Your 2012 playoff ratings recap

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The 2012 Stanley Cup finals ended the playoffs with a bang. The Los Angeles Kings booted the New Jersey Devils in stunning fashion, pushing us all into the frightening hockey-less wilderness known as the off-season. The ratings for this year’s postseason are in, and for the most part, they’re strong.

NBC sent out a press release that runs down the ratings from both a big picture and more specific standpoint. Here are some of the most interesting bits:

  • With an average of 936K viewers between the games shown on NBC, NBC Sports Network and CNBC, the first round was the most-watched on record.
  • The same can be said of the second round (aka semifinals), with an average of 1.32 million viewers.
  • The combined first three rounds generated the best numbers in 15 years, with a 1.03 million viewer average.
  • NBC Sports Network’s ratings were up 12 percent from 2011, while NBC and NBC Sports Network (as a combination) saw a four percent improvement.
  • The Los Angeles Kings’ Cup-winning Game 6 triumph produced a 13.6 household rating, the highest on record in the market. Beyond that, Six markets set records for viewership on NBC Sports Network: Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, Phoenix and St. Louis. Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis and Washington set NBC records as well.

Pretty good stuff, huh?

If you’re the type who likes to soak in the details, here are the round-by-round notes directly from the press release:

Round by Round:

CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS

• Averaged 936,000 viewers on NBC, NBC Sports Network and CNBC, making them the most-watched first round on record (cable data not available prior to 1994).

• Averaged 744,000 viewers on NBC Sports Network, making them the most-watched in NBC Sports Network (formerly VERSUS) history, up 16% vs. 2011 (642,000), and the highest on a cable channel in 11 years (ESPN, 745,000 in 2001).

• Averaged 2.57 million viewers on NBC, up 39% vs. last year (1.85). The most-watched Conference Quarterfinals on broadcast television since 1998 (2.76/FOX).

• Capitals-Bruins Game 6 on NBC averaged 3.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched Conference Quarterfinal game since the advent of Nielsen People Meters (1987).

• Washington did an 8.6 household rating, the best in the market on broadcast television for an NHL game since 2004.

• Capitals-Bruins Game 7 on NBC Sports Network averaged 1.32 million viewers, making it the most-watched first-round game on cable in 12 years (1.51/San Jose-St. Louis, Game 7 in 2000 on ESPN).

• It was also up 43 percent vs. last year’s comparable game (926,000; Washington-Montreal, Game 7) and was the most-watched first-round game in NBC Sports Network history.

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

• Averaged 1.32 million viewers across NBC, the NBC Sports Network & CNBC, up 28% vs. last year and best on record.

• Averaged 1.29 million viewers on the NBC Sports Network, up 43% vs. last year and best on record for a single cable network.

• Game 3 of the series between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, which went to triple overtime, was watched by 1.85 million viewers on the NBC Sports Network and was the most-watched 2012 Conference Semifinal game on cable.

• In Washington, Rangers-Capitals Game 7 received a 7.7 household rating, up 18% vs. 2011. The game received the second-highest local rating ever in the market for a NHL game on the NBC Sports Network.

• In St. Louis, Blues-Kings Game 1 received an 8.1 household rating, the best in that market for an NHL game on broadcast television since 2004.

CONFERENCE FINALS

• Through three rounds, the 2012 Playoffs averaged 1.09 million viewers on NBC, NBC Sports Network & CNBC, making them the most-watched in 15 years (1.237 on FOX/ESPN/ESPN2 in 1997).

• The Western Conference Finals averaged 1.02 million viewers for the four games on NBC Sports Network, up 18 percent over last year’s Western Conference Finals (San Jose-Vancouver, 863,000). NBC Sports Network aired Games 1, 2, 3 and 5. NBC aired Game 4, averaging 1.4 million viewers, down slightly vs. last year (Vancouver-San Jose, 1.5 million).

• The Eastern Conference Finals averaged 1.39 million viewers on NBC Sports Network, down from 2011 (1.71 million).

• In New York, Game 5 of Rangers-Devils received a 6.47 household rating, the highest local rating ever in the market for an NHL game on NBC Sports Network.

• In Phoenix, Game 1 Coyotes-Kings received a 5.56 household rating, the highest local rating ever in the market for a NHL game on the NBC Sports Network.

STANLEY CUP FINAL

• The Cup-clinching Game 6 was the most-watched game of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final with 4.93 million viewers.

o NBC ranked first in Monday night primetime among broadcast networks in the advertiser-coveted M18-49 and M18-34 demos.

· In Los Angeles, the Cup-clinching Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final received a 13.6 household rating, the highest local rating ever in the market for a NHL playoff game on broadcast television on record (since 1976).

