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NBC's Caps-Penguins coverage

Let's first acknowledge that NBC could have muted its announcers and instead broadcast Sunday's Caps-Pens game to the soundtrack of monks chanting "OV for MVP" and nuns singing "Unleash The Fury," and a certain subset of Caps fans would still have been convinced that the broadcast favored the Penguins.

Let's also acknowledge that it's not much easier for me to objectively review the network's performance than it is for many Caps fans. I'm not a fan, of course, but I care about the Caps, and I don't care about the Penguins. I know many of the Caps in a way I don't know any of the Penguins. So objectivity's pretty hard to muster here.

That said, knowing in advance that Caps fans would complain about the wretchedly biased announcers, I watched the game live, and then watched most of it again on DVR, attempting to determine if such bias existed. My general conclusion: there were a lot of very fair comments and even-handed observations. But there were also enough puzzling moments to allow Caps fans to keep their anger simmering. I'll recap, mostly with an eye to the Sid vs. Ovi story-line. Again, I'm not really attempting an objective recap of the coverage, but more an understanding of what makes Caps fans mad.

Sid's Valor

Both Ovechkin and Crosby, it goes without saying, were fabulous. Crosby's goals came earlier, which gave the announcers more time to praise Sid without the pressure of analyzing a game that was going down to the wire. Still, some of their early words about Crosby seemed absurd, even given the circumstances.

"Doc, you could see this coming into the rink today," Pierre McGuire said after Crosby's first tally. "This guy wanted to prove a point. He wasn't happy with the Penguins game yesterday."

McGuire returned to this theme later in the first period.

"Yesterday Georgetown played Villanova here in basketball, I can tell you right now Sidney Crosby could have played in that game, Doc," he said. "He's jumping through the gym, he's playing with a purpose here this afternoon."

"Looked that way when he walked in the door, didn't it?" Emrick responded.

"It certainly did," McGuire agreed. "He had a big smile, looked fresh as a daisy. He was ready to rock, and you can see it here to start the game."

Not long after, Crosby scored his second.

"Doc, you don't teach this in hockey school, this is only something that you get from up above," McGuire narrated, as replays showed the goal from several angles. "This is Sergei Gonchar with the spin-o-rama in the neutral zone, he distributes it, it's a little relay from Malkin to Crosby, who does a tap dance on Jose Theodore....That is something else, Doc. That is right off the charts, and again, you and I had a chance to watch Crosby walk in, and you just saw, he had something special planned for this afternoon."

And then again, in the second, with Pittsburgh still ahead:

"You look at Sidney Crosby, you think about the energy he's had here this afternoon," McGuire said. "He's fighting for his ice in the slot, he wants the puck against Brian Pothier, trying to make a difference with his body positioning, second and third efforts from Sidney Crosby. That's what captains do. They lead the way on the road."

The problem with this approach is that it pre-supposes that Crosby somehow wanted it more than Ovechkin, or anybody else on the ice; that no one else had something special planned, and that you can tell who's going to do what based on their pre-game demeanor. When Ovechkin eventually scored his hat-trick and then assisted on the game winner, there was no corresponding assertion that he had something special planned for this game, or that captains lead at home. In fact, there was plenty of Crosby talk, even after that goal.

"You know, sometimes I think we keep pumping up Ovechkin and Crosby, pumping up Ovechkin and Crosby, and this is why, Doc," Mike Milbury said, after Ovi's hat trick. "They're singular players in their era."

So even the Ovechkin goal led to praise of Crosby.

Ovechkin the Predator

NBC wasn't shy about praising Ovechkin, not in the least. And yet even the praise occasionally seemed more sinister than the kind words for Crosby.

"He plays with fire," Emrick said in the first. "There are few in the NHL that register more hits. Of course he is first in plus-minus, first in shots, first in goals, first in points, but he's up there high in hits every year."

Emrick seemed to be praising him here, but "plays with fire" is not generally a positive term. McGuire also used seemingly loaded terms.

"Alexander Ovechkin is the ultimate predator in the National Hockey League," he said, I think in praise. "Doc, you were talking about his hitting. He knows it's Matt Cooke and he knows Matt Cooke's an important player for the Pittsburgh Penguins, so he basically devastates him with a clean hard body blow into the wall. We're the only sport in the world that doesn't have out of bounds, and Alexander Ovechkin knows that and he just pile-drives Cooke right through the boards."

Not an accusation of dirty play at all, but again, to a Caps fan, it could feel a bit sinister. During the first intermission, McGuire was showing replays and began discussing Ovechkin.

"He has a big body presence, he knows how to skate, he's gonna push back," McGuire said. "I call him the ultimate predator in the NHL because he identifies targets and punishes them, like he does to Matt Cooke right there."

Later in the game, Ovechkin got mixed up with Kris Letang after a Pittsburgh goal.

"Ovechkin's trying to pop Letang's head right off his body with a forearm shiver," McGuire said. "He puts him down, and eventually the right forearm just about pops Letang's head right off his body. And this is something that's been going since the first shift of the game, Letang and Ovechkin along with Brooks Orpik. That's the matchup and there's the predatory nature of Ovechkin. He knows that's the matchup and he's gonna make Letang pay. Doc, not long ago I had a chance to visit with Bret Hedican, who played such a distinguished amount of time in the NHL, and had a great career and was a Stanley Cup winner in Anaheim. When he was in Carolina I remember asking him, what's the hardest thing about playing against Ovechkin, and he said quite frankly, 'He hits to hurt, he identifies you early on and he tries to wipe you right out of the game.' And that's how he plays. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and every single coach in the league would love to have [him]."

The ending clause sort of changes the tone, but "hits to hurt" and "forearm shiver" and "predatory nature" just don't sound positive terms. They sound like Pittsburgh propaganda, especially here in D.C.

The Milbury Factor

The most objectionable comments, from the Caps perspective, came from Mike Milbury, both on the intermission set and later during his third-period analysis. Here was what he said during the first intermission, when going over Crosby's play.

"We talked some rivalries today, none better than the one we're seeing out here today, none more current or better than Ovechkin vs. Crosby," he said. "And even in the first period, right off the bat, you could see just how good these players are. Crosby, talk about travel, it didn't make any difference to him. [First goal replay.] Watch him snipe here, what a play, what a move here, quick hands, no problem, 1-0. Sets the tone for his team early. [Second goal replay.] And watch the move there, the good head fake on a great pass by Evgeni Malkin. And this guy, he can pass, he can shoot, he can score. I mean, he's really maturing into what everybody thought he was in his draft year, the absolute complete player. I mean, to come in here and say, 'Listen, hey Ovi, I'm still your daddy right now.' Pretty special in the first period."

Later in the segment, Milbury seemed to have kind words for Ovechkin, but it came out like this: "But somehow magically good players, the puck always winds up back on their stick, whether they're hustling to get it or just, it just finds a way to get back to Ovechkin."

So Crosby is "the absolute complete player," whereas Ovechkin doesn't even need to hustle and the puck magically winds up with him.

During the second intermission, Milbury named six players to watch from several Olympic teams, including Sweden. He didn't mention Nicklas Backstrom, who's second in the NHL in plus-minus and fifth in points.

"One name that wasn't on your list from Sweden, I was a bit surprised, Nicklas Backstrom," McGuire said, then offering a defense of the young center. Milbury listened and then moved on without a word.

When Milbury moved into the booth for the third period, Emrick was stressing the heat Washington was bringing.

"Actually good job by the Penguins there, Doc," Milbury said. "I think most of those chances came from the perimeter. Penguins know how to get it done when it's late in the game."

And after the final overtime goal, when Washington had capped off its remarkable comeback, Emrick teed one up for Milbury.

"And Mike Milbury, isn't appropriate that Ovechkin--who looked down and out and buried at the beginning of this game--comes back and sparks his team to a victory?" he asked.

There was a weird pause.

"It doesn't get any better Doc, does it, for a Sunday afternoon, two guys, hammering each other head to head," was Milbury's reply. Didn't really answer the question there.

The analyst did have some strong words of praise for Ovechkin and various Caps throughout the afternoon, but these moments were striking.

The Travel vs. The Streak

I understand that travel woes and visits to road-side Burger Kings make for great copy. And yet the Caps have now tied for the third-longest win streak in NHL history. Only two teams have gone longer. That means their accomplishment has to be more rare than a bad travel tale in a league that plays games in Edmonton and Calgary. The Penguins can't possibly be only the third or fourth team to have to eat fast food while on a late-night bus ride the night before a game.

