I almost never predict that one team will sweep another team in the playoffs. I suppose I should stick to that from now on if they’re all going to work out the way the Penguins/Senators series did for the first game. The Senators clearly aren’t getting swept by the Penguins. I still think the Pens will bounce back and win the series, but they’re obviously not going to do it in 4 games. If they look the way they did in game one, the Penguins could get swept. They had their moments, but the game wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.
I know NBC couldn’t possibly give up Minute to Win It (which I’d never heard of before I decided to see what was on tonight), Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit (a show I’ve actually seen), & “To Be Announced” (that’s still what my DVR has listed for tonight, though it looks like a second episode of Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit or another Law & Order). However, having all the NHL playoff games on only one channel (Versus, of course) in this round is very frustrating for someone who can’t get NHL Center Ice any more. The trade-off (not having to deal with the horrible Cox Cable any more) was well worth it, but I couldn’t watch tonight’s Flyers/Devils game and that was very disappointing for someone who missed fewer than 2 full games the last two playoff years. Four playoff games in a day and only three on TV in the United States is disappointing, but it could be worse. Last year, only two of the first four games were on Versus in the US. All of the games are, of course, televised in Canada and if it were the Los Angeles games that were being skipped by National TV, I’d be fine. Sadly, I won’t get to see ANY of the Devils/Flyers series (I can’t count the in-game updates and NHL on the Fly as watching the game). I really can’t imagine how the network deemed that series completely unworthy of national television. Of course, I guess it’s almost worse to say that the entire Penguins/Senators series is worth except for game 7 if it happens. I still don’t think that series will go to 7 games, but what if it does? If that series goes to 7 games and the only game of the series not televised nationally in the United States is the most important game of the series, Gary Bettman and Versus should be completely ashamed of themselves. Just as much as when NBC and Bettman chose horse racing pre-show coverage over the overtime ending of a playoff hockey game.
I thought it was great to see Muhammad Ali in Phoenix for the Coyotes/Red Wings game. Perhaps he can take some of the credit for the Coyotes being the only home team to win game 1 in the first day of the 2010 NHL playoffs. Then again, perhaps it’s the Coyotes’ reaction to a completely full building. I’ve never seen the Glendale Arena so full. In talking to the players when they were here for one of the Kings’ last games, I found out that their building has been a lot more full recently and that they’ve enjoyed seeing so the building get more crowded as they continued to do well. I’m sure it’ll stay that way through the playoffs. Hopefully, the attendance burst will carry over to the 2010-11 season for the Coyotes, too. The Glendale Arena isn’t that far from downtown Phoenix. Hopefully, those living in Phoenix will figure that out during the playoffs and keep going back. The Glendale Arena is beautiful. It’d be nice to see it full more often.
Due to the way the games were scheduled on Versus, I saw under 8 minutes of the Sharks/Avalanche game. It seemed like that game was going to go into overtime. I was thinking how fortunate it was for the NHL and Versus that the last game of the day would be the only game to go into overtime. No sooner had I thought that than I got to the Avalanche goal with just 49.3 seconds left in regulation. Stewart banked it off of Rob Blake’s skate and won the game for the Avalanche. Oddly enough, this was the only series that started out the way I would have guessed. It’s definitely going to be an interesting playoff season!
Tags: Avalanche, Center Ice, Chris Stewart, Coyotes, Devils, Flyers, Gary Bettman, Glendale Arena, Hockey, Kings, Muhammad Ali, NBC, NHL, Penguins, playoffs, Red Wings, Rob Blake, Senators, Sharks, sweep, Versus
When the NFL kicked off their season on Thursday, September 10th, there was one game that night. The Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Tennessee Titans at home. That game was the only game on opening day. It was nationally televised and well advertised. They showed the ceremony with the fireworks and the Steelers started off their season with the NFL world watching them celebrate their championship a bit before the game started.
As the MLB kicked off their season on Sunday, April 5th, the only regular season game that day was played by the World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies as they faced the Atlanta Braves at home. This opening game of the season was also available for all baseball fans to enjoy as the Phillies celebrated their win with their fans one last time before starting the new season.
The NBA started off their season last year on October 28th with a double header on TNT starting with the NBA Championship Boston Celtics hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers. The second game of the double header featured the first regular season game for the number one draft pick in the 2007 NBA draft.
All of these leagues have a few things in common. The reigning champion of the league gets to start off the next season. The start of the season is a well advertised event with countdowns on public websites. The opening game and pre-game events are nationally televised in HD for anyone in the country to see without a special sports package. The national TV coverage of the games happens on a channel that everyone with cable gets (I realize that TNT is a cable channel) for free. They don’t need to purchase a sports package (as I do in order to get Versus) and the channels are all on DirecTV (which Versus is not as I write this – I’m still hoping they’ll work that out before I move, since I really want to change back to DirecTV when I’m able to get it). These games also all take place in the United States of America.
