What We Learned: NBC's bad week continues with NHL

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

Because it felt like it hadn't caught enough heat this over the whole late-night talk show fiasco (I'm with CoCo by the way), the National Broadcasting Company began anew its run of pandering, infuriating, self-aggrandizing broadcasts of games featuring the Red Wings, Penguins or Rangers yesterday afternoon.

Here's a shocking revelation: I have, in the past, been critical of NBC's broadcasts. It's true. The NHL has rearranged the schedule for the Stanley Cup Finals in hopes of pulling in an extra few hundred thousand fans (on a Friday and Saturday night). It has dumbed-down its coverage to such an extent that hardcore hockey fans have complained about it pretty much since games began on the network. In short, it has bent over backwards to be mistreated by a network that barely cares about it.

So why did I think this year was going to be any different?

Indeed, the quality of yesterday's broadcast was not very good.

(Coming Up: Koivu's injury; the insufficient trade marker for Kovalchuk; down goes Hejduk; Datsyuk's silly goal; Elias gets rocked by Wilson; a good weekend for Ovechkin; a bad weekend for CBC Sports; and why Jody Shelley(notes) should probably not submit his résumé for Gary Bettman's job.)

The sound was bad. Doc Emrick was kicking it to Edzo and Pierre McGuire far too often. In general, they treated those watching the games as though they were babies who had never seen this crazy sport that was not played on grass before. In short, they catered to the crowd that still thinks it's funny to comment "Hoc-key?" on various Web sites.

You ever watch, say, a Nashville Predators home game and catch that between-periods feature they have an utterly embarrassing viewer mailbag, in which the announcers answer honest-to-god questions about how icing works and of why goals during major penalties don't end power plays? Watching a game on NBC feels like a slightly dialed-down version of that for three hours.

For example, as the game was winding down still deadlocked at 3-3, Doc made sure to remind us if it remained tied for the remainder of regulation, that overtime would be played 4-on-4 and then, if there was still no winner, a shootout would be held. It was mortifying.

Obviously NBC has a bit of contempt for hockey fans. It would never condescend to explain to casual football fans how the NFL's overtime works. Nor would it interview Rex Ryan in the middle of a quarter as Pierre McGuire did with Mike Babcock in the second period. Nor would it miss a touchdown because it was running promos for next week's game, as it did with Patrick Eaves'(notes) game-tying goal in the third period.

I know that the arguments will be two-fold. First, I'm aware that the NHL is nowhere near as popular as the NFL, but I'm just saying this for comparison's sake as the NFL also has a contract with NBC. Second, the argument that any hockey games on national TV are good hockey games is only somewhat valid.

It's certainly good for the NHL, which is a gate-driven league with a bad national television deal (we'll always remember that it was pre-empted for a horse race pregame show). But how is what's good for the NHL good for hockey fans?

If you're reading this blog, you're almost certainly a diehard hockey fan. We spend lots of money on this league. None of us are going to see a cent of the league's revenues, and all we're going to do is be subjected to another Red Wings or Penguins game during which we're treated like idiots for the benefit of someone who might be watching for the first time.

Yesterday's game between Chicago and Detroit was incredible, and that's what's going to attract viewers. NBC should leave pissing off the fans to Jay Leno.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: In case you didn't catch the reason Saku Koivu(notes) missed last night's game against Calgary with a knee injury, this AP photo illustrates it fairly well.


Atlanta Thrashers: Birdwatchers' Anonymous takes a look at the latest Kovalchuk rumors and wonders what the team would get in return for trading its best player ever. All the answers they provide are pretty much the same: "Not enough."

Boston Bruins: Looking for an update on the Bruins' injury situation headed into this afternoon's game with Ottawa? Sorry buddy, even Claude Julien says he's got nothing but question marks.

Buffalo Sabres: Buffalo has surely disappointed its fans again, dropping Saturday night's game with the Islanders in an eight-round shootout. The Sabres are a paltry 7-0-3 in their last 10.

Calgary Flames: Calgary's offense has just been awful lately. It has as 11 goals in its last seven games, as many as Alex Burrows(notes) has scored in his last seven. But that was prior to last night's game with Anaheim in which it scored four ... so in your face, one single player!

Carolina Hurricanes: Jiri Tlusty(notes) was feeling charitable toward childhood friend Ondrej Pavelec(notes). Not only did Tlusty pick up the check when they went out to dinner on Friday night, but he hit two posts in the game on Saturday and the Hurricanes lost to the Thrashers 3-1. Very gentlemanly.

Chicago Blackhawks: No surprise that Chicago now has a full-fledged love affair with Rocky Wirtz. He's done a lot for that organization, even if all he had to do was not be his dad.

Colorado Avalanche: Milan Hejduk(notes) just had an operation on his right knee. Out two to four weeks. Bad news.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Mathieu Garon(notes), Mathieu Roy(notes) and Freddy Modin are all going to actually play for the Blue Jackets tonight. Kinda cool they have this many guys all coming back on the same day.

Dallas Stars: Alex Auld(notes) will start tonight against Minnesota. Makes sense since he played well on Saturday and Marty Turco(notes) has given up 10 goals on the last 47 shots he's faced.

Detroit Red Wings: What a tilt between Patty Eaves and Kris Versteeg(notes).

