Once again, being a popular hockey team in the NHL with a large national following in a great hockey market has had an adverse affect on both the Flyers and New York Rangers.
Obviously a marquee matchup for ratings for the NHL, the league spread out the opening four games of the series enough to force two games on Sundays – the prime viewing time for the NHL on NBC and in doing so made the end of the series – if it proves to be a long one – cram three games into four nights, likely leaving the winner of a possible seven game series pretty spent heading into the second round.
The Flyers-Rangers matchup – the first time the rivals have met in the playoffs since the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals – is the only NHL series scheduled with two games being played on consecutive nights.
It’s a weird setup.
Game 1 will be Thursday at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden in New York, but the two teams will then have two days off prior to playing Game 2 on Easter Sunday at Noon, also at the garden.
The scene will shift back to the Wells Fargo Center for Game 3 next Tuesday at 8 p.m. – as a previously scheduled Miley Cyrus concert is moved instead to Monday – but then the teams will again have two days off before Game 4 is played in Philly on Friday April 25 at 7 p.m.
The last three games will be played Sunday, April 27 at Noon back in New York before back-to-back games on Tuesday April 29 and Wednesday April 30 for Games 6 and 7.
Spreading it out might make for good television, but at the same time it stems momentum built from one game to the next until the furious finish at the end.
I understand it’s a marquee matchup and it will bring big ratings and keep the conversation about the series going longer. But I also think it’s a detriment to the players who are trying to win a Stanley Cup and are being forced to play more frequently in the most important games of the series than anyone else while setting up a short turnaround for the winner of the series before moving on to play the winner of Pittsburgh and Columbus.
A disjointed series loses flow for those following the teams closest. Meanwhile, a series like Boston and Detroit is being played every other day – and that’s probably the second-most interesting series to a national audience – which means it will have a more consistent tempo.
I understand that teams make requests as well to have games on certain nights – so this probably isn’t all to blame on the league, or television alone - but I just find it frustrating that the schedule isn’t set up as a level playing field for everyone in the playoffs. It puts built-in adversity into the playoffs for teams just because they play in top markets.
Nevertheless… this is the best time of year for a hockey fan, and it all starts in 72 hours.
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