In contrast, the NHL starts their season with four games on opening day (Thursday, October 1st). Two of these games are nationally televised (including HD) on Versus – the Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins (7pm) and the San Jose Sharks at Colorado Avalanche (10pm). The other teams playing on opening day are The Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Calgary Flames. None of the teams playing on opening day were even in the Stanley Cup Finals last season. In fact, only three teams out of the eight playing on opening day made it out of the first round of the playoffs. They (the Capitals, Bruins, & Canucks) were all eliminated in the conference semifinals.
The Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins play their first game the second night of the hockey season. They play the 8th game of the season and will have all the fanfare of raising the Stanley Cup Championship banner with only local audiences (Pittsburgh & New York City) as well as those of us who have the NHL Network (a pay channel on my cable service). I am hoping the NHL Network shows the Pittsburgh feed of the game. Center Ice normally airs the home feed for home openers and I’m hoping the NHL Network will do the same. I’m also hoping that when entering the info someone just forgot to check the box to select that the show is in HD, since as of this morning the repeats on the NHL HD Network are going to be in HD, but the live feed will not. I think it’s horrible that the first game of the reigning champs isn’t nationally televised on a channel that’s easily accessible to all sports fans. Those wanting to see the raising of the banner living in New York will most likely have to settle for YouTube replays or watching it on the Penguins’ website, since the NHL Network feed will be blacked out in NYC due to the MSG telecast. I’m sure the Rangers will do the same thing the Ducks did when they played in the Penguins’ first home game a few years ago and cut out anything fans of the Penguins would want to see of the opening of the season and local fans will not get a choice.
The NHL messes up a lot of their marketing (or lack of marketing, as it were). Their not acknowledging the reigning Stanley Cup Champion is just one of many errors. The NHL continually tries to compete with the NBA (which will always be more popular in most parts of the US). This competition makes it difficult for some people (especially those in southern California and other areas where local basketball teams were doing well) to find a bar that will show the games if they’d like to go out with friends to enjoy them (or, as in the case of my one friend, didn’t have cable and needed to find someone willing to show hockey that had Versus – at least Versus and DirecTV didn’t have their battle until the playoffs ended). If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that Bettman was brought in to lower the NHL’s ratings and prove that it should eliminate some teams. A lot of the choices he’s made seem more like the choices networks make when they want to kill a show’s ratings. I could talk about different errors in judgment the NHL makes for ages like most hockey fans.
Southern California residents not attending the Ducks’ season opener (also their season opener), which is the same night as (and only a half hour apart from) the Kings’ season & home opener, will be disappointed if they’d like to watch it later. It’s one of the few games airing on KDOC instead of Fox Sports Prime Ticket or West, so it will only be aired in standard definition. I’ll be at the Kings game that night and was disappointed that the Ducks’ first game of the season will not be televised in HD. I think this is another bad marketing choice, though this one was probably made by FSN & KDOC, not the Ducks. I’m sure the Ducks would prefer all of their games to be aired in HD. Who wouldn’t? It makes fans happy and that’s the goal, isn’t it?
I know fans of all sports complain about choices those running the league make, but how is it possible that all the other major league team sports in the country have figured out that celebrating the reigning champion is a good idea and the NHL still hasn’t understood this simple fact? It doesn’t take a brilliant mind to figure out that having one (or two) game(s) to open the season and making a big deal out of the opening night with the current champ as well as nationally televising that game (and the game after it, if applicable) is a good marketing strategy. For all of Bettman’s talk about expanding interest in the NHL in the United States, he doesn’t seem to make choices supporting the concept.
Tags: Braves, Cavaliers, Celtics, Center Ice, Ducks, FSN, Gary Bettman, HD, Hockey, Kings, marketing, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, NHL Network, Penguins, Phillies, Rangers, Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup Finals, Steelers, Titans, TNT, Versus, YouTube
The Kings went into the All-Star break by getting 5 out of the possible 6 points in their three game road trip, which ended in the mile high city last night as they won their first back-to-back games on consecutive days in over a year (the last time was December 29 & 30, 2007 in Colorado and Chicago). The last time the Kings were in Colorado, the Avalanche beat them 6-1, going ahead 6-0 before Oscar Moller would score the only Kings goal more than half-way through the game. I’m sure the Kings were thinking of that as they faced the Avalanche last night and it seemed to help them get off to a good start. The Kings scored the first goal just 2:14 into the game and started off the 2nd period strong after allowing the Avalanche to tie the game 7:40 into the 1st. Though Kings fans were certainly worried as they watched the Kings give up 3 goals, allowing their 4 goal lead to drop to 1, they had to be happy to see their team hang on to their lead and go home for the All-Star break on a high note.
Since the world figure skating championships are being held at Staples Center in addition to the Grammy Awards, Lakers & Clippers games, and other normal events, the Kings face more away games than their usual high number after the All-Star break. Many have said they think the large number of away games will hurt the young team and they’ll end up at the bottom of the heap. I actually think the time to bond might help the young team and they’ll continue to do better than they did last year (they’re now 13th instead of 15th in the conference and 23rd instead of 29th in the league). I guess we’ll all find out after the All-Star break. At least the Kings and their fans can enjoy watching Drew Doughty in the Young Stars game and their captain Dustin Brown in his first NHL All-Star game thinking of their team ending on a positive note before the break.