And yet the Penguins' travel woes made up a larger portions of the telecast than the Caps streak. There certainly was no context given to Sunday's comeback, no sense of how many other times the Caps had rallied with a flurry of offense throughout their month-long run, no discussion of whether they could seriously challenge the all-time record of 17.

There was a graphic showing where the Pens had traveled and how long it took, but none that I remember charting the progression of this win streak.

The Composure

The Caps, as it turned out, rallied from three goals down to win. This, as I mentioned, is something that they do. They don't get rattled, they don't lose their composure, they just score. That's a D.C. spin, but it seems largely true.

And yet all the talk of composure focused on the other bench.

"Did you hear it in his voice, the composure that Danny Bylsma has?" McGuire asked, after the Caps made it 2-1. "His team just had a huge goal scored against it, but there's no panic, and the players are feeding off that right now. They're calm cool and collected on the Pittsburgh Penguins bench, basically unflappable right now."

"Look at how composed they are," McGuire enthused late in the third, during a shot of the Pittsburgh bench. "And I think Mike Milbury, when you coached you were an emotional guy, but your team fed off of that. And I think the Pittsburgh Penguins players feed off of Danny Bylsma, Tony Granato and Mike Yeo. They've done a great job providing enthusiasm for this group after their long travel last night."

I've no doubt all of that is true, but even after the Caps had equalized, there was no mention of composure at all on the home side.

On the Other Hand

McGuire was scrupulous in calling bad breaks both ways; he said the Penguins got off easy when Craig Adams wasn't penalized for riding Ovechkin into the boards, and he (I think it was him) said the officials screwed up on a third-period call against Jeff Schultz.

There were several mentions of how electric the crowd was, especially considering the snowy circumstances.

There was praise for the Mike Knuble signing, praise for Eric Fehr's play and kind words for Jose Theodore.

And, after the tide turned, there was no shortage of praise for Ovechkin. Here's the kind of thing--said by McGuire--that's typically forgotten by angry D.C. fans.

"There are so many great players in the league, but when you think about Ovechkin and Crosby, basically human highlight reels, and nobody better than Alexander Ovechkin," he said. "He's got speed, he's a hitting machine, he understands how to create time and space, he knows who he's matched up against, he can break a game wide open with his pass receiving skills and his finishing skills, but he's got such a flair for the dramatic. When it becomes a big moment, he makes it happen."

By Dan Steinberg  |  February 8, 2010; 11:01 AM ET
Categories:  Caps , Media  
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I had to turn the sound off. It shows how good Joe B and the Locker are. Great game. Does a rivalry get better than this? Yes,when the Caps win a key series over the moaners from Pittsburgh to make it better. And the Cup,even better. They are on fire.

Posted by: ridgely1 | February 8, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Mike Milbury traded his kind words for the Caps for 100 acres of prime beach-front property in central Missouri.

Posted by: false_cause | February 8, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

A couple things stood out to me. The biggest was a point you mentioned - that NBC completely and surprisingly downplayed the 13 game winning streak. I thought one of the biggest storylines for this game was that the Caps were only 4 games away from making history, and breaking a record currently held by the Penguins none the less. I guess NBC didn't agree that this was a good story.

Another thing you didn't mention that I scoffed loudly at during the broadcast - The announcers spent a good 30 seconds breaking down Crosby winning a faceoff by knocking the puck into the boards and collecting it himself. It was as if he was the first player ever to do that. I'm pretty sure I saw Backstrom pull the same move later in the game.

Posted by: DCUMD | February 8, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Awesome, awesome post, Dan. This is what blogging should be. Great work!

Milbury still sounds like he favors the Penguins. But it does sound like there was a lot of balance in the broadcast between comments about the two teams aside from Milbury.

I started watching the game in the third period and really did not notice any kind of bias in the announcing. And they rightly questions the Schultz call, and did not really comment on the overtime high-stick call on Orpik, even though I thought it was not really an obvious call.

And I am a big Caps fan.

Posted by: hithere1 | February 8, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I think you're really grasping with a lot of this, Steinberg. To me, the bigger issue with NBC is their lack of talent and the poor production job. Emrick's style is so frantic, he always sounds well behind the play; he says "ricochet" ten times a period, and screws up player names all the time. They totally missed "Brooks Laich's" (Mike Knuble's) fight, and preferred to replay the Adams-Ovechkin hit several times instead. Same thing with the penalty that led to the 5 on 3 - no replay or analysis of the call. They are so singularly focused on what's going on between Crosby and Ovechkin, that there isn't time to address anything else going on with the game.

I'm sure the rivalry is working for them ratings wise, but it saddens me that with these national broadcasts, any new/mainstream hockey fans are exposed to worst announcing/production crew out there; not a great way to reel in new fans.

Posted by: reese11 | February 8, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Good run-down, Dan.

plenty of the comments certainly sounded backhanded, especially by that bum Milbury.

Any word on that "altercation" you tweeted out? Was that real?

Posted by: TheSuperhoo | February 8, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

It seems significant that most of these are from McGuire. He's been down on the Caps - to put it nicely - for some time. This was a problem as long ago as the playoffs two years ago. He just rips the Caps. Lame.

Posted by: DCMike1 | February 8, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Pretty good recap. I think a lot of it is fine, but there does seem to be a reluctance to praise Ovechkin without praising Crosby at the same time. The bit about Pitt propaganda also rang true. What would be great is to get the Pitt take on the commentators in a similar rundown. Any chance you can make that happen? Empty netters guy maybe?
I think it's a given that it's a poor production.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | February 8, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Can you please provide me with a link to where i can complaint to about these A@#Hol$$ announcers? They are so freaking bias it makes me wanna puke!!! or at least NBC should mute them while the telecast is airing.

Posted by: riceldi | February 8, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

You know, I hate Milbury as much as any Caps fan and I disliked NBC's coverage as well. But, this post only adds to the argument that the Caps fans complain about coverage of their team. If there isn't enough coverage, we complain. Now there is some coverage and we're on NBC's National Game, and here we are complaining. Don't get me wrong, a lot of the complaining is rightful. Yes, it is amazing to see a list of Milbury's top players for Sweden and NOT see Backstom's name on there. Yes, it is nauseating to hear them talk about Crosby this and Crosby that. Bottom line is we won the game, and we shut those idiots up. Respect is earned, and we are well on our way in the hockey world to gaining it (after we hoist the Cup in June). Baby steps.

Posted by: SuperZ3383 | February 8, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Ok, so I wasn't the only one scratching my head while watching the game at the commentary.

Posted by: MNMNT | February 8, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I was i bit perturbed that the NBC crew failed to point out that the Caps were missing two of their most important players for long stretches of the game (Knuble and Backstroms 10 minute misconducts) yet still found a way to win. That seemed like a huge subplot in the game ( at least I thought so). I have a feeling that if the Pens had been the ones to have that misfortune happen to them the talking heads would have pointed that out.
I guess we just have to accept that the Caps are not favored by most of the hockey world. Maybe because Ovie doesn't have rock star looks. Maybe because the league sees Pittsburgh (a smaller market with less corporate sponsorship) as more important to long term league stability. Myabe since DC is the nation's capitol, the league doesn't want to give the impression that there is any behind the scenes handshakes or dirty political stuff that could be misconstrued as...I don't know? Just brainstorming. If the Caps win it all, the league can easily say "hey, we don't play favorites. Just look at how we made the Caps earn every point, goal, penalty, etc."

Still, it p*sses me off.

Posted by: jmurray019 | February 8, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I think some - SOME - of this could be related to the infrequency of major network hockey broadcasts. The commentary needs to be dumbed down because NBC is trying to millions of casual eyeballs in non-hockey markets, and playing the Sid/Ovi angle is the easiest way to sell that. I would expect that to water down the level of the technical language of hockey.

However, Milbury's comments are at best ham-handed and and worst cast him as unprofessional and Cro-Magnon (see Japers for the quote.)

Posted by: info_stuporhighway | February 8, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Why does Milbury even have a job - was it his stellar career as the Islanders GM (Yashin, DiPietro)? He's painful to listen to, whether its on NBC on HNIC. I guess its the Matt Millen syndrome, lousy GM's who have proven they can't analyze players for some reason fool networks into thinking they can analyze games.

