It can last for hours but end in a split second. The unpredictability of playoff overtime is what makes it so exciting. Every rush seems a little bit more dangerous. Those watching hold their breath on every shot. Everything is magnified.
This year, a lot of playoff games are going into overtime. During last year’s playoffs, there were 12 overtime games in the first round and a total of 17 overtime games in the entire postseason. This year, 14 games in the first round went into overtime and we’ve already hit 17 overtime games. The second round has barely begun.
In the 2009 playoffs, there were just six overtime games in the first round and 10 overall. In 2008, there were nine in the first round and 16 overall. The 2007 first round saw six overtime games in round one and 17 overall. In 2006, there were 11 overtime games in the first round and 20 overall, which is the highest total since the lockout.
Since we’ve already seen 17 games go into overtime so far, it looks like we’re probably going to eclipse the 2006 mark this year.
The NHL these days is closer and more competitive than ever. Yes, the salary cap and free agency have increased parity in the league, but that’s not the only reason for tighter competition.
These days coaching systems are more sophisticated than they ever were. The usage of video is more prevalent and teams are able to do better advanced scouting on their opposition. That means that coaches know more about their opponents than they ever have before. That allows them to exploit weaknesses in new ways. They can match lines better than they ever have and pick apart systems with precision.
Before coaches and players needed to sit together in a video room in order to analyze the other team. They likely only had a few previous games to check out and the quality wasn’t always great. Today teams, players and coaches can watch videos of their opponents whenever they’d like to from wherever they are. Laptops and tablets mean that video sessions can take place not just in locker rooms but also on buses, planes and anywhere else.
And the amount of video available has increased as well. Before teams simply couldn’t stock their video rooms with shelves and shelves of tapes and they certainly couldn’t take all of these tapes on the road. Now, teams can watch almost an unlimited amount of video from almost anywhere and much of that footage is in high definition. That gives them more opportunities to notice trends and exploit weaknesses.
During the regular season teams are not able to devote as much attention to a single opponent as they are during the playoffs, there’s simply no time. In the postseason, players and coaches can focus entirely on their current opponent and analyze pretty much everything.
Every team does it, so every team is more prepared. That means every game is more competitive and every contest is closer. That leads to more overtime games.
On a side note, we doubt that many people watch a thrilling playoff overtime game and hope for a shootout after five minutes…