Remember that the Kings’ first game after the All-Star break (on Thursday, January 29th against the Chicago Blackhawks) is not being televised on FSN West, so if you want to see that game outside of Staples Center you’ll need access to the Center Ice package to get WGN’s HD coverage of the game.
Tags: All-Star, Avalanche, Blackhawks, Center Ice, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, fans, FSN, HD, Hockey, Kings, NHL, Oscar Moller, Staples Center, Young Stars
Yes, I realize that the Mellon Arena (which I’ll always think of as the Civic Arena or the Igloo) will be around for more than another full NHL season. However, tonight’s Penguins game was probably the last game I’ll see there in person. Sure, I’ll see tons of games on Center Ice, but it’s never the same as being there.
Though the Penguins didn’t win tonight, all Penguins fans should be happy with the way the Penguins played. They outshot the Canadiens 34-19. Though the Penguins’ power play definitely looked like what it is at the moment (a power play most teams have no need to fear that’s only ranked at about the middle of the NHL), they shot the puck. As most Penguins fans know, the Penguins are ranked last in shots on goal (with an average of only 26.8 shots per game going into tonight’s game against the Habs). Shooting the puck more is definitely a good place to start. The Penguins haven’t won two games in a row since Fleury got injured (they won 6 in a row from 11/1 – 11/15 and then hit a very rough patch.
Fleury has been playing very well since his return. If the Penguins can play like they did tonight in front of him consistently they’re bound to string together a bunch of wins sometime soon.
It was hardly a high point as a Penguins fan, Andrei Kostitsyn scored his first NHL hat trick tonight at the Igloo. I always like seeing a player score their first hat trick, even if it does mean that ‘my team’ ends up losing. It’s always sad to see a player get their first hat trick that away from home, though. Even the fairly large group of Canadiens (on his side of the ice when he scored his 3rd goal) didn’t throw any hats onto the ice.
Since I’ll always be a Penguins fan at heart, it’s been frustrating for me to hear Therrien talk about how his team isn’t prepared. Correct me if I’m wrong, but getting them prepared is the most important part of his job. He has such a talented group of players. If he can’t get them motivated, perhaps he’s not the right guy for the job.
I wish I could travel back to see the team that first made me fall in love with hockey more often, but travel is a bit too expensive for that at the moment. I’m really glad I got to see a couple more games in the Igloo before the new arena (which we recently earned will be the Consol Energy Center for its first 15 years) opens. The Penguins lost both of those games (and played horribly against the Lightning just before Christmas), but they played really in the last game I’ll see them play in the arena. I even got to see them wear their third jerseys in person. I may not be a huge fan of the baby blue jerseys, but at least they’re a colorful glimpse of the Penguins’ past.
On a bright note, the last two games I saw in the Igloo were accompanied by my other favorite team (the Los Angeles Kings) shutting out their opponents on the road (Jonathan Quick got both of them and had not gotten a shutout in the NHL until December 23rd. What a way for him to end the calendar year. At least one of my teams won each night.
Tags: Andrei Kostitsyn, Canadiens, Center Ice, fans, hat trick, Hockey, Igloo, Jonathan Quick, Kings, Lightning, Marc-Andre Fleury, Mellon Arena, Michel Therrien, NHL, Penguins, power play, shutout
Ever since the NHL announced that there would be an entire HD channel dedicated to HD games and that at least 7 games would be televised in HD each week, I was excited. I love days like today when there are two games on the HD channel. It’s great to see how other teams’ stations televise their HD games. It’s been particularly interesting and appealing this season, since the Kings and Ducks (the only teams televised in the LA/Orange County area’s sports channels) both chose to start off the season with the very poorly received rinkside view and are not televising any games that are not home games (which I normally attend for both teams) in HD.
Tonight I had the added bonus of the first HD game being the Penguins/Hurricanes game. Seeing your team play in HD is always better, but when they win it’s hard to beat. Crosby (4 assists) and Sabourin (94.4% save percentage) both played great games. In spite of the score, Carolina played pretty well. They outshot the Penguins 36 to 22. What really killed them were their special teams. The Penguins scored on 2 of their 3 power plays, while Carolina only scored on 1 of their 5 chances.
Nabokov just made a great save in the Sharks/Blue Jackets game. Since I’m caught up to live and I hate watching commercials, I’ll have to watch something else then get back to the game. There were definitely a few other games that were closer than the Penguins/Hurricanes game, but so far it looks like they made great choices when they chose tonight’s two games for the Center Ice HD channel.
Tags: Blue Jackets, Center Ice, Dany Sabourin, Evgeni Nabokov, HD, Hockey, Hurricanes, NHL, Penguins, power play, rinkside view, Sharks, Sidney Crosby