Posted by: temuchin | February 8, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Trying to spin "plays with fire" and "ultimate predator" into slights is a real, real stretch. Swing and a miss, Steinberg.

Posted by: Tank2 | February 8, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I think it needs to be mentioned as well that Ed Olczyk could not make the game, leaving Emrick to announce without his normal partner and having to do a back and forth with McGuire - whom he could only see through a TV monitor. The only reason Milbury came to the booth in the third is because Olczyk was not there. I am a huge Caps fan and am certainly bothered by some of the Penguins aspect for sure, but all in all I think that a lot of people are being a lot harder on them than they should be. Great production and a big stage for one of the best hockey games in a very long time.

Posted by: Morgal | February 8, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I actually don't have a problem with Pierre McGuire. He just loves hockey so he praises everyone effusively, including the Caps. The problem is that bum Milbury who is so clearly biased against the Caps, maybe because of the backlash from fans last year. As you pointed out, he repeatedly praised the Pens and almost sounded pained to come close to praising Washington. He's a joke.

Posted by: mja712 | February 8, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

The pro Pittsburg bias unscored the overall tone of the commentary regardless of the exact spoken words, and the following words from one commentatory said volumes ...'Listen, hey Ovi, I'm still your daddy right now.' Pretty special in the first period."

What made the game so special to Washington fans was that with the Caps overall performance and winning result, they stuck it not just to the Penguins, but also to these two commentators who I hope are more unbiased in their comments next time...

Posted by: driverdesign | February 8, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse


You have come a long way brother in the hockey world. This was beautifully done. I 'felt' the bias; you presented it. Mike Milbury might have given us a clue when he talked about Ulf Samuelson and Cam Neely of the Bruins and how that hit is never forgotten (by him as well as Neely).

I would bet anything that Mike has some negative experience with the Caps and it influences the way he thinks and talks. If you had someone look up Caps-Islanders when he was GM there or Caps-Bruins when he coached there, I bet we see something.

Also, the flair of the Caps irritates many conventional NHLers. "They don't earn their points the conventional way. They don't play good defense." I hear that on NHL station all the time.

Pierre, however, deserves credit. He gives very fair comments. Well done on his part. And he never gets hit by the puck!


Posted by: tedferragut | February 8, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I have to admit that I have a tendency to listen to these national broadcasts with my antenna up listening for signs of Crosby/Penguin bias. And I caught most of the examples listed in today's blog. I even wondered, after the horrendous -- suspension worthy -- slashing call aginst Schultz, whether the referees, who I assume are Canadian, didn't have some sort of bias for their national hero (Crosby) over their national nemesis (Ovechkin).

But, you know what? After a while I realized that it just doesn't make any difference. I don't care if the announcers are giving OV individually, or the Caps collectively, enough credit for their accomplishments. And as for the refs, they did call a penalty against the Pens in overtime. I find it really hard to believe they would have done that if they weren't calling the game right down the middle.

The great thing about all this is that the Caps are not competing in figure skating. No Canadian judge is going to get to screw the Caps out of their gold medal. And no announcers are going to be able to sway anything with their comments.

The Caps will win or lose based on how well they play and the performance of their opponents. And if McGwire and Milbury and the rest are actually booing Alex Ovechkin as he hoists The Cup, that will be fine with me.

Kevin Olson
Manassas, VA

Posted by: noslok | February 8, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Pillsbury hates the Caps.. it was mad Mike who called them the Crapitals in the playoffs two years ago. Last week he mentioned the top 3 scoring lines in the NHL. You can guess who he left off the list. McGuire had the caps #1 line as his ONLY line. Then he goons it up when a blogger asks him about his "daddy" comment. Conincidence, I think not.

Posted by: jimc93 | February 8, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

My main beef with the broadcast is Milbury. Pierre is who is he, normally loud because he's ice level and saying ridiculous things for both teams. Between him and Doc, I was happy with the game, all things considered.

The real offender here was Milbury. To say that one guy is the other's 'daddy' and then just completely ignore setups by the other broadcasters to equivocate that statement later in the game when Ovi proved otherwise, and just leave blank air to keep from saying it...that's ridiculous.

Posted by: jcleggette | February 8, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Come on, man, why waste time nitpicking every little thing that was said during the game, whether by Milbury or the others. Ok, so maybe he doesn't like the Caps. I really don't care. It was a totally fantastic game, and the Caps showed that right now they are the best in the league. And if that carries over through the playoffs, we can let them eat their words then.

Posted by: justmike | February 8, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Is it any coincidence that McGuire's name is Pierre, seeing as how after the game is over he heads right for the showers and serves as the middle Lucky Pierre" guy in Cindy and Gina's three man daisy chain orgy. Screw those guys.

Posted by: VeloStrummer | February 8, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget this one: after Ovechkin is pushed from behind into the boards McGuire says, "Doc, this is an unfortunate situation for Craig Adams... Ovechkin goes down, and that's why it looks like a terrible hit."

Granted he did admit that it was border-line dirty after seeing the replay. But his initial reaction reveals his bias towards the Penguins.

Posted by: andrew23 | February 8, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

By and large, I agree with this analysis of the NBC Broadcast. I really don't have any problem with Pierre McGuire or Mike Emerick. They each have an interesting way of expressing themselves. Emerick is excitable, but brings that energy to his play-by-play and I don't see any bias there. Pierre McGuire has an analytical and almost studious approach to his commentary. I don't even mind if he favors Pittsburgh, since he worked for the organization at one time in his life. His commentary does not appear to be biased, taken at face value. When he calls Ovechkin a "predator", it's a compliment. Mike Milbury has a pretty clear record of verbally abusing the Caps on NBC and Hockey Night in Canada. He never really gets taken to task by anyone assoociated with the media. He creates controversy, which makes people tune in to watch him say his piece. If he actually had credible hockey acumen, he'd still be working for an NHL team, the NHLPA or the league itself. He's a lightning rod on television because he is willing to combust on the air. That doesn't mean he's a good analyst or even a fair one. He just exists to not be bland or uninteresting.

Posted by: NHLObserver | February 8, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Caps fans, savor your success at the moment. You've had this inferiority complex with the Penguins for years in the playoffs, and your guys pulled out a gutsy win yesterday in the playoffs. Believe me, Pens fans are hoping to be back at Verizon in the spring, when it really counts....

Posted by: BrentwoodBoy | February 8, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

This is all a lot of hooey. Not long ago, Milbury and McGuire were having a discussion on whether Ovechkin was the greatest hockey player EVER--Crosby wasn't even mentioned in the league they were talking about (Gretzky, Howe, Lemieux). Where was our appreciation for them then?

Also, Milbury wrote this article that was basically a "Shut the H UP" response to Don Cherry on Ovechkin, and went on again to basically say he was the best player ever. It was titled THE NEW MR. HOCKEY. Yes, he dared to elevate him to Gordie Howe, and then put him above that unattainable level in hockey history:

Yes, that's the same person who argued that Grapes should be in the Hall of Fame--he told one of biblical hockey heroes that he was wrong and that we should enjoy watching someone who may be the greatest hockey player ever.

Look, they are paid to hype the game up, and because of that they HAVE to pump up both sides. I think our team-biased colored glasses are making this a lot more than it is. I love the Caps, and Ovi is by far the best player ever to suit up. But I can also handle a bit of positive talk about other players in the league from time to time(God forbid NBC tries to get some ratings while we belly-ache about the "purity" of the game).

Posted by: notindc1 | February 8, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

these guys are awful and i've known it for a while now. i got the audio feed from 1500 AM :)

Posted by: hockeypunk | February 8, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

I was getting ready for our Super Bowl party, so I was getting peeks at the TV when I could. I didn't see or hear everything Milbury might have said, but I did catch one line that made me wonder if he was paying attention at all to the Caps this season (and I mean paying attention in a journalistically responsible kind of way):

I think Ovie had just scored his last goal and folks were sweeping up the hats, so the announcers had some time to kill. One of them comes up with "And now the Capitals need to learn how to win these kind of games." or something to that effect. Er, 13 game winning streak? Highest point total in the league?

Posted by: johnb5 | February 8, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

This is a great post - I agree that McGuire and Emrick did come through at times with a fairly balanced perspective. But Mike Milbury's comment about Crosby being "Ovi's daddy" was just plain irresponsible from any journalistic slant - I don't care if he was covering the Flames versus the Canucks and had the same comment about Jerome Iginla, there is no place for that. Not the first time he has made ridiculous remarks about Ovi either, goes back to a few seasons ago when he insinuated that Ovi "played like a dog". Granted the guy may have know the game but as on-air "talent", he just plain stinks. Give me Brian Engblom any day - go Caps!

