many playoff teams have had a player considered one of the NHL’s best? There are 13 by my count, many of whom have a ton of playoff experience. The lonely keepers? Dallas, Boston and the already eliminated Nashville.

This year will probably not be an isolated year in terms of competitiveness. The 1994 and 1995 seasons were two of three with four seventh games, just a few short of the most even first round of 1992. That nearly half the league has won multiple playoff games shows that more teams are closer to a Stanley Cup than usual . The gap between the championship contenders is getting smaller and smaller. Take the Washington Capitals for example. If a Garnet Hathaway chance goes at the net or just wide in Game 4 and a Game 5 try by Nic Dowd stays on the side instead of getting across the blue line by a tiny margin, the President’s Cup is The Florida Panthers who won the trophy would be eliminated rather than returning to DC with a 3-2 lead.

The modern NHL has never had a playoff like this year. But there’s historical precedent that makes those who call this season remarkably different wrong. The unpredictability of the postseason so far has been made for some bad games. It was evenly balanced with many good ones in the last few days. Let’s just stop the facade of abnormality.

How many streaks did game 6 reach? And game 7?

  • 2022: Seven to Six, TBD to Seven
  • 2021: Five made it to six, two to seven
  • 2020: Three to six, zero to seven
  • 2019: Five made it to six, three to seven
  • 2018: Four to six, one to seven
  • 2017: Four to six, zero to seven
  • 2016: Five to six, two to seven
  • 2015: Six to six, two to seven
  • 2014: Six to six, three to seven
  • 2013: Five to six, three to seven
  • 2012: Five to six, three to seven
  • 2011: Six to six, four to seven
  • 2010: Seven to six, two to seven
  • 2009: Five to six, two to seven
  • 2008: Six to six, three to seven
  • 2007: Three to six, one to seven
  • 2006: Four to six, one to seven
  • 2005: *** No playoffs, lockout ***
  • 2004: Four to six, three to seven
  • 2003: Five to six, three to seven
  • 2002: Five to six, two to seven
  • 2001: Six to six, zero to seven
  • 2000: Two to six, one to seven
  • 1999: Five to six, two to seven
  • 1998: Six to six, one to seven
  • 1997: Five to six, three to seven
  • 1996: Six to six, zero to seven
  • 1995: Five to six, four to seven
  • 1994: Six to six, four to seven
  • 1993: Five to six, one to seven
  • 1992: Eight to six, six to seven
  • 1991: Eight to six, three to seven
  • 1990: Six to six, three to seven
  • 1989: Four to six, two to seven
  • 1988: Five to six, one to seven
  • 1987: Five to six, one to seven

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