FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

TRANSCRIPT – NBC SPORTS GROUP STANLEY CUP FINAL CONFERENCE CALL

NBC SPORTS GROUP STANLEY CUP FINAL CONFERENCE CALL

 Moderator: Chris McCloskey

June 3, 2014

3:30 p.m. ET

 

Chris McCloskey:  Thank you, everyone, for joining us today for our 2014 Stanley Cup Final conference call. Joining us today will be executive producer, Sam Flood, who is a former captain of the Williams College hockey team, analyst Eddie Olczyk, a former King and a former Ranger, NHL Live analyst, Keith Jones, and Inside the Glass analyst, Pierre McGuire.

As you all know, Doc Emrick is dealing with a death in the family and will miss Game 1 with Kenny Albert filling in. Doc will return for Game 2 and the remainder of the series.

Before we begin, a couple of ratings notes. We put out a release earlier that is now available on NBCSportsgrouppressbox.com if you didn’t see it, but Sunday night’s game between the Kings and the Blackhawks, Game 7, did 4.137 million viewers, making it the most-watched non-Stanley Cup final NHL playoff game on record, the most watched NHL game ever on NBCSN and the most watched non-Olympic program ever on NBCSN, so a very exciting game last Sunday night.

Through the first three rounds of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, they’re the most watched in 17 years through the first three rounds. NBC, NBCSN and CNBC have combined to average 1.187 million viewers for the 86 games. That’s up 11% versus last year.

This comes off record-setting ratings for the Winter Classic, Stadium Series, and Olympic hockey, so just a great year for hockey all around on the NBC Sports Group. And now we top it off with New York versus Los Angeles in the Stanley Cup Final. We’re going to take opening remarks from each of our speakers and we’ll start first with Sam Flood, the executive producer.

Sam Flood:  Well, I just got out to LA and I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be here for the Stanley Cup Final between two top markets in the country, number one, New York and number two, L.A.

And I think it’s going to be a lot of fun seeing these two teams go at it, seeing how they play and I can’t wait to hear our team to get to work calling this final between two teams that have gone through some amazing battles to get to the Stanley Cup Final and certainly earned their way through in the early rounds.

And last Sunday night was an epic battle, fun to see. I’m glad we got a lot of people paying attention to hockey all over the country right now. And we hope that continues in the final. As I hand off to…

 

Chris McCloskey:  Eddie Olczyk.

Eddie Olczyk:  Well, it’s always great to be a part of the Stanley Cup Final. And as Sam touched on, I mean, both these teams have come back from looking like they were down and out and finding a way to get to the Stanley Cup Final and that’s certainly a true test of a champion to get this far and with the Rangers coming back from being down 3-1 to Pittsburgh and coming back and winning the conference final and being here.

And, of course, L.A. is has an amazing run here with being down 0-3, which is pretty incredible stuff to come back against San Jose like they did and then win three game 7s on the road.

And let’s not forget, I mean, LA has been in three straight Western conference Finals. And when they did with the Cup a couple of years ago, people seemed to forget that, for as amazing as the run is for the L.A.Kings with winning three game 7s on the road this year to get to the final, what they did in their Stanley Cup run a couple of years ago, I think, is as amazing or maybe even more so when each series that they played in the playoffs a couple of years ago, they won the first three games of every series, which is pretty incredible when you think about it.

So not surprising to see the match up considering everything that these teams have gone through and looking forward to being a part of the coverage for the next couple of weeks.

 

Pierre McGuire:  Well, this is the eighth time that I’ve had the privilege to do this with Eddie and Doc and Doc and I, this is our ninth Stanley Cup Final for NBC and it never gets old.

I think the biggest thing is what Eddie touched on, is the intensity that both these teams are bringing to the Stanley Cup Final. When you think about what the Rangers have done this playoff season and you think about what the Kings have done this playoff season, especially going back to the 3-0 deficit they faced against San Jose, it’s been just marvelous theater and amazing intensity from both teams.