Posted by: hockeymom12 | February 8, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

How can you talk about bias and not mention that the pens have been on nbc 3 weeks in a row?

Posted by: jfwil | February 8, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I was also puzzled by the lack of replay on the penalty that forged the 5 on 3 (which was the game's turning point). Stranger still, was after the Caps got their third goal, the next replay was of the Penguins last score. I did not get that at all. Finally, it seemed that 14-game win streaks happen all the time, it barely got a mention except for a quick look at the top-5 streaks early when it seemed that PIT would win going away. Let me however explain a little something about Pierre McGuire et al. As a Columbia, MD native who now lives in Edmonton, AB there is a simple explanation for the pro-Crosby rhetoric; this entire country has a crazy man-crush on Sid and it will take at least one Cup win in DC for Ovechkin to get his due in the Great White North. Ever since the '72 series between CAnada and Russia, Canuckles must be bribed and tortured into giving a russian player his due, especially one who plays the game in the "Canadian Way"

Posted by: np2131 | February 8, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

"The great thing about all this is that the Caps are not competing in figure skating. No Canadian judge is going to get to screw the Caps out of their gold medal. And no announcers are going to be able to sway anything with their comments."

While I tend to agree, it is just as easy for a ref or linesman to screw a team out of a trophy as it is a judge in figure skating. In fact, since they throw out the lower score in the Olympics it is actually easier. All you have to do is overlook an interference call when a Cap is mowed down in OT allowing a Pens player to reach a puck and race down the ice and score a game winner. Or call penalties at more than a 2-to-1 ratio thereby exhausting a teams best defenders for late game situations.

Posted by: ouvan59 | February 8, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I agree with what many people have said the end, who really cares what the announcers say about the caps?? sure, mike millbury was ridiculously biased, but did none of you catch pierre maguire calling the dc fan base "a rabid, great, true hockey fan base" or something to that effect? I would say that he's pretty unbiased saying things like that. The commentators are allowed to say positive things about the pens without being biased. obviously we love joe and craig because not only are they great at what they do, they slant their coverage toward the caps. but mike emerick brings wonderful energy and passion to the game and pierre offers great insight most of the time.

we love to call crosby a whiner and pittsburgh fans moaners...but isnt that what caps fans are doing now? just relax and enjoy whats happening and don't sweat the little things...except millbury.

Posted by: dkitsou | February 8, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

The announcing was what NBC announcing (and most sports announcing) is -- the hot hand gets praised unbelievably, and back and forth. Both Crosby and Ovie got their due, I think. They're the two best players in the league, and every one of these games is a treat to watch (even as a Pens fan cheering on while a 3 goal lead collapses). Easy, now, Caps fans -- the majority of hockey commentators are as in awe of Ovie as we in the Burgh are.

A note on the descriptions of the players -- every one knows Ovie hits more often and very rarely makes a stupid reckless play (i.e. Gonch in the playoffs). Not a dirty player, but he gets a little too chippy at times, just as Crosby embellishes from time to time. They're both great, they both have flaws to fuel the haters, and I am praying for Caps-Pens in the conference finals for another 7 game war. Go Pens!

Posted by: PittHoya | February 8, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

A few notes from "north of the border":

-Milbury is horrible. On "Hotstove" he's supposed to be providing the angle of a former GM (one with a track record that is abysmal) and coach, and yet, rather than provide that working knowledge, it's all blather and bombast. His ripping of the Kovalchuk trade was a good example of him sounding like a rube. I suppose NBC wants him to be this "everyman" but the biggest problem with him is that he (as a former GM and coach in the NHL) doesn't tell me, as a fan, anything I don't know. He traded away Roberto Luongo and kept Rick DiPietro and also signed Alexei Yashin to one of the worst contracts in NHL history. He also thinks Charles Wang is a great owner...

-McGuire (on his TSN work) has made a ton of positive comments about Washington being much better on defence and has praised Jeff Schultz and Steckel. McGuire does TSN games from ice level as the game analyst so the first two periods were what he deals with 1-2 nights a week for TSN (except he's used to dealing with Gord Miller or Chris Cuthbert).

-Pittsburgh is on NBC because of ratings. If Pittsburgh games didn't draw, they wouldn't be on. It's not Crosby, but it's because people tune in to watch Crosby and NBC is in this deal to make money (numbers bear this out). The game against (although Detroit's ratings have gone down this year). The game against Philly...another no-brainer given the alternatives (not to point out facts or anything but Philly will be on NBC more than Pittsburgh among their regular season broadcasts).

Posted by: jcurrin | February 8, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Great, great analysis of NBC Coverage Dan. But you forgot the section titled:


The list could have included

-neither mentioning not showing a replay of Backstrom's instigator. I didn't even know it was a matching one with Kennedy until just now.

-Neither mentioning nor showing a replay of the Caps' second penalty at the end of the 2nd that led to the 5 on 3.

Those are just the two most glaring examples I could think of. It's one thing to have biases and say dumb things. It's another to simply NOT EVEN MENTION PENALTIES AND MISCONDUCTS.

Posted by: ThisGuy | February 8, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Glad I'm not the only one to hear the tense comments be shot back and forth between the broadcast crew. Milbury's track record is only surpassed by Mat Millen's, so why NBC insists on putting this blowhard on their broadcasts is beyond me. Milbury and McGuire were trading barbs at the end of the second period.

Milbury is such a tool.

Posted by: MACCHAMPS04 | February 8, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Oh waah, waah, waah...You Caps fans are so worried about how your team is portrayed by the national media because you have an inferiority complex. And deservedly so...I was at the game...every Caps fan in our section was spouting Penguins stats, and I realized why you all know them, because the Penguins scare the crap out of you..and they should. You can win the season series year after year..and year after year the Penguins will tear your hearts out in the play-offs.

Posted by: wburn42167 | February 8, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Well, as long as we have the win when all is said and done, they can do all the Crosby-slurping they want -- no matter how obnoxious it gets!

Posted by: stwasm | February 8, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I think this is also a Canadian vs. other stars thing. Crosby is a Canadian (the savior of Canadian hockey) and Ovi is Russian. Yes, the Penguins have Malkin also, but the main thing is their #1 is Canadian, and most announcers are also Canadian so they will slant things that way.

Posted by: daddy00 | February 8, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I really didn't think it was that bad. Except for Mike Milbury and Eddie O (who was absent yesterday), the NBC crew isn't horrible in regards to Caps vs. Pens bias.

Posted by: decoy13 | February 8, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

The broadcast was terrible, but not the first of its kind from this crew.

I emailed NBC about these episodes, and I suggest all Caps fans do the same.


Posted by: lordjupiter | February 8, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

"because the Penguins scare the crap out of you..and they should."

LOL. The mighty Penguins needed 7 games to knock the Caps out last year despite having an embarrassing edge (38-19) in power plays and with the Caps playing an AHL rookie in net. This year the Penguins don't scare me at all. They've been playing lousy hockey since before Christmas and their defense and goaltending is a lot worse than ours.

Times are changing. While the Caps cruise along the Penguins have freakin Ottawa right on their butt about to knock them into 5th. They better get their defense fixed or find a better goalie or the Penguins won't even get to a series with the Caps this spring.

Posted by: southside721 | February 8, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Yeah they needed seven games..and they embarassed the Caps in that seventh game..brag about it all you was embarassing for your team to get the snot kicked out of them in that seventh home...and they didnt show up...

Posted by: wburn42167 | February 8, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Please send the full text of this article to NBC and Gary Bettman... so that they may promptly (once again) ignore criticism about how horrible their coverage is and keep airing more Penguins games on Sunday with this crew on the call.

Posted by: TheStein71 | February 8, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Let's not forget that the commentators accused Ovechkin of diving and faking an injury, in so many words, because he got up from the ice and came back on his next shift. But when Crosby did the same thing, there was no talk of diving or faking an injury.

In fact, I believe Ovechkin came back with a bit of a limp, while Crosby seemed unaffected.

Then there was Emrick's cheap shot at Caps fans when he said with snarky exhasperation that the crowd wanted a penalty call on "anyone in a white jersey", suggesting the fans were being incredibly unfair and biased in their perception of penalties.

