There is an endless stream of analytical angles to take from the Western Conference Final, even after Antoine Vermette scored the winner in a double-overtime classic Saturday night (Sunday morning in some places).
But with the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks tied at 2-2 in their best-of-seven series after Vermette gave the Blackhawks a 5-4 Game 4 win in the second multiple-overtime affair in the past three games between these teams, can’t we just take a step back from storylines about overworked defensemen and acknowledge the obvious truth?
This has been an enthralling, exciting, star-driven series with enough unpredictable moments to keep even the most casual fan watching.
Even fans who weren't actual fans when the playoffs began!
And it’s only been four games. We have at least two more coming and probably a third in the form of a Game 7 with the way these teams have been battling each other.
Apparently, we don’t need the Los Angeles Kings for a West final to be interesting and competitive.
For four games, Ryan Kesler and Jonathan Toews have been in each other’s faces so regularly and so intensely that it seems inevitable they will either fight or break into a four-minute song about their rivalry. It will either end with both spitting out teeth or engaging in a choreographed a cappella competition during the final scene of Pitch Perfect 3.
It’s been a knock-down, drag-out fight between two of the game’s premier two-way centers that hasn’t disappointed in the least. They spent the first three games colliding with each other in all three zones, negating each other to the point where neither had a goal and only Toews had an assist between them. They have been in each other’s faces, smirking, laughing and definitely exchanging some salty barbs.
Toews finally got the better of Kesler early in the third period, when he beat him in the faceoff circle and then to the net for a goal that gave Chicago a 2-1 lead. Brent Seabrook would make it 3-1 with 12:22 remaining by scoring a goal struck with such force that it could have ripped the fabric of time if not for the strong netting fiber behind Frederik Andersen.
Game over. Series even.
Then Kesler, in one of his few shifts away from Toews, made it 3-2. Twenty-three seconds later, Matt Beleskey had tied it at 3-3.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, as the responsible, two-time Cup-winning coach that he is, called timeout to settle the troops. It was one of those smart timeouts you ask about after the game when the Blackhawks go on to win.
Fourteen seconds later, Corey Perry gave the Ducks a 4-3 lead, and suddenly everyone in the United Center didn’t know if they should boo the object of their perpetual hatred or the $6 million man in net, Corey Crawford, after he spit out a rebound on a 45-foot backhander.
Three goals in 37 seconds, and suddenly the Ducks were about 10 minutes from a 3-1 series lead.
Just as the tremors and vomiting in the United Center bathrooms by Blackhawks fans began to subside, Patrick Kane rescued his team with a power-play goal to make it 4-4 in a period that began at 1-1.
And there was still 7:21 remaining in regulation!
Maybe it’s because we were all subjected to so much 2-1 hockey during the first two rounds that this series seems better than it is. After all, if you spent years alone on a desert island and the first movie you saw upon returning to the mainland was Cast Away, you might actually think it was a good movie.
That’s not what’s happening here. Not with this game and not with this series. This is classic hockey, and it’s only two-thirds over at most. Take it from someone who watches a lot of hockey, especially that regular-season gunk that lasts about two months longer than it should.
Blackhawks-Ducks is the stuff you wait for all season.
Consider how exciting and memorable this series has been, and that’s without the Ducks winning this game in the final seconds because Crawford lost his mind and brandished his stick like an axe while the winning shot whizzed over his shoulder.
Instead, all we have is two championship teams going toe-to-toe over five overtimes in four games.
Oh, and as a footnote, Vermette was a healthy scratch in Game 3, was openly miserable about it and just about saved the Blackhawks' season with his second goal of the playoffs in double overtime after mostly disappointing after he was acquired at the trade deadline for a first-round pick.
Game over. Series even. This time for real.
Yeah, there’s the fact the Blackhawks are icing four defensemen while Kimmo Timonen and Kyle Cumiskey mostly watch from the bench as their teammates get worn down by the heavy, physical Ducks. It’s probably the only true storyline to care about in this series, as it will likely decide which team advances to the Stanley Cup Final.
But that’s like visiting the Sistine Chapel and caring about the lack of central air conditioning. Look at the ceiling, you dolt! You’re probably not going to get another crack at it anytime soon.
That’s this series between the Blackhawks and Ducks. Look at it while you can, because it will be over before you know it.
All statistics via NHL.com.
Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.