Just throwing bombs there.

Edmonton Oilers: "In short," reads the lede to this recap of the Oilers' steamrolling at the hands of the Sharks, "they were undermanned and overmatched." Yes, because a perfectly healthy Oilers team could've competed with the Sharks. On the road. With Devan Dubnyk(notes) in net. No problem. The Oilers, by the way, have won one game since Dec. 11.

Florida Panthers: So, are you guys ready to pay for your 2010-11 Panthers season tickets? Hey, they're only like 11th in the East or something, right?

Los Angeles Kings: What is Terry Murray talking about? "I watched a game recently with Pittsburgh and Calgary. Crosby, unbelievable play, breaking through two defensemen, holding on and making the difference in the game. I'd like to think that we can get a guy like that some day." Yeah, you and every other team in the world. Know who I'd like on my team? A guy like Alex Ovechkin(notes). Let's get that done. ... What?

Minnesota Wild: Put away your signs and quit all your Facebook groups, Client Petr Sykora(notes), I swear to you, might actually play tonight. But then again he might not. But he might! Maybe.

Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens finally opened its own Hall of Fame, because having an absurd percentage of the actual Hall of Fame's players inducted as Habs just wasn't enough glory for Les Glorieux.

Nashville Predators: It's become awful tough to beat the Preds on the road. They tied a franchise record with a 6-0-1 record in seven straight road games and they're just one win away from matching their road win total for the entire season last year.

New Jersey Devils: Patrik Elias(notes) got rocked by Ryan Wilson(notes) on Saturday. He was home resting comfortably yesterday but wow is this scary.

Headshot! Suspend everyone!

New York Islanders: Feel-good story alert: Saturday night's shootout win over Buffalo was Rick DiPietro's(notes) first victory since December of 2008.

New York Rangers: Chad Veintinueve Johnson did not take his loss to St. Louis especially well. "Three goals on 24 shots, that's not how I am. Right now, we can't have that. Can't let three goals in right now. It's disappointing, I don't really have the words to describe it."

Ottawa Senators: Oh it looks like we've got a goaltending controversy in Ottawa. Mike Brodeur(notes) is playing out of his mind and has wins in all three of his games, with a 1.00 GAA and .966 save percentage. Pascal Leclaire(notes) and Brian Elliot, meanwhile, have GAAs around 3.00 and save percentages below .900. While there's a lot to be said for sample size, there's also a lot to be said for Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliot being awful.

Philadelphia Flyers: Yesterday was Ray Emery's(notes) first game since Dec. 9. He gave up five goals on 23 shots. Maybe they shouldn't have thrown him to the wolves like that, eh?

Phoenix Coyotes: Petr Prucha(notes) is starting to get it together for Phoenix and might just salvage at least some of the promise he showed in that insane first season for the Rangers. He has four points in his last four games after scoring just three in his prior 11.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Alexandre Pechurskiy went from having played just six games in the WHL this season to actually getting 36 minutes against the Vancouver freaking Canucks, in Marc-Andre Fleury's(notes) pads (Pechurskiy's pads from juniors didn't meet NHL regulations). He made 12 saves on 13 shots and was named the No. 3 star. Not that he knew what that meant.

San Jose Sharks: Even if he was kidding, Jody Shelley needs to stop talking before Gary Bettman listens to him. In the wake of watching the Red Wings/Blackhawks shootout, he jokingly suggested a few ideas that are so asinine it's like the competition committee made them up: Have the shootout before the game and have that determine who gets last change. It's just stupid enough to happen. Trial run in the AHL next year. Book it.

St. Louis Blues: Those two guys the Blues traded Lee Stempniak(notes) for are lighting it up on the man advantage. Carlo Colaiacovo(notes) and Alex Steen(notes) have been on the ice for eight of the Blues' last 10 power play goals.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Mike Smith(notes) is done for this road trip. He was sent home, and his neck injury, while just a strain, will keep him from even practicing until Wednesday.

Toronto Maple Leafs: The least surprising turn of events this season is that the Capitals put six past Vesa Toskala on Friday. But shockingly it's the team defense that was the biggest problem.

Vancouver Canucks: Good for Alain Vigneault for going after Ron McLean over that ridiculous witch-hunt segment on Hockey Night in Canada. That was a joke. (Starts around 2:30.)

Washington Capitals: How about that game by Brooks Laich(notes)? His shortie was a thing of beauty.

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Play of the Weekend

This was going to be that goal in the Victoria Salmon Kings game until Leahy posted it yesterday, so here, instead, is Pavel Datsyuk's(notes) cute little shootout goal from yesterday.


Gold Star Award

Alex Ovechkin had two goals and five assists between the Caps' games on Friday and Sunday. I guess that's good enough for me.

Minus of the Weekend

It's Ron MacLean. We get it Ron, you were a ref. Burrows didn't kill anyone, so let's not draw up charts and diagrams over why he's such a punk and Stephane Auger is somehow above reproach. The guy is the worst ref in the league.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "jcwortzman" thinks Toronto should make this deal with Anaheim in the offseason.


Tomas Kaberle(notes)

Nik Hagman



Bobby Ryan(notes)

1st round pick (via Philadelphia)

No one else seems to think so.


Watch out for hop-ons. You will get hop-ons.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness pretty much every day over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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