Emrick also got the score wrong (said 3-0 when it was 3-1) and someone incorrectly stated Malkin had won a Hart when it was Ovechkin who had done so (repeatedly).

What's more, with Emrick, his vocal inflections and enthusiasm (or lack thereof) betray his loyalties. It is poorly hidden.

Even worse, he often misidentifies or even ignores Capitals players making good plays, but routinely calls out the names of every player on the Pittsburgh roster during routine exchanges.

Caps fans are not imagining this. This is a problem for NBC.

Posted by: lordjupiter | February 8, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I don't see a bias. I just see a terrible broadcast. NBC's coverage is atrocious.

Although, I did like this call by Emrick:

"Thomas Fleischman, one of the team's Olympians, to Semin, another olympian, to Brooks like...a good guy."

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 8, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Lindsay Czarniak did the same thing. Does she hate the Caps?


Pillsbury hates the Caps.. it was mad Mike who called them the Crapitals in the playoffs two years ago.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 8, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I don't mind Emrick as a PBP guy. But, I'm not particularly upset that I had to watch the game at a sports bar with no game audio either.

Milbury can stick it.

Posted by: CF11555 | February 8, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Very on-point analysis and good supporting blog comments. Let's GO CAPS!!!

Posted by: mdcapsphan76 | February 8, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

As typical...Another outstanding professional article that was EXACTLY as I saw it although I think you did give the NBC team a bit more credit than they deserved. The announcers were awful. They were an absolute bore and seemed to have no skills as announcers. Pittsburgh this and Crosby that. To think that NBC can only come up with these losers shows that Gary Bettman can't even get that right.
It's bad enough that NBC pays for nothing- you'd think they could at least have a couple of NEUTRAL bores.

Posted by: daveink44 | February 8, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

For the most part, the announcers are CANADIANS, just like Crosby. Crosby is their national hero. Do you really expect these guys to compliment a RUSSIAN when they can fawn over Crosby? Do you really think they want to acknowledge that Ovi is as good as their hero? It would be sacrilege for them to admit that Ovi is better! Do you really expect them to be objective? I don't.

Posted by: KiteFencer1 | February 8, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Dan this was a GREAT post, thank you for the time and effort.

Posted by: CBinDC | February 8, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Ugh. Caps fans need to get over this Crosby and Pittsburgh obsession.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 8, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Why must they always compare hockey to basketball? It's like they have an inferiority complex over the American public's perception of which sport requires more athleticism. Comments about Crosby being able to play in Gtown-Nova the day before are not only unnecessary and unrelated, they're completely laughable.

Or comparing Crosby-Ovi rivalry to Bird-Magic just for the purpose of adding in "with all due respect to Bird and Magic, our sport has hitting"

horrible commentary!

Posted by: divi3 | February 8, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Dan, that was awesome. Keep it up.

Posted by: dfe1 | February 8, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Why did you waste 2,000 words analyzing 2 idiots?

Posted by: SDpens | February 8, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

My issue with the NBC coverage being so biased in favor of the Pens/Crosby is that this was national coverage.

If this coverage had been done by Pittsburgh's local NBC affiliate, then the bias would be understandable.

But for coverage from NBC themselves, to be so biased, is inexcusable. People all over the US watched this game and they deserved coverage of both teams that is fair and unbiased. Not the Pens/Crosby stroke-fest that NBC regularly puts on.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, NBC = Nothing But Crosby

Nice job, Dan! Way to keep a finger on the pulse of the Caps' fan base.

Posted by: Hordedog | February 8, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Pathetic that NBC (or any hockey broadcasting organization) would hire Milbury after he drove the Islanders--who had vaulted from a lousy expansion team into a dynasty and a great franchise--into the ground. And the "nobody better than Ovechkin" praise is NBC code for "Crosby's just as good"--they just can't admit the obvious.

Posted by: jhershb | February 8, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

No doubt about it, NBC was totally biased against the Caps yesterday. Annoying as it is, that's fine -- doesn't affect the score. And, if a major network wants to field a couple of twits who can't even call a hockey game (get the names, numbers, and plays right), that's fine, too -- it's not the worst thing NBC has done lately.

But, what bothered me much more was the officiating. The calls nearly all went in the Pens direction, while the fouls against the Caps went unnoticed. There was even an icing call that they ignored.

Next time NBC puts the Caps on Sunday, they should hire Joe and Locker to call it.

Posted by: Kalnel | February 8, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I missed Joe and Locker - granted they love the caps but the NBC fellas were just too biased towards Crosby and the Pens. Even the nice things they said about OV were backhanded, calling him a "predator". No mention of the 13 game win streak or OV's 500 points or celebrating OV's hat trick. The Caps came to play yesterday and sent a strong message to the Pens - no lead is safe. Somehow that was lost on the guys that called the game.

Posted by: SmiP | February 8, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

With this being a nationally televised game, it clearly showed a 3 to 1 ratio of positive comments for the Pens over the Caps. Bad for NBC. It should have been an unbiased broadcast but was not even close with these clown announcers. The announcers lacked chemistry and hockey knowledge that the local announcers Joe B. and Locker possess. I wanted to hit the "mute" button and listen to announcers with better hockey sense. Maybe when the Caps bring Lord Stanley to DC, the Caps will finally earn the respect they deserve for years to come.

Posted by: andrewrice | February 8, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

When we were down 2-0 in the first period the worst thing wasn't that we were behind by two goals but that Sidney Crosby had scored both of them. I really don't like that guy.

The thing about Sidney Crosby is that he's such a phony Goody-Two-Shoes. I can't wait until he gets caught doing something naughty and his bubble gets burst.

Ovi's more honest.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | February 8, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

They know Ovie, but it's clear they do not know the rest of the Caps.

They are also "old school" type players where all anyone ever did is beat each other up.

They actually said that last PP Pitt had was a mistake, but as a whole they really kissed the Pens butt's the entire time.

I'm used to it by now.

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | February 8, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Good analysis. My 2 cents:

Doc Emrick is a good hockey announcer. Unfortunately, we mainly get to hear him when he's on NBC. If you've got the Center Ice package, listen to him call a NJ Devil's game. He and his partner, Chico Resch, do a great job. Granted that they are partial to their home team, but so is every other pair that routinely calls a game.

Milbury and McGuire do a pretty good job on Canadian TV. Milbury comes across OK on HNIC. McGuire is OK on TSN.

So, what's the problem? NBC. I don't know who the producer is for their hockey coverage, or what direction he's taking from the suits above, but this has got to be the problem. They seem to be trying to apply the "Olympic Model" of more human interest than game calling. Fortunately, without Olczyk, Doc was allowed to call the game more than usual. When Olczyk is there, there is more "discussion" about hockey than game calling. Note - there was general euphoria in this household when Doc announced that Eddie couldn't make the game.

And all the interviews and "between the glass" bs is, well, just that. The die hard hockey fan doesn't need this, and just wants to hear the game caller and a color guy, but that model just doesn't work for a national network that is looking to make a lot of money (eventually, at least) on a sport because there isn't enough of an audience for a national event with just the die hard fans. NBC hopes to get the casual viewer and, hopefully, hook him on the sport.

So, we have to put up with the situation until hockey breaks out nationally. So sit back, turn down the sound, and enjoy the game.

Posted by: Blah-Blah-Blah | February 8, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Understand the anger, but who cares what they say. The Pens can take the kind words, while we go home with the "W".

Posted by: BT23 | February 8, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Great post Dan- I thought you could've gone even further. What about the Orpik crosscheck in the back of Ovie?

First, the announcers were sure it was "unfortunate" for Orpik because OV was "falling down" they went back and saved face after the replays showed it was a blatant cheapshot.

That was a blatant cheapshot on the leading scorer in the league(OV)- why weren't they going crazy on how cheap a hit that was?? Instead, they talked about how back in the olden days of hockey, they provided a "checks and balances" system of calling penalties. Rather than saying the Caps got screwed or the Pens delivered a cheap hit (which it obviously was), they basically just said, "well, that's the new rules system." Which told us nothing other than "sorry, the caps got screwed." Not to mention that hit followed a cheapshot goalie interference call on Pitt to Jose. Two blatant cheapshots in the first period of the game. Why weren't they talking about how dirty Pittsburgh was playing???

