There are certainly television and sports executives who know this stuff better than I do, but there’s something in the current NHL/NBC television deal that strikes me as an odd way to best build interest in the NHL.
Under the current agreement, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals airs on NBC. That’s great; it means the three-overtime-thriller between Boston and Chicago last week could be seen on almost any TV with either basic cable or a set of rabbit ears within range of an NBC affiliate. The game drew the best overnight ratings for Game 1 of a Stanley Cup Final in 16 years.
However, anyone who watched that game and then tuned into NBC Saturday night for Game 2 discovered the game wasn’t being carried there. The second game of the Blackhawks-Bruins series was airing on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN), as the current TV deal calls for Games 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 to be carried on NBC and for Games 2 and 3 to air on NBCSN. Unfortunately, millions of people who get NBC in their homes don’t have NBCSN [Note: After lowering our cable bill by around $100 a month, I'm now one of these people].
On the one hand, this approach by NBC and the NHL seems like a great way to build a sports network. You reel people in with Game 1 and then shift them over to your newer sports channel for the next two games, hopefully building more awareness for it and getting more people to sign up for a cable package that includes NBCSN, which brings in more money via cable fees for NBC.
But there will no doubt be plenty of people—casual sports fans, those who stumbled upon Game 1, etc.—who don’t have NBCSN and who aren’t going to change their cable package for Games 2 and 3 just because they saw a great Game 1. And how many of these people whose interest in hockey rose with Game 1, but who can’t watch Games 2 and 3, will still be dialed into the series by the time Game 4 rolls around?
I’m willing to bet that a good number of people who aren’t die-hard hockey fans are going to lose some interest between Game 1 and 4 if they don’t get the two games in between on TV. For some potential new fans, the series will completely drop of their radar if they can no longer watch. The ‘NBC to NBCSN and then back to NBC’ broadcasting approach seems like an odd way to build momentum. Even if ratings rise during the series, I have to wonder if they would have been even higher if the TV deal put all of the Finals on the major network and stuck with it.
While growing NBCSN is important, there are few opportunities for the NHL to showcase its brand each year the way they can during the Stanley Cup Finals. And turning new fans onto hockey during the Finals should ultimately help future NBCSN ratings, as more people start following the league and seek out NBCSN during future regular seasons and earlier playoff rounds.
NBC could air every game of the Stanley Cup Finals on its major network (as Fox did with the World Series and ABC is currently doing with the NBA Finals), get people hooked on what can be some of the most exciting hockey of the year and then cash in when some of them subscribe to a cable/dish package with NBCSN to watch even more hockey going forward. The current set-up feels disjointed, shortsighted and, while it might help NBCSN more immediately, doesn’t strike me as the most ideal way to get as many people as possible wrapped up in the Stanley Cup Finals and converted into NHL fans.
- How cable companies could make more money from me as a sports fan (mikeholden.com)
Plenty has been said or written about Nick Backstrom’s turnover in overtime of Game 6 that led to the Bruins winning goal. While the mistake was costly, and could look even costlier if the Bruins end up winning the series, these kind of mistakes are bound to happen. Learn from it, shake it off and move on. I’m not advocating mistakes but I am saying that even an elite player fails to execute sometimes. What I’m not willing to excuse is Backstrom’s complete lack of hustle and effort on the Bruins third goal.
Tyler Seguin made a nice defensive play to strip Alex Semin in the Caps offensive zone. Semin may be at fault for the turnover, but much like the Backstrom mistake in overtime, it’s not worth dwelling on because it’s a lack of execution, not a lack of effort. Semin did exactly what he should have done after Seguin stripped him of the puck; He hustled back to avoid giving the Bruins an odd man rush off of his turnover. If Backstrom had given an effort similar to Semin’s then Andrew Ference wouldn’t have been able to skate wide open into the slot to deposit the loose puck into the net. The replay of the goal from up high (at the 30 second mark of the video below) gives the best look at how Backstrom and Ference are the 4th player on each team to join the play, and Ference flat out beat Backstrom to the puck because he hustled.
