By The Associated Press
Charles Barkley and hockey fans across the country have tuned in to watch the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators, no matter the score — and the score hasn’t always been close.
Barkley said the NHL playoffs were more entertaining than the NBA’s, and ratings are up considerably from a year ago when the Penguins beat the San Jose Sharks in six games.
But Pittsburgh’s 6-0 win in Game 5 was the second true blowout of the series and the fourth decided by three or more goals.
Only three games were decided by three goals or more in the Final over the previous five years.
The home team has won each of the first five games of the Final for just the 12th time since the NHL went to a best-of-seven series in the final round in 1939, and for the first time since 2011.
Nashville won games by 4-1 and 5-1, but the Penguins’ victory on Thursday night to take a 3-2 series lead was by far the most lopsided game of the Final. It was the fifth 6-goal beating in Cup Final history, meaning the game tied for the seventh-biggest blowout on record in this round.
It wasn’t the worst blowout of this postseason, though; there were two 7-0 routs, including a Pittsburgh win over Ottawa in the Eastern Conference final.
No matter how the ice has tilted one way or another, this Final has earned some extra attention for the Nashville hockey effect with catfish and country music artists, from surprise anthem singers to Carrie Underwood, the wife of Predators captain Mike Fisher. Then there’s the attraction of the Penguins looking to become the first team to repeat as Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.
NBC Sports reported an average of 4.23 million viewers through the first four games of the final, up 24 percent from last year.
“The playoffs in hockey have been amazing,” said Barkley, who accepted commissioner Gary Bettman’s invitation to attend Game 4 in Nashville. “I’m not breaking earth-shattering news: The NBA Playoffs have not been very good. The best thing about my job is when I’m in work for two straight months, like the NHL playoffs, I’m in a room with 20 televisions. I watch pretty much every single hockey game.”
The Penguins and Predators have provided plenty of drama, from the roller-coaster play of Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne to the running feud between Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby and P.K. Subban. But there’s still at least one more chance for the teams to provide a one-goal game or maybe even some overtime, which had been on pace to break the all-time record for a single postseason through three rounds.
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