NHL on NBC ratings are up over last year

If you’ve been curious just how well things have been going ratings-wise with the NHL on NBC, we can let you know that business is picking up quite nicely.

Turns out the action on the ice is getting noticed and more fans are tuning in than in previous seasons. From last weekend’s action in the NHL playoffs, numbers were up all over the board.

Last Sunday’s Game 2 between Detroit and San Jose from HP Pavillion in San Jose that saw the Sharks win 2-1 and take a 2-0 series lead on the Red Wings found its way to 2.25 million viewers, good for a 24% improvement over the comparable Pittsburgh-Montreal game last season. That game saw 1.81 million viewers. The audience for this year’s game is the best audience for an NHL Playoff Conference Semifinal game in three years since Sunday May 8, 2008 (Rangers-Penguins overtime game earned 2.33 million viewers).

Last Saturday’s Game 1 between Philadelphia and Boston that saw the Bruins knock off the Flyers 7-3 brought in 1.9 million viewers, a 19% improvement on last year’s Bruins-Flyers overtime game that netted 1.6 million.

The two games broadcast on NBC last weekend averaged 2.1 million viewers and proved to be a 24% increase on the comparable weekend last year (1.7 million average). NBC’s overall coverage in the playoffs is averaging 1.93 million viewers and is ahead of 2010’s coverage by 13% after six games.

TV audiences don’t always just appear overnight, especially for a sport that’s been fighting to win fans back since the crippling lockout of 2004. Things are getting better and now that coverage of the playoffs and the Stanley Cup final are locked into the same home for the next ten years, it’s hopeful that the rise in ratings and in notoriety for the game will continue to rise with it.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you that we’re part of the NBC SportsTalk network of blogs and that we’re all part of the NBC Sports family, so it’s all good news to us and a reminder of who pays our bills too.

After healthy scratch, Severson vows to play ‘next 80 games’

Jimmy Hayes, Damon Severson
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Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.

It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.

“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”

Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.

Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.

Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.

“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”

Virtanen to make NHL debut tonight versus Kings

Jake Virtanen
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Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.

The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.

“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”

Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.

The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.

If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.