I realize that the 4th and 5th players back on defense are often not skating full speed to get back. However, this is because, especially in a man-to-man defense, they are responsible for guarding the opponents’ defensemen, who, more often than not, don’t join the rush or come into the offensive zone at full speed as the trailer on the play. However, when a defensemen does join the rush or hustle up the ice as a trailer, the forward responsible for him needs to match that hustle to ensure that defenseman does not skate into the slot unmarked looking for a loose puck. What happens if the forward doesn’t? Exactly what happened on the Bruins third goal.
Nick Backstrom is as at fault as anyone for the Bruins 3rd and 4th goals on Sunday. The turnover on the Bruins 4th goal is frustrating but excusable because it happens to everyone at some point (although you’d like for it not to happen in overtime of a Game 6). However, the lack of hustle and effort on the Bruins 3rd goal is completely inexcusable. Backstrom owes us one. I’m looking for him to bounce back with a great effort in Game 7 because, if not for his lack of effort in Game 6, the Caps just may have clinched the series on Sunday.
There are over 48 hours to go until the Caps and Bruins meet Wednesday night in Boston for Game 7 of their first round playoff series. There’s a lot at stake and there’s also a lot of time to fill between now and then; we suggest you spend it NOT consuming any products from the Boston area.
BrooksLaichyear.com is calling for a boycott of all things Boston between now and Wednesday night. To get this started, below we’ve listed some things to avoid and have suggested a local DC area product as a replacement. Boycott Boston, Support DC!
Drop the Dunkin’ Donuts
Giving up delicious Dunkin’ Donuts coffee for a few days will be tough, but we suggest the excellent Rockville-based Mayorga Coffee instead. You can get Mayorga from their local locations in the DC area and on the shelf at many local grocery stores. Or maybe you have your own local favorite…but avoid Runnin’ on Dunkin’ until this first round series is over.
So long, Sam Adams
I’m actually not a huge Sam Adams fan to begin with (take that, Boston!), so this will be a smaller sacrifice for me personally. But this gives me another reason to support local brewers DC Brau! I’ll be picking up a couple six packs of The Corruption between now and Wednesday.
See ya, Staples
Need office supplies between now and Wednesday night? Avoid Massachusetts-based Staples. We’re not sure about a local substitute you can use instead, so just avoid doing any office work between now and Thursday. There’s a Game 7 to focus on anyway.
It’s your turn…tell us what other Boston products to avoid
Now we need your suggestions for other products to boycott plus a DC area replacement for it. Use the comments to make your suggestions, email them to us at brookslaichyear AT gmail.com or tweet them to us at @brookslaichyear. And thanks to Adam Vingan for inspiring this with a tweet.
- How loud was Verizon Center for Caps-Bruins Game 4? (brookslaichyear.com)
- Show Tim Thomas your “O” face at Game 3 on Monday at Verizon Center (brookslaichyear.com)
- Big TV ratings for Caps-Bruins Game 6 (brookslaichyear.com)
Troy Brouwer’s game winning goal in Saturday’s Game 6 for the Caps in Boston…
…was reminiscent of this Game 7 game winner in 2009 by Sergei Fedorov for Washington against the New York Rangers:
How loud was Verizon Center in the closing minutes of Thursday’s Game 4?
The decibel meter hit 116 at one point, says Caps fan @VeggieTart. Former Caps VP of Communications Nate Ewell tweeted, “Can’t imagine it was Feds vs NYR loud at Verizon Center but that sounded pretty impressive, Caps fans.” Goat, the fan who leads Verizon Center in “Let’s Go Caps” chants, tweeted back, “It was pretty damn close. My ears haven’t warbled like they did tonight (before that last push) in a very long time.”
