Puck Daddy - NHL

A few readers have asked why the Stanley Cup Playoffs conference championship series opened with doubleheaders for its first two games, including Tuesday night's Game 2 matchups in Philadelphia and San Jose.

It's a legit question. The NHL was dark on a Monday night, which is a big night for U.S. viewership, from sitcoms to pro wrestling. The stuttering start makes the two series share the same news cycle, too.

It also affects the NHL's U.S. cable partner, as VERSUS is experiencing record levels of viewership for games but missed out on two nights of potential playoff action -- which can't sit well with a network attempting to establish its pre- and postgame programming like "The Daily Line" (where I've appeared infrequently as a guest in the last month). So what caused the awkward scheduling? A few factors:

• The first round went longer in the East than the West, thanks to the Philadelphia Flyers' comeback/Boston Bruins collapse. The NHL has a policy not to start another round before the previous round is complete.

• The league also prefers to have 24 hours between the end of one round and the start of another, so beginning the Western Conference final on Saturday night was a non-starter. But the HP Pavilion was unavailable anyway, because of a Chayanne concert. Which is a weak excuse, because Puerto Rican pop music and professional hockey go together like Mantequilla de Maní and jelly.

• The NHL told us that there was another scheduling conflict later in the finals at Bell Centre, as Moroccan comedian Gad Elmaleh is performing two nights (May 27 and 28). Had the Flyers/Montreal Canadiens series started Monday, it would have affected Game 6.

• The NHL also said NBC had first pick for the Sunday afternoon game, and chose the Chicago Blackhawks vs. the San Jose Sharks. (VERSUS told us it had no influence on the scheduling of the series.) NBC is also the reason this weekend's Game 4s are on in the afternoon.

Again, this was a temporary headache for fans and networks, as the conference finals revert to every-other-night beginning with Game 3.

Interesting debate on XM Home Ice yesterday about those weekend afternoon games, by the way: Good for hockey or bad for hockey? Is pleasant weather a greater enemy to high viewership than nightlife on a Saturday or Sunday?

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