But the one thing I’m really looking forward to seeing is the goalie match up. And goalies don’t play against one another. They have to battle the opposition. But you’re talking about two different styles.

Jonathan Quick plays the position like a linebacker. You wouldn’t teach his style at hockey school. Too many kids would end up in the emergency room. And with Henrik Lundqvist, it’s completely the opposite. It’s smooth. It’s silky. It’s appropriate. It’s precise. It’s right on the angle.

It’s just amazing to watch the difference in the two styles. So that’s one of the things I’m really looking forward to watching, is the goalie showdown in this series.

And both fan bases are unbelievably motivated and energized. So I think this has a chance to be one of the best Stanley Cup Finals we’ve seen in a long time and we’ve seen a lot of great finals since nine years ago when NBC started covering it.

 

Keith Jones:  Keith Jones here. For me, it’s the contrasting styles of play for both teams. The LA team is a real physical team but also added some speed to their lineup as they saw their youth come through in the previous round against Chicago, players like Toffoli and Pearson added to the mix.

Very strong team up the middle of the ice, the center ice position. There’s a decided advantage for the LA Kings looking at Kopitar, the superstar center ice man followed up by Jeff Carter, who’s becoming a real star player in the National Hockey League.Mike Richards, the fourth line centerman, we know he’s a pretty accomplished player. To have him back there as your fourth line centerman certainly bodes well. And Jarret Stoll, I thought played fantastic in game seven against Chicago, has shown the ability to really step up.

That’ll be the challenge for the New York Rangers. What the Rangers have done extremely well is shut down players, Claude Giroux in round number one, Crosby in round number two and P.K. Subban, for the most part, in round number three.

They defend really well. They’re built, as Pierre talked about, with an outstanding goal tender in Lundqvist but their back end is underrated, very talented, much like the Chicago Blackhawks.

McDonagh has almost at the level of a Duncan Keith and a (Drew Doughty) and eventually will be. And I think that’s been a real strength for this Rangers team and the speed, especially on the wings, will be a real challenge for some of the LA Kings defenders that aren’t necessarily that fleet of foot. So it should make for a great Stanley Cup Final. Looking forward to it.

 

 Well, Sam, you opened up the can of worms. LA, New York, top two markets. What does it have to – how does the series have to go for it to fulfill the whole notion that the two biggest markets should yield a huge rating – or huge viewership?

Sam Flood:  Every rating is about how long a series goes, so we’re rooting for the opposite team to win each game so we go 1-1, 2-2, 3-3 and then let the best team win Game 7. And then we can talk about the ratings at that point.

 

Quick follow up to the question that was just asked, a question for Sam, and then I have a second question after that for the group. But, you know, it was obviously with the ratings you guys just had for game seven, Chicago, ridiculously fervent following for the Blackhawks.

Probably would’ve been the ideal match up to have them against the Rangers. What are your thoughts, then, on you know, LA versus New York as kind of the next best thing? And is that how you view it or what’s your take on that?

 

Sam Flood:  Well, I think Chicago is well established as a great hockey market for television. And I think LA is a growing market and I think it’s exciting they have this opportunity to have this match up and we can watch hockey grow on the West Coast. It’s going to be wonderful for the long term growth of the NHL.

So in a lot of ways, this is great for the NHL to get LA back in the final so quickly and playing against New York where there’s some built-in distaste between the two cities. Each city thinks they’re the greatest on earth.

 

When Eddie does a game and there’s a goal that’s scored or a big play that happened, it seems like almost instantaneously he’s able to telestrate what happened and give kind of that overall view of what happened on the ice. I wonder what you guys think of Eddie’s ability to do that and the behind the scenes of how that comes about in a given situation.

 

Sam Flood:  Well, from the production side, and Matt Marvin and Tim Nelson, who are listening to Eddie the whole time and they have a system in place where they know where to go and Eddie is constantly on talk-back, hitting the key point where he wants the replay queued to.

