Quick hits: Penguins-Red Wings generates high ratings

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A few news items for people who are especially interested in how (and what) the sport is doing on TV.

  • Apparently, Monday’s Penguins-Red Wings game is the highest rated regular season game Versus ever carried and the highest rated U.S. cable game since 2004. Here’s a little more from a press release on the subject.

VERSUS earned a .7 National HH rating and averaged 622,000 viewers for the March 22 Pittsburgh Penguins at Detroit Red Wings game making it VERSUS’ highest-rated and most-watched NHL regular season game in network history and the most-watched NHL regular season telecast on U.S. cable since 2004. The game peaked at a .9 National HH rating and 760,000 viewers during the live telecast.

  • Considering the star power of Capitals-Penguins and the fact that the NHL Network is running its week-long free preview this week, I cannot help but wonder if tonight’s game will be the Network’s highest rated U.S. game to boot. Since I have no idea how to predict ratings numbers, I’ll instead post this fun video of the two team’s top 10 goals from this season.

  • Finally, the NHL’s radio show NHL Live apparently will broadcast from Las Vegas on Thursday and Friday. Here’s a quick snippet about that show.

In addition to the event’s host, Wayne Gretzky, an impressive collection of NHL stars is scheduled to appear over the course of the show’s two-day Vegas run. Hockey Hall of Famers Luc Robitaille, Larry Robinson, Brian Leetch, Grant Fuhr and Denis Savard and Stanley Cup-winning coach Mike Keenan are among the hockey luminaries expected to drop by and chat with Craig and E.J.

I have only one request: please, spare us “Vegas, baby!” jokes. That isn’t just directed at NHL Live – that’s directed at society as a whole. That one-liner (along with “whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”) need to go away for a long, long time. How about … forever?

Larkin will start season with Red Wings

Dylan Larkin
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Dylan Larkin — despite being just 19 years old — will begin the season on the Detroit Red Wings, a team not normally accustomed to having teenagers in the lineup.

Coach Jeff Blashill confirmed the news this morning. Larkin could apparently start on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

Larkin, the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft, had three goals and one assist in five preseason games. A natural center, he’s shown the potential to one day step into the kind of “big-time” role that Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have played for so long in Detroit.

“You have to give our scouts credit,” former coach Mike Babcock told ESPN in May. “We got a great pick where we picked. How high end is he? How soon?”

Related: Coaching change ‘one of the reasons’ Larkin signed with Wings

Preseason stats: Five goalies with good numbers, five goalies with…not

Anders Nilsson
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Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but here are some goaltending stats anyway.

Five goalies with good numbers

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton — zero goals on 53 shots. His solid play a likely factor in the decision to waive Ben Scrivens, who actually wasn’t that bad in the preseason (4 goals on 56 shots).

Martin Jones, San Jose — three goals on 100 shots. The Sharks are rolling the dice on a couple of cheap goalies. Jones and Alex Stalock have a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million.

Jacob Markstom, Vancouver — three goals on 79 shots. Can he finally get over the NHL hump? If so, he could make it a real competition with Ryan Miller.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus — five goals on 122 shots. The Blue Jackets have scored a ton of goals in the preseason, but there remain questions about their blue line. Bobrovsky has the ability to make a so-so defense look good.

Anton Khudobin, Anaheim — two goals on 67 shots. A good early sign for the Ducks, who have Frederik Andersen in the starting role and want to give young John Gibson more time to develop in the AHL.

Five goalies with bad numbers

Thomas Greiss, Islanders — 14 goals on 94 shots. Has to be a bit of concern in Brooklyn. The Isles got below-average backup play last season from Chad Johnson. They wanted to fix that with the Greiss signing.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo — 11 goals on 95 shots. Tim Murray paid a hefty price to get the 24-year-old out of Ottawa. With the aforementioned Johnson in the backup role, the goaltending story is worth watching.

Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh — 11 goals on 74 shots. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Murray weren’t particularly sharp either. The Penguins conceded 28 goals in eight games.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas — 15 goals on 84 shots. For a Stars team that desperately needs better goaltending, that has to be worrying. Antti Niemi wasn’t a whole lot better either, allowing eight goals on 65 shots. Fair question to ask — how many of all those goals were attributable to poor defensive play?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville — 12 goals on 91 shots. Has earned the benefit of the doubt, but thought we’d point it out anyway.