• In New York, Game 1 received a 5.1, the highest local rating in the market since 2003 for a NHL playoff game on broadcast television (10.1/Anaheim-New Jersey Game 7/ABC).

• For the entire series, NBC and NBC Sports Network combined to average 3.01 million viewers, down from last year’s 4.57 million average.

Canucks’ Dorsett returns to Vancouver for precautionary reasons

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Derek Dorsett’s remarkable comeback story has taken an unfortunate turn.

Dorsett won’t play on Tuesday in Philadelphia against the Flyers and may be sidelined for some time after the Canucks revealed Dorsett is dealing with complications that appear to stem from last season’s spinal surgery, which forced him to miss 68 games last season.

Via the Canucks Twitter account:

Derek Dorsett returned to Vancouver today for precautionary reasons to be evaluated by medical staff. His rehab following a cervical fusion procedure last year progressed well, consistent with expectations, and resulted in his fitness to play.

Recently, symptoms of neck and back stiffness presented. Given the nature of the injury and surgery, it was determined the best course of action is for a specialist to review his status. Derek will be assessed to determine cause and treatment of the symptoms before any further action is taken.

Dorsett’s surgery, according to Sportsnet, was a brutal procedure of getting “cut through the front of his neck, pull his vocal chords aside, remove a damaged disc between his C5 and C6 vertebrae, replace it with a washer and chunk of bone from his hip, then screw the vertebrae together so the tissue could fuse.”

Canucks head coach Travis Green spoke to the media prior to Tuesday’s game.

“I think the symptoms just slowly came around the last week or so,” Green said. “He’s been kind of dealing with it the past several days, week.”

Playing in a fourth-line checking role, Dorsett had also found his scoring touch with seven goals and nine points playing with Brandon Sutter and Sam Gagner.

Green didn’t want Tuesday’s setback to take away from Dorsett’s comeback this season.

“I don’t want to talk like it was a remarkable comeback. It still is,” Green said. “He’s had a great start to the year, he’s been a big part of our team. Hopefully, he’s joining our group again soon.”

Green said it was too early to talk about when Dorsett would play again.

“I think we just call it wait and see… that’s all there is right now,” he said.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

NHL awards: Handing out hardware at the season’s quarter mark

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Almost every NHL team has hit the 20-game mark, which means it’s time to look back at the first month and a half of the season and see who’s ahead of the pack for some of the league’s top hardware.

A lot will change between now and June, but certainly some of the players named below will still be in the mix come awards season while others will tail off after hot starts.

HART TROPHY

Who is the most valuable to their team? That’s a tough choice as you look at some of the performances so far this season. Nikita Kucherov (17-16—33) can’t stop scoring and Steven Stamkos (10-25—35) is averaging 1.75 points per night for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jaden Schwartz (10-16—26) is powering the St. Louis Blues. Johnny Gaudreau (10-21—31) is leading the Calgary Flames. Meanwhile, Sergei Bobrovsky it tops among all goaltenders with a .941 even strength save percentage.

There are a number of strong candidates for the Hart at the quarter mark. If voting took place now, how many votes would Kucherov and Stamkos split? And would that allow Bobrovsky to sneak in and steal it? Or does Bob have enough love right now to surpass the Lightning duo?

Our vote:
1. Bobrovsky

2. Kucherov
3. Schwartz

NORRIS TROPHY

Alex Pietrangelo and John Klingberg are all tied for the scoring lead among blue liners with 19 points, but lookie here, it’s Erik Karlsson, he of five games missed this season, lurking behind them at 17. He also has the best Corsi (56 percent, via Corsica) out of the top scoring defensemen and is averaging 1.21 points per game. Victor Hedman is also just behind with 15 points and 25:18 of ice time a night.

Our vote:
1. Karlsson

2. Pietrangelo
3. Hedman

VEZINA TROPHY

Outside of Bob, you have Andrei Vasilievskiy’s play helping the Lightning to a ridiculous start. He has a .931 ESSV and has played the seventh-most minutes (1,024:24). There’s also Connor Hellebuyck (.938) and Corey Crawford (.932) to consider; both have been key reasons for why their teams currently reside in playoff positions.

But in the end it’s hard to top what Bobrovsky is doing in Columbus. And it goes to show, as we’ve seen the last few years, just how good he is when healthy.

Our vote:
1. Bobrovsky

2. Hellebuyck
3. Crawford

CALDER TROPHY

In October, Clayton Keller (11-9—20) of the Arizona Coyotes appeared to have one hand on the rookie of the year award. But then a few other names entered the picture, like Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders, who sits second in rookie scoring with 4 goals and 19 points. Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks (7-10—17) is a bright ray of hope for the franchise. New Jersey Devils blue liner Will Butcher has been an assist machine with 14 of his 16 points recorded as helpers.

