Small Market Series Provided Big Entertainment

The New York Rangers. The Philadelphia Flyers. The Detroit Red Wings. The Chicago Blackhawks.

Some of the financial powerhouses in hockey are now eliminated from post-season contention. The Rangers, the highest-valued NHL team by Forbes magazine, bowed out in round one without much of a fight.

The Blackhawks, to their credit, did put up a fight but ultimately couldn’t get it done against a hungry St. Louis Blues team.

Only one of the top ten most valued teams advanced to the second round, and that was the 10th place Washington Capitals.

In fact, some of the first round matchups with the least hype ended up providing the best entertainment.

Maybe there is something to be said about the pressure of playing in a big market. Maybe it’s merely a coincidence.

Despite not hanging around with some of the cash cows of the NHL, these four teams put on a show during the first round.

Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders

The Panthers and Islanders were the most evenly-matched teams in the Eastern Conference during the first round of action. The other three series didn’t produce a single period of overtime. The Panthers and Islanders played through five overtime periods.

There could have easily been a game seven if a trip was called on the Islanders during the last minute of play during game six. Instead, John Tavares played hero for the Islanders by scoring the game tying goal and the overtime winner.

Despite having one of the most electrifying players in the game, the Islanders struggled to produce a sellout crowd at the Barclays Center. Their average attendance of 13,627 was about 2000 people below capacity.

The Panthers averaged about 15,384 this season, according to, which was nearly 4000 people below their capacity. However, it’s a major improvement from their average attendance of 11,271 from last season, which was worst in the NHL.

It goes to show you that in fickle hockey markets, fans will pay to see a good team. Fans for both of these teams got their money’s worth in round one between two franchises that were bottom three in terms of revenue.

These two teams could use the playoff hockey as well, considering they both had the worst operating incomes during 2015.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators

The Ducks and the Predators was a series that flew under the radar a little bit in the West. Most had pegged the Ducks to move on, but it turned out to be a closer series than most imagined.

Nashville Predators players celebrate after game seven of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. The Predators defeated the Ducks 2-1 to win the series 4-3. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Nashville Predators players celebrate after game seven of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

With the Blues vs. the Blackhawks, and the Sharks vs. the Kings taking place, Anaheim and Nashville quietly put on a show. It was a back and forth series until it came down to a final and deciding game seven, the first in Predators history.

It wasn’t one for the memory books if you’re a fan of the Ducks, who mustered all they could but couldn’t get a second puck by Pekka Rinne in the third period. The closest they came was a shot by Hampus Lindholm, which ricochet off the crossbar with seven minutes remaining.

Of all the Western Conference playoff teams, the Predators recorded the lowest revenue. Anaheim is only ahead of Nashville and St. Louis in that category,

This doesn’t mean these teams don’t have great hockey fans. Nashville might be one of the most underrated hockey markets in the entire league. However, sometimes from a fan’s perspective, these teams can fly under the radar. That’s a shame considering how entertaining their games can be.