NBC Sports once again excelled at covering the second round of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their strategy for the second round was to have one on-air team assigned to each of the four series:
Vegas-Colorado (Kenny Albert, Eddie Olcyzk, Brian Boucher)
NY Islanders-Boston (John Forslund, Joe Micheletti, Pierre McGuire)
Tampa Bay-Carolina (Brendan Burke, AJ Mleczko)
Montreal-Winnipeg (Alex Faust, Dominic Moore)
These are my ten observations of the broadcasts produced this past week by NBC Sports:
- During an intermission report, Keith Jones suggested that the Montreal Canadiens “should quit after this round.” It was a reference to the play in the Colorado Avalanche-Vegas Golden Knights series. He may be right. Vegas won 40 games during the regular season compared to Montreal’s 24. The Canadiens-Golden Knights series starts on Monday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
- Host Liam McHugh poked fun at Jones for not knowing the song “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison. The NBC Sports crew used the pun “Return of the Max” to reference Vegas’ Max Pacioretty’s return to the lineup following an undisclosed injury.
- McHugh had a misleading tease during an intermission of the Tampa Bay Lightning-Carolina Hurricanes Game #5 where he said that he, Jones, and Anson Carter would talk about the player who has changed the Colorado-Vegas series. In the graphic, there was a tease for an interview with Colorado defenseman Devon Toews. The crew did end up saying that Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault was the player who changed the series.
- Jones called Game #5 between the Avs and Golden Knights as “the biggest game of (Avalanche forward) Nathan MacKinnon’s life.” This quote was a bit melodramatic because MacKinnon has played in three game sevens during his career. On top of that, MacKinnon is an easy target for criticism because he is the most prominent Colorado Avalanche player. It would have been nice for all NHL analysts to talk about other reasons the Avalanche were losing other than MacKinnon’s lack of production in the series.
- In Tuesday’s Tampa Bay-Carolina game, Brendan Burke said Carolina goalie Alex Nedeljkovic had not received the “run support” from his teammates in the playoffs. It was an odd baseball reference in the middle of a hockey game. Nonetheless, the point still got across.
- When Game #5 between the Knights and Avs went to overtime, McHugh came up with another witty one-liner, “You’re not going to bed, sorry.”
- Strong statement: After Vegas came away with the Game #5 victory on forward Mark Stone’s overtime goal, Jones said the “Avs gave (the game) away.” Colorado was up 2-0 going into the third, and Vegas scored three unanswered goals to win the game.
- Generally speaking, the chemistry between NBC Sports’ top two hockey teams (Kenny Albert-Eddie Olcyzk-Brian Boucher and John Forslund-Joe Micheletti-Pierre McGuire) is excellent. Both crews are able to keep the conversation flowing while informing viewers at home about what is going on in the game and why.
- During the Vegas-Colorado series, Olcyzk brought in Boucher a lot on conversations about goaltender play, especially regarding Colorado goalie Philipp Grubauer in Game #6. Their dialogue was smooth and helps hockey fans understand the game. Albert can sometimes be too focused on the job at hand to interject in these conversations, but he is a good informer. However, hockey broadcasting legend Doc Emrick was a poet. Both Albert and Emrick have their strengths, and hockey fans should be ready for a change in style this year in the Stanley Cup Final.
- John Forslund does a better job than Albert of becoming a part of the conversation with his analysts. Micheletti and McGuire are much similar analysts than Olcyzk and Boucher. Sometimes McGuire goes on rants about the officiating, as he did in Game #5 against the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins. He talked about the officials “setting a standard” for how the game would be officiated.
Albert and Forslund’s teams will each get a series during the Stanley Cup Semifinals. Albert, Olcyzk, and Boucher will call Game 1 of the Islanders-Lightning series starting on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC). Forslund, Micheletti, and McGuire will call the first game of the Canadiens-Golden Knights series on Monday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
Ratings – From Sports Media Watch:
Thursday’s Avalanche-Golden Knights second round Stanley Cup playoff Game 6 averaged 1.27 million viewers on NBCSN, per John Ourand of Sports Business Journal — up 53% from last year in the “bubble” (Golden Knights-Canucks Game 6: 828K) but down 3% from 2019 (Sharks-Avalanche Game 4: 1.31M). It ranks as the most-watched Western Conference game on cable this postseason.