The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals battled it out again tonight with the Pens coming out on top after an OT winner by Kris Letang. Washington is up in the series now 2-1, but game 3 saw the resurgence of Evgeni Malkin, who scored his first goal in six games which could spell disaster for the Caps as the series goes on.
No matter the result of the series, this was the matchup Gary Bettman dreamed of. These aren’t necessarily the best teams in the league, but the NHL’s three brightest young stars are all under one roof.
Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Alexander Ovechkin really represent how hockey has to right the ship. Three young great players poised to be the faces of their franchises for years to come. For a while now, the average NHL fan has been wary of buying jerseys or even of becoming loyal to teams as their favorite players are shipped from one team to another. Malkin and Crosby are signed to five year deals with Pittsburgh and Ovechkin has a contract that expires somewhere in the distant future (13 year deal).
They have shown loyalty to their cities, and the fan bases in Washington and Pittsburgh have grown exponentially with the emergence of these stars. Ovechkin and Crosby are the reigning MVP’s from the last two seasons and Malkin may win this year’s.
This is not even mentioning that the hockey in this series thus far has been great. Game two saw both Ovechkin and Crosby record their first playoff hat tricks. The NHL playoffs have been unbelievably good this year. Anyone who contends that hockey is boring doesn’t watch the game, and everyone who says “I can’t see the puck,” can go eat shit. Turn it on, pick a team, and enjoy yourself.
The fact that the games are on Versus has not helped ratings, but Versus doesn’t get any credit for their coverage, and they do a pretty good job. All the games are available in HD, and only contractual obligations can get in the way of good coverage. Unfortunately they don’t make Brian Engblom cut his hair. Engblom apparently has Wayne and Garth use the Suck-Cut to get his desired look.
If ESPN had the coverage these games would get respectable ratings, but Versus is starting to pick up a larger and larger audience.
The NHL has to be hoping one of these teams makes it through to the Stanley Cup Finals just to get their big stars faces more in the limelight. NBC will carry the coverage for those games, and only Ovechkin or Crosby can guarantee decent ratings.
Its sad that hockey has gotten so beat up in this country, but it is a result of bad business. Teams that haven’t really considered fans for a while, and a lack of American talent has led to a dwindling American interest. Though Crosby and Ovechkin are both non-Americans they have shown loyalty to their cities, and the fans and ownership have shown loyalty to them.
This has given the other teams a formula they can follow to get hockey back as one of the four major sports (Is Nascar the fourth now? We should be ashamed of ourselves).
Though not every team has the opportunity to sign an Ovechkin or a Crosby, there are players that teams can build around (Richards and Carter in Philly, Lundqvist sp? in NY, etc). Let the fans get to know and love their players instead of having new rosters every offseason. The fan bases will grow and the quality of hockey will improve.
Figure out what channel Versus is, and turn on the playoffs. Gary Bettman, who i doubt can skate but knows his salary caps, will thank you.