James O'Brien

Jonathan Toews, Jakob Silfverberg

Blackhawks – Ducks Game 7 sets new NBC ratings mark (outside of Stanley Cup Final)

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The ratings for this weekend’s Game 7 matches are in, and they are impressive.

Excluding Stanley Cup Final matchups, Game 7 of the Western Conference Final between the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks set a record for the highest overnight ratings for the NHL on NBC. The local ratings were also record-setters in the Los Angeles and Chicago markets.

The 3.27 metered market rating also represents a bump up from last year’s Kings – Blackhawks Game 7, which was at 3.17. That’s pretty impressive considering how much more competitive Game 7 of the 2014 WCF was, eh?

The 26.6 HH rating in Chicago is also a new peak for non-Stanley Cup Final games for the Blackhawks, and it’s also the third-best mark overall. (Click here for more ratings bits, as the Ducks set similar marks in Los Angeles, at least for their team.)

Game 7 of the Tampa Bay Lightning – New York Rangers’ Eastern Conference Final wasn’t far behind on NBCSN, generating a 2.65 metered market rating. That’s the second-best ratings for an NHL game on NBCSN outside of SCF games (notice a trend?).

Long story short, those two Game 7 contests were great for NBC, NBCSN and the NHL. Perhaps Blackhawks – Lightning will set some records of its own?

Ducks fans frowned at Smith-Pelly’s smiley tweet

Ryan Getzlaf, Devante Smith-Pelly
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It’s amazing how many people can be offended by a simple, strategically timed emoticon.

Around the time it became quite clear that the Anaheim Ducks would be eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, Duck-turned-Hab Devante Smith-Pelly happened to tweet his thoughts with one anger-inducing smiley face:

Get this: Ducks fans weren’t happy.

Here are some of the publishable responses to Smith-Pelly’s cheeky tweet:

Sure, some enjoyed it or at least commended his candor, but that bit of Twitter-trolling certainly got people’s attention with 1,000+ re-tweets and 2,000+ favorites. In fact, the 22-year-old was surprised by how much heat he drew, as he told the Montreal Gazette.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal,” Smith-Pelly said. “I didn’t think people would be that upset about it, but that’s the way Twitter goes, I guess.”

He’s not about to delete the message nor will he deny that he was very much rooting against the Ducks, even if Smith-Pelly said he’s still friends with many of them.

Of course, he might also wait a little while to contact them after this social media snafu (and that whole devastating defeat thing).

The Ducks shouldn’t hit the panic button

Bruce Boudreau
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Losing on such a big stage in an ugly way obviously stings, but is the situation really that dire for the Anaheim Ducks?

On paper, Anaheim accomplished a lot in 2014-15, yet that’s not how many will depict the situation. Let’s not deny it, either; the optics weren’t pretty in another Game 7 loss.

Sportsnet correspondent Elliotte Friedman describes Boudreau’s relationship with Ducks GM Bob Murray as “strained.” Many fans feel like this is the last straw … and Murray may just end up agreeing.

Here’s the thing though: the Ducks’ future could be incredibly bright, even if you merely look past the situation with Boudreau. Let’s ponder a few reasons why Anaheim may just be primed for bigger and better things.

They have a ton of cap space

According to General Fanager (a great Cap Geek supplement), the Ducks have about $17.6 million in cap space as of this moment.

Key free agents such as Francois Beauchemin and Matt Beleskey are primed to eat up some of that excess, but few contenders are poised to have this much breathing room in the offseason. Could the Ducks gain from other contenders’ salary cap pain?

Their defense is both young and deep

source: AP
Via AP

As PHT’s Jason Brough also points out, the Ducks’ defense boasts an enviable array of young, promising defensemen.

Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Simon Despres are all 23. Hampus Lindholm is just 21.

Not many teams would enjoy the luxury of parking a (somewhat?) healthy James Wisniewski in the press box, but the Ducks did that this postseason. This defense could look downright scary in 2015-16.

