Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Gary Bettman and the NBC director of Sports Programming breathed a big sigh of relief (not to mention millions of Penguin fans) last night when the Pens won 4-2. Pittsburgh's victory gives them new life in a series that they still trail 2-1. Had the Pens lost, the NHL and NBC would have been hurting.
The NHL desperately needs this series to get interesting since both of the Conference Finals lacked drama. When the playoffs began you saw some great match-ups and upsets. Anahiem knocking off Dallas, Carolina doing the same to the Devils and Bruins, were great for the fans interest. The Anaheim vs Detroit series, which was a match-up of the last two Stanley Cup winners added plenty of drama. Then Pittsburgh's seven game series against Washington, which featured the match-up of Crosby vs Ovechkin, showcased the NHL at its best. Had the Red Wings repeated as Stanley Cup champs, behind a snoozer of a series, all the hype these playoffs had generated would have been forgotten. NBC also needed the Pens to win, because they don't have broadcast rights again until Game 5 on Saturday. Had the Red Wings won, they may not have had a game to show.
The NHL is still rebuilding their fan base after the messy lockout a couple of seasons ago. So as much drama, and as many games as possible, are positives for the league and ratings (though they are nerve wracking for Detroit fans). I think the good news for the NHL is that the Pens can make this a great series. After last night it wouldn't surprise me at all to see it extended to seven games. Last night Pittsburgh showed that they can play with the Red Wings, and that they aren't intimidated. If the Pens can stay disciplined and play their game they can take this series down to the wire (a little luck going their way wouldn't hurt either).