Also, what about the statistic that NBC flashed in the first period about "teams with the most goals in the first 5 minutes of a game." Pittsburgh had 18 and Washington 17. I know this seems a little silly that this fired me up, but it was like they tried to show a statistic that Pittsburgh was leading in. The Caps lead in almost every offensive statistic known to God, and they find one that Pittsburgh is just a wee bit better in??? We were up 15 points on them in the standings and had the best offense in the league, why are they showing a stat that Pitt leads in??

Posted by: jpish | February 8, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Who cares what those meat heads had to say. It's great to be a Caps fan, and everybody can go kiss Cindy Crysby on his rosy red cheeks.

Posted by: coastallp74 | February 8, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

"...I guess we just have to accept that the Caps are not favored by most of the hockey world. Maybe because Ovie doesn't have rock star looks..."

most people outside of washington dont like the caps because their leader is Russian and thier best players are either russian or otherwise european...

most of the announcers and analysts you are complaining about are canadian...

crosby is canadian...

see where this is going?

they want crosby to best ovie...they want the candian led pens to beat the russian led caps...

they could talk for days about how great the canadian olympic team is...they cant stomach talking about the rest...

just root for the canadians to go down in vancouver and for crosby and the pens to go down this spring...

there is only so much smoke they can blow up their @$$es until they lose...then what are they gonna say???

its either going to get real quite or they will have to sing praises for non canadians...either or both of which will be thouroghly enjoyable!!!

Posted by: deadskin | February 8, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

coule of things come to mind when reading this...first and foremost, Doc Emrick is easily one of the best play by play callers ever to work any sport. his descriptions of play is unigue, timely and on the money and as a "sportfan" it's easy to tell of his love of hockey. The best ever by far! having said that, rememebr to all of us caps fans. Until we win a cup, we are going to be looked at as second rate(best). You earn higher praise, not beg for it. Cindy is white, baby-faced canadien and ovie is russian, scruffy beard and as my hurricanes loving 9 yr old daughters says of Ovie, "so easy a caveman can do it".14 games streak is sweet, most points in hockey is sweet. But keep in mind. We were 3-0-1 and had home ice against the gwens last year and it got us blown out in game seven in our building. Until we push past them in the playoffs, all those points and consect. wins mean little other then temporary bragging rights. But it sure is alot more fun winning every night and steam-rolling the hated gwens onb national TV. GO Cappies, rockin the red never felt so good!!!!

Posted by: klangley69 | February 8, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

NBC's coverage just highlights the difference between professional announcers doing their homework, like Joe B and Locker (and many other around the league and in other sports) and the hacks who phone it in. From the fan's perspective, it's the difference between enjoying what you are hearing and maybe learning something new about hockey, and just being annoyed and turning the volume off. When pros like Joe B do a game with teams they don't normally see, they spend many hours int he days before hand researching and talking to people so that they will have something interesting to say when the time comes. If you don't do that, all you can do is babble like Emrick, Milbury, McGuire and their ilk. If not for the TiVo delay I would have tuned in to radio feed.

Posted by: fschipani | February 8, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Spot on! However, you may be too young to report on this element. It is the Cold War Carryover effect or the Red Army at the Olympics. As Americans we hated the Russians due to their Communist Philosophy and loved our young Olympians from the Miracle on ice! But the Canadians hated them more for their prowess in international hockey events so if you have North Americans handling the Broadcast booth they will always favor the Canadians. I remember early in the seventies watching the Red Army team on a tour playing NHL teams. The Red Army team was great. The only NHL team that beat them was the Flyers becuase the fought them rather the outplayed them.
The NBC team will put down the Russians and won't mention the Swedes like Backstrom (after all the Swedes beat them in the last Olympics) Moreover, Sid is the 2nd coming to all Canadian Hockey fans. Heir apparent to Wayne & Mario! He especially picked up a lot of tips living with Mario like the whinning. Did you know that the Saturday Night Live Script on the Family known as the Whinners was actually based on a family from Pittsburgh. Talk about Cry babies!
So sure those guys from NBC are homers! They probably paid for the Burger King Kids meals and came down on the bus from Newark with the Pens. How do they (NBC) not use the story line about the streak that this Pens team were gunning to break to protect Mario's record. If you are planning to watch the Olympics find your mute buttom because we're gonna get more of the same although the may have to be more PC or OBama will have to give back the Nobel prize!
Okay CAPS FANS I was an original season ticket holder when they 1st came into the league and won 8 games. I was there in the Cup Finals against the Wings! Do the CAPS deserve more respect- Sure. Wanna know how to get your due and shut up those Flyer, Pens, & Ranger Fans. Just keep it going and win the CUP. Sweep everybody! Bring the Furry. It ain't gonna change until one Russian Captain named Ovie is pushing Lord Stanley upward! Bruce B has years of Bulletin Board material and everyday the league and the whinners are creating more BS. Win the Cup and they'll finally Shut UP!

Posted by: gfoy | February 8, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Gfoy, you are spot on!

I also was an original season ticket holder. Sunday's game was one of the greatest in our history, so let's not diminish it by whining about alleged bias by the tv announcers. As great as the Caps are playing, this is still February--not May. They went up against the reigning Stanley Cup champs yesterday--you don't think the Stanley Cup champs will always get a bit more attention?

We will get the attention we desire when we win the Stanley Cup. Nothing else matters.

So quit the whining! Act like you've been there before.

Posted by: StevefromSacto | February 8, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

This was a great piece. With so many people and opinions about NBC and Pittsburgh it's difficult to find the pulse of the Caps fan base about this issue. Hatred is probably accurate but lacks specificity. Good Job, Dan.

Personally, I couldn't care less about Milbury. He's an aberration on my TV about 5 times a year. McGuire and Emerick don't really bother me.

Gotta try listening to Steve Kolbe while watching the broadcast next time (hopefully that will work with FiOS).

Occasionally, friends and coworkers want to know what might be worth doing on evenings or weekends. I respond by paraphrasing Ferris Bueller, "The 2010 Caps are so choice. If you have the means, I highly suggest picking up tickets."

Posted by: Kdarienzo | February 8, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

What shocks me is that no one wants to say that this is part of the natural Canadian bias towards the Caps. They cannot stand the fact that Russians and Swedes could be hockey players. In Crosby they have their Neo; the prophecy fulfilled.

Steinberg, thank you for this analysis. In the world of professionalism, you do a great job of making your points without crossing "that" line. Having said that, the evidence against clearly outweighs the evidence for. What I have come to understand that truly infuriates me is that I am forced to hear more about my rival than my own team. I know my rival; I do not need a glorified presentation. Granted, it is a national audience to which the announcers are truly pandering, and the fact that they piss off a small part of their ratings is likely irrelevant.

Problem is that I never see this in NFL commentating. Frankly, when the Skins ownership was hated on, I had no problem :)

Posted by: wcc118 | February 8, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Spot on! However, you may be too young to report on this element. It is the Cold War Carryover effect or the Red Army at the Olympics. As Americans we hated the Russians due to their Communist Philosophy and loved our young Olympians from the Miracle on ice! But the Canadians hated them more for their prowess in international hockey events so if you have North Americans handling the Broadcast booth they will always favor the Canadians. I remember early in the seventies watching the Red Army team on a tour playing NHL teams. The Red Army team was great. The only NHL team that beat them was the Flyers becuase the fought them rather the outplayed them.
The NBC team will put down the Russians and won't mention the Swedes like Backstrom (after all the Swedes beat them in the last Olympics) Moreover, Sid is the 2nd coming to all Canadian Hockey fans. Heir apparent to Wayne & Mario! He especially picked up a lot of tips living with Mario like the whinning. Did you know that the Saturday Night Live Script on the Family known as the Whinners was actually based on a family from Pittsburgh. Talk about Cry babies!
So sure those guys from NBC are homers! They probably paid for the Burger King Kids meals and came down on the bus from Newark with the Pens. How do they (NBC) not use the story line about the streak that this Pens team were gunning to break to protect Mario's record. If you are planning to watch the Olympics find your mute buttom because we're gonna get more of the same although the may have to be more PC or OBama will have to give back the Nobel prize!
Okay CAPS FANS I was an original season ticket holder when they 1st came into the league and won 8 games. I was there in the Cup Finals against the Wings! Do the CAPS deserve more respect- Sure. Wanna know how to get your due and shut up those Flyer, Pens, & Ranger Fans. Just keep it going and win the CUP. Sweep everybody! Bring the Furry. It ain't gonna change until one Russian Captain named Ovie is pushing Lord Stanley upward! Bruce B has years of Bulletin Board material and everyday the league and the whinners are creating more BS. Win the Cup and they'll finally Shut UP!