I was at the Game 7 against the Rangers mentioned above (the loudest sporting event I’ve ever been a part of), but wasn’t in the building last night. My father was in the 400 Level of Verizon Center for both games and he texted, “Almost but no,” when I asked him if the building was as loud last night as it was for that 2009 game.
Were you at these games? Tweet your thoughts to @brookslaichyear or add a comment below.
- Four years ago today: Alex Ovechkin’s first NHL playoff goal and Caps fans (brookslaichyear.com)
I can’t tell from the replays if the game winning goal by the Bruins’ Chris Kelly on Thursday night deflected off Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman’s stick or not, but the TSN announcer in the video embedded below thinks the mere presence of that stick didn’t make things easy on Holtby, though he says the Caps’ goalie still needs to save that shot.
“That stick in front of it by Dennis Wideman is never easy for a goalie. You hear Don Cherry talk about it a lot. A goalie’s got to have this shot, no doubt about it, and Kelly more than anything else absolutely rips it off the far side. Wideman’s reaching for it and so was the goalie Holtby, and a beautiful performance by this youngster, a gutty performance, is ruined by an excellent goal by Chris Kelly.”
“Ruined” feels a bit harsh because there’s a lot the Caps and Holtby can build on after a game like that, despite the game winning goal, but I agree that Holtby put in a great performance, especially for his first playoff appearance. Not a bad night for a 22 year old who sits third on the Caps goaltending depth chart and spent most of the season in the AHL. I also liked the way the Caps players approached Holtby on the ice at the end of the game, showing their support and, what appeared to be, their approval of his play.
Speaking on NBC Sports Network prior to last night’s game, hockey analyst Keith Jones boldly said of Holtby, “If I was Dale Hunter, I would have been starting him with both goaltenders Vokoun & Neuvirth healthy.”
For more Holtby-related reading, check out this post on “The Dynamic Entity” by Justin Goldman (@thegoalieguild), who has been calling Holtby a Top-5 prospect for almost 2 years. Goldman also tweeted about Holtby last night: “Size + quickness + confident demeanor = future starter. Tons of solid traits, especially his biomechanics. Good passer. Plays loud & proud.”
We’ll see how things play out for Holtby as the series continues. It was only one game, but it was impressive, despite what may or may not have been a soft game winning goal.
By the way, Greg over at Days of Y’Orr warned us about Chris Kelly going into this series.
With their top two goaltenders Michal Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun injured, the Washington Capitals head into tonight’s first round NHL playoff match-up against the Boston Bruins with a netminding tandem of Braden Holtby and Dany Sabourin, two players who spent most of this season playing for the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Neuvirth traveled with the team to Boston, but there’s been no word yet on when he’ll be available.
Washington isn’t the only team with uncertainty in goal. Though not anywhere near as big as what the Capitals are dealing with, the Bruins have a goaltending question mark of their own.
Still recovering from a groin/abdominal injury, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask may not be available to back up starter Tim Thomas in Game 1 tonight. Reporting on Bruins Insider, Joe Haggerty writes, “Rask seems a very big question mark. It looks like he’s not going to be ready to begin the playoffs while recovering from a groin/abdomen strain. That leaves the door open for Anton Khudobin as backup to Tim Thomas.”
Khudobin has only seven games of NHL experience under his belt, but his numbers have been impressive, as he’s posted a 1.32 Goals Against Average and a .961 Save Percentage, playing for Boston and the Minnesota Wild. In the AHL this season for the Providence Bruins, he’s 21-19-3 with a 2.61 GAA and a .919 SV%.
In his lone NHL appearance this season and Bruins debut, Khudobin stopped 44 of 45 Ottawa shots in a 3-1 Boston victory on April 5. “He was outstanding,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said, according to NESN.com. “He was without a doubt our best player and he kept us in the game when we needed him to keep us in the game. He made some great saves, and we certainly gave him a chance to prove himself. That’s for sure. He faced a lot of shots.”
