At the start of overtime Wednesday night, my hockey-illiterate roommate came home and sat down on the living room couch.
"How are the playoffs going?" he asked. I probably didn't have to answer him, because the TV was about to do the talking for me. But I explained how the Kings came back from 0-3 down in Round 1, and how the Blackhawks are the defending champs, and how crazy Game 5 that night had been to that point. It was a quick 30-second primer, because overtime was about to start.
And man, did he sit on that couch at the right time. For the next 26 minutes, from 9:57 p.m. Chicago time to 10:23 p.m., the Blackhawks and Kings went up and down and back and forth in what was definitely the most exciting period of NHL hockey in these playoffs. It might have been the best ever, period.
The pace was simply incredible, as evidenced by the fact that they played a 20 minute period in just 26 minutes. I'm not sure if that's a record, but it's gotta be close.
Patrick Kane agrees.
"I thought it was an unbelievable period," Kane said. "Up and back the whole period. A lot of chances. I think we probably had more chances than they did in overtime, but a lot of times you thought the game was over, especially for us.
"So it was a really fun period to play in. I know they clean the ice there at 10 minutes -- I don't think they ended up cleaning it till like 3:50 or something on the clock. Not a lot of whistles. Just up and back. It was a fun period of happy.
A fun period of happy. Pretty astute, Kaner. Joel Quenneville echoed it:
"I've seen a lot of games, been involved in a lot of games," Quenneville said. "That might have been the greatest overtime I've seen. When they had the whistle there, basically the timeout in the first overtime there, I don't know how many minutes and seconds, but it was just like it was a 'wow' factor.
"I think I appreciated it. The guys were working. The pace was unbelievable. It was good action. I guess maybe had a little appreciation when there was a stoppage in play."
That timeout for ice cleaning both men referenced came with 3:23 remaining in the overtime period. Prior to that whistle, the teams had played without stop for 7 minutes, 53 seconds. There were 11 shot attempts by the Kings in that span and seven by the Blackhawks. There were six hits and two takeaways registered, one for each team.
Here are a few clips tossed together from that stretch. Take these seconds and imagine that intensity for nearly a half hour straight, and you'll get a sense for what watching this OT was like.
All told in the 20 minute overtime period, there were just eight stoppages: Jonathan Quick covered the puck three times, a shot went up into the netting behind the goal three times, into the bench once, one icing call and one offside call. Compare that with 18 stoppages in the third period, 16 in the second and 24 in the first.
This right here is why we say that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the best playoffs in sports. This is why we all watch hockey, and this is what sells the game of hockey to new people. It's not goals, necessarily. It's not saves or strong defensive play. It's that tempo. It's the pace of the game.
That OT a prime example of why pace is the most vital part to excitement in hockey. Goals are fun, but that pace sells.— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdonPHT) May 29, 2014
why watch overtime playoff hockey when you can simply snort cocaine and ride a motorcycle out of a helicopter— Jon Bois (@jon_bois) April 17, 2014
It could have been different. The Kings had nothing to lose, really, playing with house money in a game where they erased a two-goal deficit in the first period. Their backs weren't against the wall, and it made sense that they would push the pace and go all out in an attempt to score first.
The Blackhawks were in a bit of a different situation, though, and while they're not a team that sits back and clogs up the ice, nobody would have blamed them if they were playing a bit more cautious, given that one mistake could have cost them their season.
Often times in these situations, the team that sits back gets burned for it. That's the essence of what the NHL has created since the 2004-05 lockout -- this overtime period is probably a lot different, a lot slower and a lot more boring without the rule changes we've seen over the last nine years.
The Blackhawks were not in a position to sit back and let the game come to them, because doing so would have been riskier than pushing the play.
That's what the NHL has created, and it arguably makes the game better than it's ever been.
Of course, these are human people, and they can't keep this up forever. During the intermission before the second overtime period, we all sat there with a feeling that this couldn't possibly keep up much longer.
It wasn't going to be a three or four OT contest. Teams don't get this many chances without converting one of them, especially not when those teams are the Blackhawks and the Kings, and not when the goaltenders are ... well, quite mediocre, as Jonathan Quick and Corey Crawford have been in these playoffs.
That's the curse of what makes fast-paced, nonstop overtime so exciting: by default, it has to end relatively quickly, because mistakes happen and the defense and goaltending aren't going to hold up through all of those chances. Sometimes, Mike Richards, one of the better defensive forwards in the league, loses 37-year-old-with-four-regular-season-goals Michal Handzus in coverage, and the game ends.
It had to end eventually. We're lucky we got 22 minutes of that mayhem in Game 5, and as the Blackhawks and Kings prepare for an encore on Friday night, we can only hope for something similar. I have a feeling my previously hockey-illiterate roommate will be there on the couch with me.