Posted by: gfoy | February 8, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Pretty interesting huh, I guess that one handed goal OV made against Atlanta just happened to find it's way onto his stick.

I think for Caps fans, we just have to get used to this - it seems that being a fan of any Washington based team brings a little resentment - maybe it's a governmental thing - but... it seems to be the case regardless. At least the fans know the score in the OV / Crosby story - I can specifically recall Crosby skating to the bench looking like a whipped school boy after a bump he received, while OV continually picked himself up after dirty chops and uncalled crosschecks and kept going back to get one of those 'hits' the jerkwad announcers referred to. I watched a great game betwen two good teams - but the better team won despite the announcers and incredibly shoddy officiating - remember the slashing penalty called with only a few minutes left in the 3rd when a review showed nothing at all - what's up with that? I guess coming in as the defending Stanley Cup chumps comes with some perks - as witnessed yesterday - But.... I'm a Caps fan and damn proud of it - and next year, when that trophy resides here, those announcers can change their colors like they do their socks - what a bunch of maroons.

Posted by: whelms | February 8, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

BULLS EYE. Top left corner over the out streched glove of NBC. Thank you. Now NBC, its your turn to 'fix it'! Were talking the BEST team in the NHL, with the NUMBER 1 player in the world! Show a little respect!

Posted by: Beltwayman2 | February 8, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

"Trying to spin "plays with fire" and "ultimate predator" into slights is a real, real stretch."

The technical term is "damning with faint praise." They're more than slights; they're downright insulting. And as much as I generally prefer to criticize with excess verbiage rather than vulgarities, the simple fact is that McGuire and Milbury suck. Out loud.

Posted by: OvechkinFan92801 | February 8, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

If Crosby was Ovie's daddy, he apparently put him up for adoption some time in the second period...

Posted by: randysbailin | February 8, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

This showed that Comcast SportsNet's Alan May was right. This is the NHL's top game and these guys are expressing the main feelings around the league.

Posted by: japark89 | February 8, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, NBC was not the only media outlet to downplay the streak. On my way to work today I was Listing to "Hockey This Morning" on XM Center Ice. They new the Caps were on a streak of at least ten games, but had to look up just how many games they had won. Complete fail in my opinion. Especially when it was plastered all over on Sunday afternoon.

Posted by: TPunk | February 8, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

THANK YOU for FINALLY pointing this out. It wasn't just this gaem, it was the last one and also last YEAR'S game. NBC loves Pitt. I hope the NHL can get back with ESPN and Fox. NBC sucks and it nearly ruined the game yesterday listening to those 2 twit heads, plus the crappy camera coverage (or lack thereof)... almost!! GO CAPS!!

Posted by: angsbaby | February 8, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Good assessment. You should become a die-hard Caps fan. They've been fun and agonizing to follow the past 35 years. And I have a feeling this might be the year they make up for all of it. McGuire and Milbury are both bad at what they do and have no chemistry with each other. NBC needs to find someone else. Keith Jones and Brian Engblom would be a good start.

Posted by: SCCapsFan1 | February 8, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Yeah they needed seven games..and they embarassed the Caps in that seventh game..brag about it all you was embarassing for your team to get the snot kicked out of them in that seventh home...and they didnt show up...

Posted by: wburn42167 | February 8, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Don't you and your sister and your kids have something to do in the single wide up there in the 'Burgh...maybe figure which of your kids are going to go cash your unemployment check. Have a nice day!!!

Posted by: opus1m | February 8, 2010 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Great work! I watched the telecast and noticed all the attention the Pens were getting, but I didn't realize it was that much.

The sad part is that the script was laid out in advance. Pittsburgh is deemed a bigger hockey market with more fans nationwide, they won the cup, and Sid has lots of endorsements. The Pens were sold as the underdog and that it was going to be a monumental effort for them to win in such adverse conditions. Their travel, their lack of rest, that they played the night before. And the script never changed. Shame on NBC for taking the easy road and failing to put the game into context.

Posted by: firehorse | February 9, 2010 12:09 AM | Report abuse

its pretty easy to see the obvious favoritism given to pittsburgh by the league. malkin should have been gotten the automatic one game suspenstion for jumping holstrom and getting a instigator in the playoffs but it didn't happen and he scored 2 goals the next game and changed the series. my best guess is that they are trying to market the pidgeons as america's team in order to capitalize on the large following the steelers have build around the us. p!$$air and dinglebury are symbiotic of this.

Posted by: asmith58 | February 9, 2010 1:12 AM | Report abuse

I watch NHL on the fly all the time and there is an anti-Russian bias among the announcers on the show. They are all after all Canadian. They think all Russian Players aren't good enough and are only usurpers of their National Game.In a word they are extremely Jealous of Russian Players because---Well they have become better than Canadians at their own Game. They especially have a Bias against the Washington Capitals who have the Worlds best Hockey player in Alex Ovechkin the League's MVP the last 2 years and will probally be MVP again this year. The Canadians just can't stand it. They are going out of their minds in frustration especially because Ovechkin is a throw back to the likes of Gordie Howe {Howe likes him by the way} and "Rocket Richard".
So to our Canadian Brothers across the border I say Go USA Hockey but if we can't win Olympic Gold I'll be rooting for the Russians and "Alex The Great" to kick some Canadian ass in the Olympic Hockey Finals.

Go you Ruskeys

Posted by: duckyjimpond | February 9, 2010 1:48 AM | Report abuse

Milbury is a bully. tries to bully the lead announcer on NHL ON the Fly all the time. Gets Indignant all the time if anyone disagrees with him. In a word he's an A.H.

Posted by: duckyjimpond | February 9, 2010 2:29 AM | Report abuse

I am glad this article was written. I complained to my husband about the coverage -he got to go to the game, so missed it- and he thought I was probably too biased and "emotional" about my home team.

However, though I might not know all the ends and outs about hockey coverage, I know enthusiasm and bias when I see and hear it. The announcers definitely had more enthusiasm for Pittsburgh. They celebrated their goals, and their human interest stories more. When Pittsburgh scored their third goal, the announcer actually excitedly called out the score 3 to zero! Both announcers had noticable glee when Pittsburgh scored. I thought, o.k., they just love hockey and love scoring. But when Eric Fehr scored next to make it 4 -2, not only was the earlier enthusiasm gone from their voices, but it seemed to be noticably quiet. They had nothing to say. On T.V. with thousands of people watching, a few seconds of silence is deafening. And they were silent instead of celebrating with the Caps. That is what angered me. I guess I am just used to Joe and Craig, but it seemed painfully clear to my novice hockey eyes and ears that the Caps were not the favorites.

Posted by: ksr17 | February 9, 2010 7:16 AM | Report abuse

NBC is terrible. Great write-up of the biases of NBC ("Nothing But Crosby"). Doc also made a swipe at one of the political parties, which I though was uncalled for. (If you missed it, I won't mention it here, to avoid a fight, but it really rubbed me the wrong way.)

Dan, thanks to your bog, your column is now required reading for me in the print version (on the days it gets here through the snow.)

Posted by: oldtimehockey | February 9, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

We Caps fans already knew all the things mentioned in Dan's article. However, I was reading Bruce's book the other day on the crapper and found out why Milbury says what he does. I think it's pretty obvious.

He and Bruce had a falling out long ago while Milbury was a GM on Long Island (I think) and Bruce was a minor league coach with the Islanders affiliate. Milbury was pissed because Bruce wasn't playing the Islander prospects and basically pulled the Islanders completely out of their affiliation with Bruce's team - without warning. It baffled everyone. It seems Milbury holds a grudge. Bruce even mentions the "Crapitals" thing, too, in the book. Check it out sometime.

Posted by: drewsie | February 9, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

i dont think it will change anytime soon so if i was Coach BB i would start the us against the world nobody likes us in the NHL and they say the Caps cant really do anything when it matters.

Posted by: heathdog1119 | February 9, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

I was surprised they didn't make more of the streak especially since they could have spun it as a motivating factor for the Crosguins. After all it is their streak record the Caps are chasing and they are the first team the Caps have played twice during the streak.

