Just one round into the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs, the league is setting ratings records on NBC. Sunday's game six battle between the Bruins and Capitals drew a 2.5 overnight rating, which was up 56% from the Flyers-Sabres game in 2011, and 92% from the Coyotes-Red Wings game in 2010. Futhermore, the 2.5 that the game drew was the highest rating of the season for NHL games on NBC, topping even the Winter Classic in January. That 2.5 is also the highest rated Stanley Cup playoff game (excluding the finals) since 1998, when the Red Wings and Stars drew a 2.6 rating in game four of the Western Conference Finals.
Not to be outclassed, the Flyers-Penguins game six that aired earlier on Sunday drew a 2.4 overnight rating, falling just behind the game that happened later in the evening. There was no comparable game last year to this one, but it still crushed the primetime games that the Bruins-Capitals game also destroyed. In fact, that 2.4 is the second highest rating for a Stanley Cup playoff (again, excluding finals) game since 1998.... second behind the game that aired later that evening.
Saturday's game five between the Bruins and Capitals was also up, though not to the extent of Sunday's game. Game five had a 1.5 overnight rating, up 15% on both the 2011 (Capitals-Rangers) and 2010 (Predators-Blackhawks) games.
When you compare this weekend's ratings to the ratings from the first weekend of the playoffs last week, it's apparent to me that the NHL is on an absolute roll right now. The mainstream media will focus on the abundance of big hits and suspensions in the first round, but the fact of the matter is that the hockey that's being played is really evenly matched up, with the Bruins-Capitals series having all six games thus far decided by one goal, and all five of the Coyotes-Blackhawks games heading to overtime. The ridiculously entertaining Flyers-Penguins series drew in oodles of fans, due to the bad blood between the teams and an inordinate amount of goals. If the level of play stays this high as we head into the conference semifinals, the NHL could continue to break ratings records, and that is nothing but a good thing for the league, and the sport as a whole.
[h/t: Sports Media Watch]