Can Pens Caps Series Save Hockey?

May 7, 2009
never a dull moment when these two are on the ice

Never a dull moment when these two are on the ice

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.

No words can describe that mop

No words can describe that mop

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.

The Monty Burns of hockey

The Monty Burns of hockey

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Which Sport’s Playoff Season is Better, NBA or NHL?

April 20, 2009

nba-v-nhl

Playoff season is upon us, with the NHL and NBA playoffs starting this past weekend.  After spending the entire weekend watching sports, an interesting debate came to mind: which sport’s playoff season is better?

Playoff set-up: Both leagues have 7-game series all the way through the finals.  They’re both set-up as follows (for higher seeded team) 2 home games, 2 away, 1 home, 1 away, and game 7 at home, aka 2-2-1-1-1.  This is a recent change from the 2-3-2 set-up of a few years ago.  The purpose behind this change is to put added pressure on a home game 7, whereas previously, the top team had 2 home games to finish the job.  I understand it, but I’m not crazy about it.  Too much travel means too much time off between games.  Both sports have a minimum of 1 day off between each  game in a series.  This makes the playoffs drawn out and take away some of the momentum built up from the game before.  This is my biggest complaint about the playoffs of either sport.    Verdict – PUSH

Chances of an upset – In the NBA playoffs, upsets are not that common.  There are powerhouse teams at the top of each conference and then there are the rest.  Just look at the lower seeded teams in the NBA playoffs right now and none of them really impress you.  The Eastern Conference, for example, has 3 teams in the playoffs with a .500 record or lower.  That is pathetic.  The Western Conference was more competitive, with the 2nd seed and 8th seed separated by only 6 games, all with a win percentage of .585 or better.  The only “upsets” that seem possible right now are the Mavericks over the Spurs or the Bulls over the Celtics.  But this is not something to brag about when the top-seeded teams are hurt by injury to star players.

The NHL playoffs, on the other hand, often offer upsets.  This year alone, there are 2 underdogs primed to make a run to the second round.  The 8th-seeded Ducks hold a 2-0 lead over top-seeded San Jose, while the 7th-seeded Rangers are up 2-0 over 2nd-seed Washington.  In the NHL, all it takes is a hot goalie to lead his team deep in the playoffs.  In the NBA, over the drawn out schedule, talent usually wins out.   Verdict – NHL

Excitement – The NBA is home to snoozers more often than edge-of-your-seat thrillers.  This weekend, the launch of the first round, saw blowout wins by the Cavs, Hawks, Nuggets, Lakers, and Rockets.  They were over by the third quarter.  Sure, there were 2 games that went down to the wire, but these are not often occurrences for their playoffs.  Add in the fact that if the game even resembles a close one, the trailing team fouls on every possession.  The final 2 minutes of a game can take a half-hour.  It ruins the watching experience beacuse not only are there stoppages in play, its coupled with poor free throw shooting and commercials.

The NHL by nature is a sport that leads to close games.  Even a score of 3-1 is not safe, because all it takes is a powerplay goal and then anything can happen.  Even if there is a blowout, such as the Bruins domination of the Habs in game 2, it’s still exciting because of all the hard hitting.  A fight could break out at anytime, which makes you want to keep watching (see Bruins-Canadiens, game 2, Milan Lucic).    Verdict – NHL

So which has sport has the better playoff season?  It’s easily the NHL.  While both sports drag their playoff season out for way too long, the NHL has what the NBA doesn’t:  excitement.  Every game is close and anything can happen to turn the game in the favor of the other team.  Add in the excitement of a fight breaking out and the NHL wins, hands down!  (check out Lucic starting a fight in a 5-1 victory on Saturday)