NHL Playoffs Head Into Second Round
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From time to time, people say on this program perhaps we should show more emotion, a little more excitement. Perhaps something like this.
(SOUNDBITE OF A SPORTS CLIP)
JOHN WALTON: The Boston Bruins now turn it over, a two on one. Kanuvel(ph) coming with Ward. Kanuvel with a chance (unintelligible). They score. They score. They score. It's over. Ward on the rebound. Good morning. Good afternoon and good night, Boston. The king is dead. There will be a new Stanley Cup champion. The Capitals are still dancing.
SIEGEL: That's the dispassionate call of John Walton of the Capitals Radio Network this week, as the Washington Capitals scored a game-winning overtime goal to advance in the National Hockey League playoffs. Washington defeated the defending champion Boston Bruins in the maximum seven games.
Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins us now, as he does most Fridays.
And, Stefan, the Capitals-Bruins game was on Wednesday. There were a couple more games last night that were also worthy of hysteria.
STEFAN FATSIS: And both of those were game sevens too. The New York Rangers beat the Ottawa Senators 2-to-1. The New Jersey Devils beat the Florida Panthers, 3-to-2 in the second period of overtime. In fact, much of the first round was like that. Every game in the Capitals-Bruins series was decided by one goal - the first time that's ever happened in a seven-game series.
Thirty-two of the 48 first-round games decided by one goal, 16 went to overtime - another record. Speed, intensity, physicality, the last couple nights have been just great hockey.
SIEGEL: Second round begins tonight in Phoenix, where the Coyotes host the Nashville Predators. Fill us in on the match-ups.
FATSIS: All right. In the Eastern Conference it's all Amtrak series: New York-Washington, New Jersey-Philadelphia. The other series out West is the Los Angeles, the Kings against the St. Louis Blues. The West obviously is missing its more recent powers and traditional hockey markets like Detroit, Chicago, Vancouver.
The NHL is showing every game of the playoffs on national TV for first time. Audiences are up across the board and up by a lot. The question now is whether the absence of these traditional hockey markets - and you can throw Boston and Pittsburgh in there, too - will hurt the NHL's ratings as the playoffs progress.
SIEGEL: These playoffs did not begin on a very positive note. There was a lot of violence. There were a lot of suspensions.
FATSIS: Yeah, nine suspensions for a variety of illegal actions. The most severe was 25 games for Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes. He left his skates and launched himself into the chin of Marian Hossa of Chicago. Hossa was down on the ice for several minutes, taken off on a stretcher. No penalty was called at time. But Torres was a repeat offender, so - good for the NHL - they gave him out this long suspension.
The contrast between that and the last two nights should not be lost on anyone. The NHL has done a lot to address hits to the head but it's really time to go further - ban the one thing that remains an embarrassment, fighting.
SIEGEL: Talk about embarrassing moments for the National Hockey League, there was also a barrage of racist comments directed at the Twitter feed of Joel Ward, who scored that deciding goal for Washington.
FATSIS: Yeah, Ward is one of the few black players in the NHL. He grew up in Ontario. His parents are immigrants from Barbados. He's 31. This is his fifth season in the NHL after a decade in the minor leagues. After his goal, his Twitter feed was deluged with racist invective. The NHL and the Bruins condemned and apologized.
Ward took the high road and said it didn't faze him. On Twitter yesterday, he thanked fans for their support and he wrote: Number 42 is in my thoughts more than ever. Ward wears jersey number 42. That, of course, is Jackie Robinson's number.
SIEGEL: OK, Stefan, have a great weekend.
FATSIS: You too, Robert.
SIEGEL: Stefan Fatsis joins us most Fridays to talk about sports and the business of sports. You can hear more of him on Slate.com's sports podcast, Hang Up and Listen. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.