The high-wattage star power of a Philadelphia Flyers-Pittsburgh Penguins series, unprecedented overall game coverage and a night full of twists and turns manifested itself in some great ratings to kick off the 2012 playoffs on Wednesday. The NHL provided a press release full of promising numbers from the first two nights of postseason puck-viewing, so here are some of the highlights.
- Wednesday’s trio of contests (two on NBC Sports Network, one on CNBC) represented a 34 percent increase from last year’s ratings on what was then called Versus.
- Overall ratings during the first two days (Wednesday and Thursday) represented a 22 percent increase from last year. Interestingly enough, Thursday’s trio of OT games was the first since 2001.
- Again, the Flyers-Penguins thriller made the biggest impact. The press release captures the impressive numbers quite nicely, so here’s the excerpt:
Viewership for Wednesday night’s opening round game featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and rival Philadelphia Flyers was up 83% from last year’s comparable opening night contest. It was the most-watched opening night playoff game in 10 years, a span that includes seasons when ESPN was the national U.S. rights holder.
In other words … No, it’s not just you. The playoffs have been electric so far. Here’s to many more nights like the first two during the next two-or-so months – even if it might be a little exhausting at times.
The goaltending situation in Philadelphia has become a lot more clear today, as they’ve signed Michal Neuvirth to a contract extension.
According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, it’s a two-year deal worth a total of $5 million ($2.5 million cap hit).
Neuvirth was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
The 28-year-old has been between the pipes for nine of his team’s last 11 games, but he’s dropped four of his last five decisions. He has a 10-9-1 record with a 2.90 goals-against-average and a .887 save percentage in 24 games.
The duo of Neuvirth and Steve Mason hasn’t worked out too well in Philadelphia. Both players have struggled to find consistency in their game, which has been problematic for the Flyers.
Even though Neuvirth will be back, they can still shake things up by moving on from Mason, who is also scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st.
The Flyers also re-signed forward Pierre Edouard Bellemare earlier today.
Philadelphia has re-upped with checking forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on a two-year extension, per Sportsnet.
It’s believed to be a $2.9 million pact, one that carries a $1.45M average annual cap hit. That’s a nice raise for the 31-year-old, who’s in the last of a two-year pact at $712,500 per.
Bellemare joined the Flyers for the ’14-15 campaign, following a lengthy career in Europe that included stops in his native France, and a lengthy spell in Sweden. He’s emerged as a good energy guy in the bottom-six forward group, one that can kill penalties and chip in with a bit of offense.
Today’s news might come as a bit of a surprise for Flyers fans, however. Bellemare was a pending UFA and, given he’s on the wrong side of 30, there was speculation he’d be sold at the deadline in the hopes of recouping some assets.
Some tough news if you’re a fan of the New York Rangers.
According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, Jesper Fast will miss some time with what’s believed to be a separated shoulder.
Fast suffered the injury after being flattened by Alex Ovechkin in last night’s 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.
The 25-year-old has been a key contributor for New York this season. He’s up to five goals and 15 assists in 59 games. He’s also second in shorthanded ice time and in hits among all Rangers forwards.
The Rangers went into last night’s game without Mika Zibanejad and they also lost Chris Kreider momentarily yesterday, but he was able to return.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is expected to provide an update on Fast’s status after today’s practice, but don’t expect the news to be good.
The Montreal Canadiens are keeping busy.
Just one day after acquiring Steve Ott from the Detroit Red Wings and Brendan Davidson from the Edmonton Oilers in separate deals, general manager Marc Bergevin completed another trade before the deadline when he acquired forward Dwight King from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a conditional 2018 fourth-round draft pick.
It will become a third-round pick if he re-signs with the Canadiens this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
In 63 games this season King has eight goals and seven assists.
He also adds to the Canadiens’ apparent season-long attempt to become a grittier and tougher team, now joining a roster that now has seen Ott, Shea Weber, and Andrew Shaw join it over the past eight months.
For the Kings, it is a move that clears out a bit of salary cap space, perhaps opening the door for them to complete a deal with Colorado for Jarome Iginla, something that seems to be a work in progress on Wednesday.
Canadiens corner market on pests, add Steve Ott
Canadiens get Davidson for Desharnais