This has been a very successful year for the NHL, and really hockey in general. The World Juniors was a ton of fun with the USA taking their game against Canada in overtime, proving to be one of the most memorable games in World Junior history. The Olympics were a hit as well, and the two games between the USA and Canada rocked the ratings into the "holy cow" category.
There was a ton of speculation that the NHL was going to try to harness this momentum, and use it to boost ratings for the rest of the year. In fact on Rink Side Radio we basically put aside three weeks in order to fully map out what type of plan the NHL was going to work with. But in the end there was only one thing that the NHL could ask for: some great races to the playoffs, and then some great series within the playoffs.
The NHL obviously got their wish. With all of the top three seeds falling in the first round of the East, it seemed like a guarantee that these playoffs weren’t going to be your "run of the mill" playoffs. Hell, even Ottawa took the number four seeded Pittsburgh Penguins to a game six. And while the West was a little more conventional the ride was still fun for all.
But now with the final four teams fighting for their Stanly Cup lives the NHL can’t help but smile to itself. Join me after the jump to find out why.
One of the main reasons why the NHL is pleased about the way that these playoffs are going is because it’s not going to be a Pittsburgh Detroit rematch. Yeah, it was awesome the first time. And yes, you could also make the argument that it was nice the second time—the Marian Hossa side story helped the second go around a lot—but at the end of that series it was pretty much a unanimous decision amongst hockey fans (except Red Wings or Pittsburgh fans) that enough was enough.
As for this year there was some disappointment. I’m sure that the NHL would have loved to see Alex Ovechkin in the cup finals. Buffalo was a sexy team to root for as well, with many Americans looking towards Ryan Miller as the man for the United States. But none of those things happened.
Instead we have a potential match-up between San Jose, Chicago, Philadelphia and Montreal. Notice something they all have in common? Big hockey markets, with Montreal leading the way and San Jose bringing up the rear—not to say that San Jose doesn’t have a great market but I would have to put them last out of those four teams.
But what we can all agree on is that no matter who goes to the finals there will be a great audience waiting. No matter what match-up you formulate the ratings should be top draw. And at the end of the day that is exactly what the NHL wants, and is exactly what the NHL needs if they want to keep drawing fans.