Via Twitter, pro goalie scout and NHL.com writer Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild described Khudobin as a “very quick, dynamic goalie w/ a narrow stance that has added some good progressive [butterfly] elements to his game this season. Khudobin doesn’t look all that athletic, but he is. Has a fierce determination, strong work ethic, and a great attitude.”
- Bruins Recall Goaltender Anton Khudobin (boston.cbslocal.com)
- Bruins blog ‘Days of Y’Orr’ answers our questions about Caps-Bruins series (brookslaichyear.com)
- Bruins-Caps: Which city wants it more? StubHub says D.C. by nearly 2-to-1 (brookslaichyear.com)
On StubHub, there are almost twice as many tickets available for the first round Caps-Bruins playoff games in Boston as there are for the games in D.C. That’s leaving Game 7 out of the equation, so that just three games in each city can be compared.
As of 9pm last night, with the first game in Boston three days away, there are 2,122 tickets available for it. For Game 2, also in Boston and taking place this Saturday, there are 2,765 available.
By contrast, Game 3 takes place in Washington next Monday night and only has 1,256 seats available. Game 4 is on Thursday of next week in D.C. and has 1,222 tickets posted. Game 5 in Boston has 2,495 tickets and Game 6 back in D.C. has 1,233.
So, for the three games in Boston, there are 7,382 tickets available on StubHub, while only 3,711 are available for the three games in D.C. Which city wants this series more? D.C. by a margin of nearly 2-to-1. That’s it, plain and simple. Mark it down. The numbers don’t lie. D.C. loves its hockey team more than Boston loves theirs. No further research needed.
- Talking with the enemy: Bruins blog ‘Days of Y’Orr’ answers our questions about Caps-Bruins series (brookslaichyear.com)
- How to see a Washington Capitals hockey game without spending a ton (brookslaichyear.com)
- Rare Eagle’s Nest-like prices for tonight’s Caps-Jets game in D.C. (brookslaichyear.com)
The Caps did a lot of little things well in yesterday’s 4-3 win over the Bruins in Boston. Here are a few of them that really jumped out at me:
- The Caps stood up for their goalie beginning early on in the game, shoving away many Bruins that got near Tomas Vokoun
- John Carlson was especially impressive during one segment of a first period penalty kill, tying up the puck along the boards to waste some of the Bruins’ power play time, then roughing up Lucic a bit in front of the net as he tried to settle in there, and stepping up to block a shot to close out the sequence
- As Russian Machine pointed out on Twitter, Mike Knuble had some great puck possession time in the game.
- Alex Semin’s pass to Jay Beagle for Washington’s 3rd goal was excellent, not to mention the work to get that puck before making the pass
- Brooks Laich’s tip-in for the 4th goal was nice to see — he was set up by Alex Ovechkin for what appeared to be an even easier tip-in the previous game but missed
- Troy Brouwer’s play with one second left to knock away a puck that was about to become a shot on goal showed the Caps fighting until the very end.
I did get nervous when the Bruins pulled within one, especially after the Caps’ third period collapse at home versus the Jets a few weeks ago. But the Caps held on. We’ll see if playing back to back days affects the team’s ability to stay focused on the important details during today’s game against Toronto, who’s coming off a Saturday afternoon game against the Flyers.
Check out yesterday’s Caps-Bruins highlights on NHL.com.
Other Notes: For some great analysis, check out this post by WNST’s Ed Frankovic and his theory on why the Caps have played better this week. >>> I was really impressed with Dmitry Orlov in overtime during the Caps win against Tampa on Thursday night. Mike Vogel has a nice look at the rookie defenseman on the Dump ‘n’ Chase blog. >>> Finally, what would it take for CSNWashington to give us a Caps pre-game show before every game? As I noted on Twitter yesterday, it seems there’s been enough interest in the Caps to justify it and these five minutes intros we get before the puck drops for some games, like yesterday’s, feel very rushed.