McGuire doesn't bother me so much, I know on NBC he has to spew the company line, but when I hear him on radio shows, where he speaks his own mind, he is generally clear, concise and even handed in his commentary. Milbury on the other hand is always an ass. I really get a laugh when they turn to him to analyze moves that GMs make considering he is considered one of the worst GMs in history.

Posted by: ds_kelly | February 9, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

one for milbury- Is Frosberg a key to the game for the retirement homes pond hockey team. This guy has not been productive in competitive hockey for 3 years. Just shows what a complete no-talent hack milbury is. I wonder why his teams always sucked. He couldn't spot young talent and played fantasy hockey behind the bench. Please, anybody get the NBC contract when there sports division folds.

Posted by: cadlecreek1 | February 9, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Great post, but this guy just fed my paranoia! I'm just glad the Caps stuck it to them in the end.

Posted by: capscoach | February 9, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Question: When did Milburry call us the Crapitals? I didn't remember hearing about it last year, and would like to know the context and approximate date.

Posted by: capscoach | February 9, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

@Capscoach - Pretty sure the "Crapitals" comment was made during game 2 of the Flyers series

Dan- once again, great work.

Posted by: SombreroGuy | February 9, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

One can debate whether there was a Pittsburgh bias. However the "Crapitals" and "who's your daddy now" comments are just plain wrong by someone in that position. End of story.

Posted by: BetterOffWithFedorov | February 9, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I didn't get to see the NBC broadcast since I was at the game and I forgot to set my DVR to record on the network. Therefore I have only hearsay to go by and it's not surprising to hear what's being said about the broadcast.

But first, the focus of Ovie being a "predator" is not all bad. Hits is a stat that is kept in the NHL like sacks and tackles in the NFL. It's a sport that relies on hitting and to be up there in hits is a good thing. In fact, not talking about Crosby's physical play just goes to show the fans of the league why he is pretty one dimensional. Ovie goes out there are plays hockey like it was meant to be played. A few nights ago, B. Mo had a huge hip check into the boards on some poor shmo and Joe B. praised it as magnificent "old school" hitting. Sidney Crosby has skill, but it stops there.

As for the Network's apparent bias, it's unavoidable. They have to play to an unbiased, uneducated audience. Those who know the sport know the Caps are better. They know the streak is a bigger deal than a bus ride. It's just a way for NBC to captivate the viewers who don't really care. Why else would they have preempted the winter classic with 45 minutes of showing kids skating around on a small rink in the outfield?

Posted by: Rainier1 | February 9, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Two years ago, NBC would have never come anywhere near the Verizon Center to cover a game. They are now giving coverage and you don't like it?

What kind of cheese are you having with that WHINE?

Posted by: caphcky | February 9, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

I too could not stand the announcers on the NBC coverage--I ended up muting them and just watching the video. But a comment on the Canadian vs American thing, it must be remembered that both Emrick and Millbury are Americans--McGuire is the only Canadian on the crew.

Posted by: RogerNoVa | February 9, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Excellent post regarding the astounding persistent praise of Sid. Seems to me a quality analyst would have pointed how Nick Backsrum undressed Syd on the faceoff resulting in Ovie's third goal. There's a captain leading his team,

Praise-Syd bias aside...the NBC coverage was HORRID. They did not keep up with the game. Odd plays (like the Backstrum misconduct) were left completely unexplained. These guys were just awful.

Posted by: LostOak | February 9, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Well considering that the Pens have been on for three weeks in a row and McGuire worked for years for them, you get the picture. If you watch the game again, after the Caps scored you could tell that McGuire was deflated. You could here it in his voice. Dan, couldn't agree more about the composure piece. That was going on forever.

Posted by: blanknerc | February 9, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

One thing that I noticed most during the broadcast was how they would give the same compliment to each team but spin it negatively for the Capitals... eg "Great, clean hit there by [Orpik]." Positive comment for the Penguins. "That wasn't a dirty hit by [Erskine]." He's still saying its a good hit, but now its in the negative.

Posted by: keepwastingmoney | February 9, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

No offense, but some of the comments by posters on here about how Caps fan are still complaining about the coverage and should be grateful that we're getting any coverage, hearken back to when blacks weren't treated equally and there were people remarking that at least they get to ride the same bus as white people or have their own drinking fountain, albeit, it's next to the dumpsters. It's still a disservice to Capitals fans to get the coverage we get but have those two a$$hats Milbury and McGuire providing commentary that clearly can be interpreted as backhanded compliments and outright discrediting whatever the Capitals accomplished. Thankfully, we don't need their noses up the Capitals collective rear ends to continue their streak nor get to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Great job, Mr. Steinberg. Great read and analyses.

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | February 9, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

The NHL has propped up and fostered both the Pissburgh Penguins AND Crosby since the day he came into the league. So is it really any wonder that the NHL's network (number four, I might add) does the same thing? Problem is that Leonsis and McPHee let the league get away with this crap. I've longed believed that the Caps organization is way too passive. Pollin didn't care and the Caps were doormats. Leonsis cares, but is too go along to get along. And the Caps are doormats (in the eyes of the league and the network).

Posted by: poguesmahone | February 9, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

i think Milbury and McGuire are really just mad that they have had their heads up Syndy's a$$ since he was 14 saying he's the next great one and he will change the game of hockey with his greatness ect bad this kid from Russia is better and plays for a team with no cups in their past and a small fan base and in the USA no less... i dont think they will be happy anytime soon not with they way the Caps have been playing and the way they have grow as a team since last years playoffs

Posted by: heathdog1119 | February 9, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

If Ovechkin was North American, we wouldn't be hearing any of this negative crap. They'd be drooling all over him. To make it worse, McGuire's an idiot and Milbury makes him look smart. Milbury couldn't cover a dog show properly.

Posted by: farmgirl19C | February 9, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I missed Joe and Locker - granted they love the caps but the NBC fellas were just too biased towards Crosby and the Pens. Even the nice things they said about OV were backhanded, calling him a "predator". No mention of the 13 game win streak or OV's 500 points or celebrating OV's hat trick. The Caps came to play yesterday and sent a strong message to the Pens - no lead is safe. Somehow that was lost on the guys that called the game.

Posted by: SmiP | February 8, 2010 4:02 PM


I'm with you there. Some may accuse Joe B and Locker of being homers...and maybe they are. But I also notice that they generally call it like it is when the Caps falter, and they always give credit where it is due.

IMHO, the only difference between Cherry and Milbury is that Millbury dresses better...just barely.

Posted by: SmiP | February 8, 2010 4:02 PM

Posted by: Rhino40 | February 9, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Just had a great idea. The next time these 2 teams play on NBC, I'll just sync up the caps radio feed with a dvr-delayed version of the game.
Not showing the phantom penalty that led to the caps being down 5-3 and could (should) have effectively killed off the game really p*ssed me off.
FU Refs. FU NBC. FU Bettman. FU haters. Go Caps.

Right on poguesmahone. Remember the circus in pittsburg that f*ed everything up last year?

Posted by: 202-206 | February 9, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Mike Milbury wears a toupee.

Posted by: gregmcdonald17 | February 9, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I wasn't bothered by bias so much as by poor announcing. They got players' names wrong ("oops, that wasn't Brooks Laich that was somebody else, I just saw a 2 on the uniform"), maybe it was my kids in the room but I thought one wasn't speaking into the mic so you could barely hear him, and they said noting interesting, with no color. Really made me miss the CSN team, Joe B and Craig L, with their knowledge of the team, their knowledge of the sport, and their great lines, their "biscuit" and "twig" and "chioklets" and "ticks" and "sweaters" and "dasher" and all the rest. Recent lines: "he's leaking" when a guy was bleeding. "She's (ie, the fat lady) starting to warm up her vocal cords".

Posted by: sullidav | February 9, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Quit whining about what some announcer says about your beloved Ovechkin. Who cares whether they spoke more highly of Crosby and the Pens than Ovie and the Caps. Both are highly skilled players that are good for the game of hockey. The rivalry between two great teams is great drama. Why everyone would rather focus on who got better press shows that you are not true hockey fans, but hometown bandwagon fans. Both Ovechkin and Crosby are great players and either team would take them both if had the chance. Would you boo Crosby if the Caps signed him tomorrow. I think not. Stop complaining about who is better and enjoy the show. Geeez!

Posted by: puckhead1 | February 11, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Enjoy the show on the ice!
That is what it is all about!

Posted by: Hookey | February 12, 2010 5:33 AM | Report abuse

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