Overtime playoff hockey is always a must-see event.
This year’s post-season has been no different, but, in a sense, even better. The 2021 run has had far more games that have gone to the next-goal-wins situation in the earlier rounds than in other years.
In the first two rounds of the post-season, we’ve already reached 20 games that have needed an extra period beyond the usual 60 minutes. That currently sits 13th all-time for most playoff games, with only nine more extra-frames needed to set a new record. A few of the numbers surrounding the number of overtime games this year also are some that we may not get matched again for quite some time, if ever.
Seven of eight first-round series had at least one overtime game
Fourteen of the 16 teams that entered the post-season had to battle a little longer than the 60 minutes of regulation. The majority of these series had games that went into multiple overtimes, including Edmonton-Winnipeg, Carolina-Nashville, Boston-Washington, and Pittsburgh-New York.
The absurdity of this many overtime games in round one doesn’t just end at how many games went into overtime, but also three of these series had back-to-back games and in the case of Nashville-Carolina, four consecutive overtime tilts. The Predators and Hurricanes fell just one game short of tying a record for most overtime games in a single series.
The last time a series had five overtime games occurred last in 2016-17 with Washington and Toronto in their first-round series. The series that had games without multiple overtime periods this season were Toronto-Montreal, Vegas-Minnesota, and Florida-Tampa Bay. The only first-round series that avoided overtime altogether was Colorado-St.Louis.
The possibility of hitting 29 overtime games
In the years in which we’ve had four rounds of post-season play (2020 had five rounds) while maintaining a best of seven format, the league has never broken the 20-game mark in a complete post-season with fewer than 85 games played.
Fifty-six games in total have been played so far this year, with the league sitting at 20 overtime games. The chance of the mark being broken before the league gets to 80 post-season games being played is something to keep an eye on when you look at some of the teams still standing. Carolina and Boston lead the way with five overtime games each. Among Canadian teams left, Winnipeg leads the way with three overtime games.
Shortened regular seasons, but longer playoff games
The post-seasons of 2013 and 2021 made up for there being a shortened regular season with the extra playoff periods. The first rounds of both years are among the highest for overtime games in NHL history, with 2013’s sitting second all-time at 17. The 2021 season currently sits third in 16, and it’s going to go up quite a bit in the near future.
Overtime has been a major theme of the playoffs this season, and with games going to a fourth period or longer at a rate of 34.4 percent this spring, it’s a safe bet to expect a few more as we progress toward seeing who’ll be raising Lord Stanley’s Cup.