Speaking of rookie defensemen, Charlie McAvoy has 10 points for the Boston Bruins, but just as impressive is the fact that he’s averaging 23:16 a night next to Zdeno Chara. No other freshman skater is over 20 minutes a night.

One goaltender of note is Charlie Lindgren (.929), who has played well filling in for Carey Price. But that’s not going to last once the Montreal Canadiens get their franchise goaltender back from injury very soon.

Our vote:
1. Keller

2. Barzal
3. McAvoy

JACK ADAMS AWARD

Who had the Vegas Golden Knights sitting in a playoff spot and not a lottery spot this season? Well, through the quarter mark, Gerard Gallant’s men have used a strong home record (8-1-0) to get off to an historic start.

There’s also plenty of praise for the jobs that Jon Cooper and Mike Yeo are doing in Tampa and St. Louis, respectively, but typically this award ends up going to a team that exceeded expectations or made a huge turnaround from either the current season or previous year. That’s why if they keep up the pace, John Hynes of the New Jersey Devils and Paul Maurice of the Winnipeg Jets will find themselves getting some coach of the year love in June.

Our vote:
1. Gallant

2. Cooper
3. Hynes

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BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – TEAM

The Edmonton Oilers were a trendy Stanley Cup pick before the season after a nice playoff run last spring. But it’s all come crashing back down to earth as they sit out of the Western Conference playoff picture and three points ahead of the league-worst Arizona Coyotes. The Montreal Canadiens have been an interesting mess and we’re waiting on the Philadelphia Flyers to take that next step with some exciting young players. The Dallas Stars seem to have issues living up expectations, while Bruce Boudreau’s penchant for winning division titles could take a hit for a second straight season with the Minnesota Wild.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – PLAYER

It took until game No. 18 for Ryan Johansen, owner of a new $8 million cap hit, to score his first goal of the season for the Nashville Predators. Steve Mason (.879 ESSV) was handed a nice $8.2 million deal over the summer but has watched as Hellebuyck has taken the No. 1 job for the Jets. Martin Hanzal was given a three-year, $14.25 million deal by the Stars and has one goal through 17 games. Ben Bishop also hasn’t quite lit it up for the Stars with a .904 ESSV. Carey Price is injured, but sure wasn’t playing like his old self before he left the Canadiens lineup. His .877 ESSV is downright ugly.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Dallas Stars head coach fed up with injury rigmarole

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Now here’s a trend we could all get behind.

Dallas Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock told members of the media on Tuesday that he wants to “stop the dance” when it comes to revealing information about his injured players.

Via Marc Antoine Godin of The Athletic:

“I think we collectively hate playing the game. What I mean by that is we say ‘upper body,’ then you go on the phone, and then you look up things or you go to the doctors, find out what part of the upper body. We try to make your work easier, quite frankly, and so we just don’t like going through the dance.

“It’s just easy to tell you what it is and let’s move forward. It’s just the whole game. It’s an injury, and within two hours after we tell you it’s ‘upper body,’ you know exactly what it is, so why not just tell you? And the players don’t go out and say, ‘He has a broken left pinky and we’re going to go after the pinky.’ Nobody thinks like that. Our feeling is just tell them what the injury is and move it forward and just stop the dance.”

Perhaps Hitchcock, who has been coaching in the NHL since 1995, is just tired of the same old rigmarole he’s dealt with for the past 20-plus years. Reporters everywhere are too.

It’s also likely that most fans would also appreciate a higher level of transparency from the team they spend hundreds on for tickets each night.

Right, Montreal?

Given the mayhem that has ensued for the Canadiens over the status of Carey Price’s lower body, perhaps more teams will alleviate future headaches before they set in by adopting this route.

What is certain is that hockey scribes everywhere just became the biggest Hitchcock fans.

For now, if you’re looking for some of the Stars’ state secrets, they can be had on their official Twitter account:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Russian ice hockey player has 2-year doping ban cut

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ZURICH (AP) The International Ice Hockey Federation has slashed a doping ban given to Russian forward Danis Zaripov from two years to six months.

He’s eligible to play again from Thursday.

Zaripov, a Russian Olympian in 2010, was suspended in July for taking the banned substance pseudoephedrine.

However, the IIHF says it has reached a settlement with Zaripov, who filed an appeal. The IIHF agreed to cut the suspension. Since it’s dated from May 23, that means Zaripov will be eligible again on Thursday.

The IIHF says its decision is “based on extensive documentary and expert evidence that was unavailable” this year.

Zaripov has previously told Russian media he was in contact with the St. Louis Blues about a move to the NHL, where his ban isn’t valid.