Did you hear the scream of agony coming from New York following Saturday’s Western Conference playoff game in Anaheim?
It was the New York Voices from the Peacock People at NBC Sports, realizing they were on the path to television ratings of Titanic (i.e., sinking) proportions should the Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators both reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
When it comes to a Nashville-Ottawa series, NBC Sports still may be thoroughly disgusted when the Stanley Cup Final goes head-to-head against The (NBA) Final: Warriors-Cavaliers.
Nashville ranks as just the 29th-largest television market in the USA – just behind No. 28 San Diego and barely ahead of 30th Connecticut (Hartford-New Haven). Meanwhile, Ottawa, the national capital of Canada between English-speaking Ontario and French-speaking Quebec, doesn’t count because they’re located in a foreign country.
Fortunately for NBC (and not my wallet), Pittsburgh captured its Game No. 5 in the Eastern Conference final. The Penguins only need to win one of two games to advance – historically, that's a 79 percent occurrence.
Ottawa originally took a 2-1 series lead thanks to a four-game, first-period explosion that saw the home fans registered a 129-decibel level –take that, fans of the NFL Seahawks and Chiefs. However, the Penguins then scored four in the first in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.
Both sides are not hurting, yet are questionable in net.
Memo to Sens goalie Craig Anderson: it’s never good to allow four goals in 18 minutes on your birthday. Back-up Mike Condon is 10-14-6 – enough said. If you like the Sens, you have the value. Drop Game 6, it’s just a single loss at plus-money. Win, then lose Game 7, it’s still a profit. Win both and uncork the champagne.
On the flip side, Ottawa has not scored on the power play (0-for-30 over 10 games) in nearly a month. Ouch. If you like the Penguins, is it worth the wager with so many questions (goalie, injuries, et al.). Sure, Crosby is rounding back into form, including scoring, which is also coming from all four lines despite Ottawa skating seven defensemen.
If Anaheim, which survived Game 4 on the third overtime goal of the season by Corey Perry, also needed to win Monday in Tennessee to reach yet another Game 7 at home.
Except for Perry, who has an OT winner in each of three series (Calgary, Edmonton and Nashville), Anaheim keeps having problems at home because of inconsistency by a really banged-up D-corps, plus a penalty-kill unit ranked last in the playoffs after being No. 1 in the NHL since Christmas of the regular season.
Perry also snapped Nashville's 10-game, home-ice playoff win streak, but that won’t mean a thing in Southern California.
Why can the Ducks win? On the Anaheim bench, posted in front of the seated players along the boards, are cards that simply state, “Stay Calm.” Apparently, it helps them keep their emotions in check. Really.
The counter: Nashville wants to win one for first-line center Ryan Johansen, who needed emergency surgery after Game 5 to “save his life,” according to dozens of reports. Betters are always asking me what kind of statistical data is behind my puck selections – it’s not that kind of sport, folks.
It’s the experience factor for both the Ducks and Pens that keeps NBC executives hopeful that both larger-market clubs will prevail in respective conference finals.
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