Stop me if you’ve read a piece like this before.
The NHL playoffs have actually been outstanding to watch. They’ve outdone the NBA’s playoffs for drama and in some ways are better than the early rounds of last year’s NFL postseason. Plus, as far as we know, hockey doesn’t have its own version of troglodytic asshat Ben Roethlisberger dragging the image of the sport into a toilet.
Still, despite a great postseason, few are watching hockey nationally and the post-Olympic bump that was supposed to help has been a molehill, not a mountain. It’s a sad statement on how most of this country really feels about hockey and unfortunately that statement is, “Who cares?”
Those are the words of CBS Sports’ national columnist Mike Freeman. We’ve been down this road before many times hockey fans and it just continues to get dumber and dumber to read stuff like this year in and year out. As expected, Freeman’s piece continues on to poke fun at the NHLs television ratings and even though that’s always good and fun, there are signs that things are turning around in the more important demographics for advertisers.
The saddest part of this for poor Mike Freeman is that his willful ignorance shines through because, as Steve Lepore from Puck The Media also shares with us, it’s not just the NHL markets where viewership is picking up.
Below is a summary of the U.S. markets experiencing the biggest increases for the first round on VERSUS, NBC and VERSUS/NBC combined (metered market ratings, according to Nielsen Media Research):
NHL QUARTERFINALS ON VERSUS
Birmingham – up 200%
Norfolk – up 200%
Chicago – up 133%
Louisville – up 100%
San Antonio – up 100%
Knoxville – up 100%
Cleveland – up 100%
Dayton – up 100%
San Diego – up 100%
Richmond – up 100%
Raleigh – up 100%
Kansas City – up 100%
Greenville – up 100%
Perhaps Mike Freeman would like to spend less time listening to LeBron James whine about his wonky elbow and spend a little more time watching some guys Marc Savard, Simon Gagne and Mark Stuart who are actually hurt continue on through the playoffs without making a big deal about it.
For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”
They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:
- Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
- This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
- By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.
Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).
Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.
Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.
The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.
(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)
Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)
You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:
It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.
Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:
Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).
If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.
You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.
The pain goes beyond that … literally so.
For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.
(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)
The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.
Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.
It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.
The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).
The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.
One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.