Canadiens and Coyotes Game Seven Wins Could Equal Several Problems For NHL, TV Partners
April 27, 2010 12 Comments
Let’s give credit to the Montreal Canadiens. I’m not going to tell you anything someone else can’t tell you when I say this, but that was a masterfully played Game 6 against the Capitals last night. The greatest stage the sport has – Montreal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs – and a Habs team that needed to beat Ovechkin’s mighty Capitals one more time to force Game 7 in The District on Wednesday, and man, did they ever rise to the occasion. Jaroslav Halak put on one of the greatest goaltending displays I’ve ever seen, stopping over 50 shots en route to victory.
Similarly, longtime play-by-play man Sam Rosen and analyst Billy Jaffe were up to the occasion. Rosen acted as more spectator than announcer, simply marveling and reveling in every save Halak made. Jaffe tread lightly, but effectively pointed out that Halak could be writing his own Montreal goaltending legend right before our very eyes. If the Canadiens were to come back and win this series, it would be a marvelous achievement by a team no one truly gave a shot in Round 1, left for dead after Game 4.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix Coyotes are riding Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage to a very good chance at taking down the team with the most fans in this country, the two-time defending Western Conference champion Red Wings. They’ve created interest out in the long playoff hockey-barren desert in Arizona, though the ratings dipped a bit for Game 6, they figure to be potentially record-setting for Game 7. VERSUS is televising that game tonight, and even going with a half-hour Hockey Central lead-in show beforehand. The Coyotes winning would also be huge for NHL parity, and give the second round some new blood.
It would also be a total public relations nightmare for the National Hockey League, and for two reasons.
Let’s control the Habs side first. Aside from preventing a potential Sid/Ovie Conference Final, one is that it would prevent the NHL from being able to hawk Ovechkin and the Caps, becoming ever-so much more TV friendly, on national TV during this post-season. They were relegated to all-VERSUS during the Quarterfinals, but it’d just seem wrong to keep Washington off NBC for an entire post-season, and one would think their potential 2nd-round date with Philadelphia would be awesomely TV friendly.
The second reason is that it would cause a Pittsburgh-Montreal 2nd round series. Believe me, I have to suspect NBC wants Crosby and his television tested Penguins on for what little coverage they do of the Conference Semifinals (Only airing games this Saturday & Sunday and then off next week for golf) and they want people hooking onto the team early. They also want to be evil and keep Pens fans from watching the games outside Mellon Arena.
That said, CBC could end up the huge winner in round two if the Canadiens are in it, as they’d have two massive television draws in Canucks-Hawks and Pens-Habs, combining two series with devoutly followed Canadian teams and American squads with massive amounts of firepower. A seven-game series for either could potentially draw up to four million viewers in Canada, as Game 6 of the Canucks-Kings first round set drew 2.9 million. It also keeps a 1-in-4 shot that a Canadian team makes the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since Ottawa in 2007.
Herein lies the problem. If were stuck with a 2nd round of Phoenix-San Jose, Vancouver-Chicago in the West and Philadelphia-Boston, Montreal-Pittsburgh in the East, where does NBC go? Certainly, Flyers-Bruins in a rematch of the Winter Classic would be an easy call, but what other game? Does NBC have the stones to go all the way out to San Jose? The Game of the Week has only aired one game West of Chicago since the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, and that was in Dallas. Will they take their entire production out to Arizona or Northern California? They certainly haven’t shown a desire to do that in the past.
Which leaves us the two series featuring Canadian teams… hmmmm. Anyone happen to remember a certain conflict we all dealt with back in the 2007 playoffs? NBC wanted Senators-Penguins in the first round, to show Sidney Crosby’s first playoff series on national TV. CBC was… less than enthused about that, and a media war that sort of made everyone look bad ensued. NBC won, and the network aired exactly one game from that series, and it got no higher rating than any other NHL game at the time.
But now, Crosby’s Pens hold a clear effect in getting the needle up there that perhaps NBC can’t afford not to show Penguins-Canadiens Saturday or Sunday. With only one game for sure needed for the afternoon, and it being a likely Pens home game anyway, would CBC be more willing to accomodate? Or would we all have to go over this annoying debate for the second time in four seasons? Will each network fire shots at one another? Will NBC try to bargain and get Vancouver-Chicago?
Regardless, there will be a ton of talk about it towards the end of the week, and it won’t make the NHL, NBC or CBC look good.