Their goalies are cheap (and could get better)

The funny thing about the Ducks is that Frederik Andersen might not even be “their guy,” as John Gibson could very well have a brighter future. It’s conceivable that one or both of those netminders will play well in 2015-16.

In a league with big spending on goaltending, Anaheim enjoys the kind of flexibility that other teams can only dream of. Andersen and Gibson combine for about a $1.88 million cap hit next season with one year left on each of their deals. Murray could stick with both or decide to target a more experienced goalie via a trade or free agency.

Either way, it’s a pretty good problem to have, even if goaltending remains a perpetual question mark for the franchise.

Stars close to their primes

Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler are all 30 as of this writing. Maybe that isn’t “prime age,” but it’s close … and players like Jakob Silfverberg could make big jumps for all we know.

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No doubt about it, this is a big offseason for the Ducks, but they’re in a prime position if you look at the bigger picture.

Duchene slams Russian players for storming off after Canada’s 2015 WHC win

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Matt Duchene didn’t beat around the bush when asked about much of the Russian team storming off during Canada’s gold medal celebration and national anthem at the Worlds. He made it clear to Sportsnet 590 The Fan that he didn’t take the slight lightly.

“I’ve lost in that tournament three times, and twice was to Russia. We stood out and listened to their anthem,” Duchene said.

“We would never have dreamed of skating off the ice.”

It’s been made clear that some Russian players did stay out during Canada’s anthem, including Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. Duchene said that their gesture didn’t go unnoticed, and “that spoke to a lot of us” on Canada’s team.

He has harsh words for those who bolted, though.

MORE: Russia will be punished for “out of order” actions.

Apparently Jason Spezza relayed a story to Duchene regarding alleged poor sportsmanship from Alex Radulov that won’t exactly simmer things down:

“The one time he was saying that [Alexander] Radulov in Halifax was skating right by them, jumping on the boards with the Russian flag. [Canadian] guys were real close to leaving the blueline and go take a run at him,” Duchene said.

“Over time, you gotta pay it back. You can’t celebrate like that when you win and not respect when you lose. That’s something as Canadians we have a good understanding of. Some of the Russians did; some of them didn’t.”

Sheesh.

With Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk in the KHL (for now?), we might not see Duchene and most of the Russian players involved on the same sheet of ice until the next opportunity in international competition. (Surely he can single a player or two out, but some may point to Radulov and Kovalchuk in particular.)

Specifics aside, this incident adds a little spice and a lot of bitterness to the Canada – Russia hockey rivalry.

Check out highlights of Canada’s lopsided 2015 World Hockey Championships gold medal win below.

Chicago’s Sharp on Game 7 confidence (and Mario Kart)

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Relatively speaking, big elimination games probably feel like something close to “old hat” for the Chicago Blackhawks. Perhaps that’s why Patrick Sharp seems pretty confident heading into Game 7 against the (once?) “Nervous Nelly” Anaheim Ducks.

Of course, it helps when you’re on a team that seems comfortable in just about every situation you can see in the postseason.

“I think we’re good. We’re healthy,” Sharp said. “We have a defense core that wants to be on the ice, that they’re fighting to jump over the boards, want to play the heavy minutes. ”

“Up front I think we’re feeling pretty good. Whether it’s a physical game or a wide-open game, we like that style of play. We’ll be ready for whatever they throw at us.”

It’s funny that Sharp uses the phrasing “whatever they throw at us,” as he also revealed the key to Blackhawks tranquility: Mario Kart. That quote almost seems to imply that the Blachawks are ready for the blue shell.

(You know, the blue shell is almost like a metaphor for the wild bounces in the playoffs, isn’t it? No? OK, fair enough …)

Sharp also might have ruffled a feather or two by revealing the team-wide Mario Kart standings:

“I got the standings in my back pocket,” Sharp said to laughter from the media. “[Niklas Hjalmarsson] is number one, [Andrew Shaw] is two, and this is going to cause some problems, but I’m number three.”

That’s video game bulletin board material, right?

Anyway, it’s no surprise that the Blackhawks seem confident about Saturday’s contest, and not just because they have an extra day off to heal up Nintendo thumb.