The NHL couldn't have asked for a better 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Hockey fans and casual observers alike have been treated to exhilarating action and instant classics on a regular basis for the last two months, proving that there is nothing quite like the theater of the NHL playoffs.
One part of this year's postseason that has provided a larger-than-expected amount of drama is the high propensity of overtime games.
The 2013 playoffs have now included 27 games ending in overtime, one shy of the all-time record:
Here are some more overtime facts from a heart-pounding postseason:
- 23 of the 27 games tied after regulation ended in the first overtime
- 31.4 percent (27-of-85) of the games in the 2013 playoffs have gone to overtime
- 19 of the 27 OT games were won by the home team, although the last two have been won by the road team.
- Every playoff series has included at least one overtime game for the first time in NHL history (since current postseason format was adopted in 1987).
- Nine of the 15 series have included two or more overtime games.
The latest overtime thriller was Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Wednesday. The Blackhawks won nearly 10 minutes into the extra period to even the series at two games apiece, improving their overtime record to 2-1 in the Cup final.
Judging by the four games played in this series, and the fact that the Bruins and Blackhawks are two very evenly-matched teams, it wouldn't be surprising if they tied or set the all-time record for the most overtime games in a Cup final.
Both the Bruins and Blackhawks needed miracle comebacks to reach the final round of the playoffs. Boston became the first team to ever win a Game 7 when trailing by three goals in the third period, when they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime during Round 1.
Chicago needed overtime in Game 7 to complete a remarkable comeback against the Detroit Red Wings in Round 2 after trailing 3-1 in the series.
But these aren't the only two series from 2013 that fans will remember for a long time.
The Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings played a sensational seven-game first-round series with four overtime games, and the defending champion Los Angeles Kings needed seven games to eliminate the rival San Jose Sharks in a hard-fought battle with five one-goal games.
Overtime hockey in the playoffs creates the best drama in sports, with the game, and sometimes an entire season, on the line as teams fight through fatigue and physical pain to find the winning goal.
But for all the amazing action fans are provided with during overtime periods, watching these games is not easy because the intense, end-to-end pace results in a roller coaster of emotions, where fans are feeling great one moment and awful the next.
For neutral fans who don't have a rooting interest in these overtime games, it's much easier to enjoy the exciting play and appreciate the historical significance of what's taking place. But for the fans of the Blackhawks and Bruins, watching the Cup final has been a difficult experience, one filled with stress and increased heart rates as every scoring chance is created.
One Chicago Blackhawks fan named Dave Thomas needed medical assistance while watching his beloved team play the Bruins in the Cup final, as CSN Chicago explains:
The west suburban Oswego native and die-hard Blackhawks fan, Thomas suffered a heart attack during Game 3 and was forced to watch the Game 4 overtime thriller from Edward Hospital in Naperville.
Judging by the impressive television ratings from this year's Cup final, fans are being captivated by heart-pounding overtime hockey in record numbers, per NBC Sports PR:
Boston received a 28.9 HH rating, +36% from Gm 2 of 2011 Stanley Cup Final on NBC in market (21.2). Chicago received a 22.0 HH rating.— NBCSportsPR (@NBCSportsPR) June 20, 2013
Last night’s Chi-Bos OT did 4.6 HH rtg, +109% from Gm2 of last yr's SC Final LA-NJ, 2.2 (was 2nd NBC gm of series) *corrects earlier typo— NBCSportsPR (@NBCSportsPR) June 20, 2013
The NHL playoffs are a war of attrition, which unfortunately often results in the best hockey being played in the first round. As players go through multiple playoff series, they become physically and mentally exhausted to the point where it's difficult to give fans the same amount of scoring and fast-paced play seen in Round 1 by the time the puck drops in Game 1 of the Cup final.
Who will in the Stanley Cup?
But the 2013 playoffs have been a different story.
An epic postseason filled with breathtaking moments and records being shattered has helped the NHL return to the forefront of the sports world, and it's all concluding with a Stanley Cup Final between two Original Six franchises that could go down as one of the best championship series ever.
All we need to cap off a memorable postseason is for the Cup final to be decided in overtime of Game 7.
There hasn't been a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final decided in overtime since 1954, but after all of the bonus hockey played in 2013, it would be fitting if this year's championship series required extra time to find a winner.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He is also a credentialed writer at the 2013 Stanley Cup Final in Boston.