Ratings for the start of the 2021 NHL playoffs were revealed on Tuesday, with Game 1 of the Capitals-Bruins series taking home top honors. In fact, it was the most-watched Game 1 in the first round since the mid-90’s.
According to NBC Sports, the Capitals’ 3-2 overtime victory registered a TAD of 2.31 million viewers, ranking as the most-watched Game 1 on record in the first round of the NHL Playoffs since 1995 (regionalized game window on FOX). The game broadcast peaked with 3.14 million TV-only viewers.
Caps-Bruins also ranks as the most-watched game at any point in a First-Round series since Game 6 of the Penguins-Flyers in 2018 (2.4 million on April 22, 2018).
Compared to NBC’s first primetime game of last year’s playoffs, which took place in August and had no meaningful lead-in, ratings jumped 56% and viewership 82% from a 0.8 and 1.25 million for Golden Knights-Blackhawks Game 3.
Compared to its first primetime game in 2019, which took place in April and had no meaningful lead-in, ratings and viewership jumped 20 and 34 percent respectively from a 1.0 and 1.71 million for Maple Leafs-Bruins Game 2.
TOP METERED MARKETS FOR BRUINS-CAPITALS GAME 1
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According to Sports Media Watch, the last time NBC aired an NHL playoff game after the Preakness Stakes, 2018, it drew a 1.7 and 2.91 million for Lightning-Capitals Game 5 in the conference finals. The Preakness was a bigger draw that year as well (7.95M).
In other action, Islanders-Penguins Game 1 drew a 0.8 and 1.41 million and Wild-Golden Knights a 0.8 and 1.40 million on NBC Sunday.
NBCSN rounded out the opening weekend of play with a 0.44 and 742,000 for Lightning-Panthers Game 1, trailing only last year’s Canadiens-Flyers opener (764K) as the network’s most-watched opening round Game 1 since 2017.
According to Sports Media Watch, NHL games during the regular season averaged 391,000 viewers across NBC and NBCSN — down just 2% from last year’s pre-hiatus average (398K), but still the least-watched regular season in the networks’ fifteen-year run with the league. With last year’s qualification round games included, viewership declined 11% (from 438K).
The 15-game Wednesday Night Hockey package averaged 508,000, up 15% from last year’s 21-game schedule (441K) and a four-year high. Figures include streaming viewership not tracked by Nielsen.
On a local level, Blues games averaged a 4.4 rating on Bally Sports Midwest entering the team’s season finale, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — even with last year and up 20% from two years ago. In Boston, Bruins games averaged 4.18 on NESN (+18%), the network’s highest rated season since 2014-15.
The Capitals-Bruins series now shifts to Boston for Game’s 3 and 4, with Game 3 set for Wednesday night. Puck drop is scheduled for just after 6:30PM ET.
By Jon Sorensen