Thursday, May 05, 2016

Another victory for NHL (and NBC) marketing

It is hard to be a local sports fan in Washington.  Especially in NHL hockey.

Last night's overtime win by Pittsburgh has all but put the most dominant team in the NHL out of the playoffs in the second round - again.  The Washington Capitals won the President's Trophy for most victories during the season, prevailed over a tough, physical Philadelphia Flyers team in the first round, and then even though they outshot, outhit, and outplayed the Penguins, they are left with nothing to show for it.  Now, the remote possibility still exists that they could do like the Boston Red Sox and suddenly win three games in a row and ultimately advance, but the odds are astronomical.  Because besides the resistance by Pittsburgh's hounding defense and skating speed, there are also the forces of multi-million dollar marketing, national media bias, and a marked decrease in the enforcement of contact penalties.

Now I hate to be the guy that says "my team is getting cheated" after every loss, but I think you can make a case for the lack of equal support here.

Since he was drafted, (at the same time as Ovechkin,) Squidney Crybaby has been annointed the poster child for the league.  He is promoted as the face of the NHL no matter what he does or who does anything better.  And the NBC sports coverage are his biggest pimps.  As the game goes on, the Nobody But Crosby Network slants every discussion toward what NEEDS to happen to facilitate a Pittsburgh victory.  Washington is credited with their good play and stellar record for the season, and then it's all about what the Penguins have to do to stop them.  Nick Backstrom was winning faceoffs repeatedly against Squid the Kid early in the last game.  Pierre McGuire noted that Backstrom was aggressively taking Crosby out of the play and winning the puck each time.  That would have been fine by itself.  But he had to add that someone should tell the Pittsburgh coaches that this is happening.  God forbid someone does something detrimental to the (Black and) Golden Child!  Later, the faceoff wins started to even out.  I guess Pierre conveyed the message during the intermission.  He was in line for the GM job there, so he knows them well.


So far in the series, all I have seen Squidney do is turn the puck over, fling it past his teammates and back to his goalie, and take hits (including one last night that resulted in his angrily beating his stick on the walls as he headed down the locker room tunnel).  He finally got his first point, an assist, in last night's game.  He hasn't been able to score any goals since he's been heavily defended when he's right in front of the goal (and can't score from outside five feet otherwise).  Ovechkin's highlight reels include plays that start at his own end of the ice, weave through several players, bouncing off the walls, and sliding across the surface to score dynamic goals, while the bulk of Squidney's scores are multiple hacks from three feet away.  Yet Crosby is the "best player in the league".  At every other stoppage in play, there's a shot of number 87 on the bench, whether he was involved in the previous play or not.  He's continually lauded for his supreme "effort", even when it's a dicey play.  At one point late in the game last night, he put the hockey equivalent of a chop block on TJ Oshie in the corner.  The exultant analysts for NBC praised him for the questionably legal, but smart play.  Any other team member would be scorned for the assault, but Crosby and the Penguins are geniuses for playing like thugs.   There is no questioning the referees "letting them play" and not calling the hooks, spearing, roughing and general cheap shots that the players in black can be seen giving out regularly during and after play.  Both sides are exchanging contact, but it's always the Caps that get called to the box, while the cross-checks after the whistle or harrassment after the puck is passed go unnoticed.

As the game goes on, the bias becomes more blatant.  Any stat or advantage that Pitt has is repeated and emphasized.  Doc Emerick must have repeated the shot totals in one game fifteen times, since the Pens were ahead.   The first intermission analysis is usually a pretty normal discussion of each team's accomplishments and goals for the next period.  The second intermission is about "the concerns" about Pittsburgh not dominating the game by now.  No equal time is spent on anything positive for the opponent.  The discussion before overtime is simply how the Penguins are going to win, nothing else.  Because there are no alternative possibilities.  The chosen team has to win.  End of story.

Might as well give them the cup now.  Sorry St. Louis, Dallas, San Jose, Tampa, and even New York.  Better luck next year.  And especially to Alex Ovechkin.  You just play for the wrong team.  You will never hold a Cup, not because you're not the most dynamic player in the league, or can build a team around you that plays superior (and clean) hockey every game.  It's because you don't play for the chosen franchise.  The League will simply not allow you to waste their millions of dollars of marketing money by defeating their favorite team.

UPDATE: The Caps gave it a vailant effort.  They won Game 5 and took 'em to overtime in Game 6 in Pittsburgh.   I was busy but the game was on where I was, so I didn't watch that closely except for the end of regulation. 

NBC is happy....

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