And it’s – the guys have been doing it with Eddie for eight years now and everyone knows how to do it. Matt Marvin, who’s producing his first Stanley Cup Final, has been the replay producer since the beginning of the package and knows exactly where to go and how to set things up to get the right replay on the air for Eddie and it works wonderfully.

 

Sorry, you will not be in Chicago. We’ll miss you. But for Sam and Eddie, I’m just kind of getting back to the Chicago rating and the element. Sam, do you have a – I’m just kind of trying to get a sense. We know we have a lot of Hawk fans here, Blackhawk fans, because obviously the ratings were very high. Just trying to get a sense of what your view is, and Eddie too, about whether or not they’re Hawk fans or hockey fans and whether or not the volume of the people who watched the Hawks throughout the playoffs will continue to watch now with – that the Hawks are out of the playoffs and will tune into the Stanley Cup Final. What do you think, guys?

 

 

Sam Flood:  I think we’re seeing much more out of market viewing for hockey over the last few years. And a lot of it has to do with getting out of the tribal notion that hockey fans are just siloed to their team.

I think the creation of wins in that rivalry is one of the things that allowed people to realize you can watch hockey if your team’s not playing and there’s some stuff on the ice that you want to see that’s pretty special.

And this match up with the skill of these two teams and some of the physical side to this game that we’re going to see, is going to be a lot of fun for the audience and I imagine, there’ll be plenty of viewers.

And Boston consumed the last round at a very high level and they were knocked in round two, so it’s good to see that the hockey fan can watch more than just their home team.

 

Eddie Olczyk:  Yes, I think that what is taking place there and with the impact that the Blackhawks have had in the youth hockey community and, you know, I’m just not talking about, you know, young hockey players. I’m talking about, you know, there are guys that skated 11:00, 12:00 at night, guys that get up at 5:00 in the morning and play hockey before they go to work.

I think that you do get a trickledown effect of some diehards that will watch hockey because they are passionate about the game. And I think also, too, as a fan, you see how the team that you just – that just knocked out your team, how they’re going to fair in the Stanley Cup Final and see how they match up against the, you know, the best from the East, as far as the Rangers winning the Eastern Conference.

So I think what’s happened in Chicago, and we see it both on and off the ice, is that you’re just not only having Hawk fans but you’re also having Hawk fans become passionate hockey fans and that – like what Sam said, is they’re going to watch not on the number that we’ve seen.

That’s not going to happen, but I think it is a trickledown effect and the more that you see and the more entertaining hockey that’s played, the more people will continue to make sure that they are watching, you know, the two best teams at least in the playoffs, to find their way through three rounds and get to the Stanley Cup Final.

 

Two questions for Sam. Sam, first of all, you have Game 2 out of the Belmont Stakes and California Chrome’s Triple Crown Run. I’m wondering, first of all, if that was a no-brainer decision once you had – once you knew the schedule, the type of schedule you get in the Final and once a year you’d have a Triple Crown run. And second of all, I’m wondering how you might cross-promote between the Belmont and the game. Are you having Eddie O get a Belmont take during the Belmont?

 

Sam Flood:  Well, we can promise you that Eddie will be heavily engaged in picking who’s going to win who’s going to win the Belmont and I suggest anyone out there with half a brain follows whatever Eddie says because he’s been quite successful with the picks particularly the Preakness this year.

We saw the opportunity and I think you mentioned California Chrome’s going for the Triple Crown on Saturday on NBC, on the air at 4:30 Eastern Time. We’re really excited about it.

It is a big moment in sports. It’s a moment that brings people together, a curious audience and a big audience and we think it’s a wonderful way to expose even more people to the Stanley Cup Final.

So as soon as Chrome pulled the magic in the Preakness, we started talking with the NHL about a way to take advantage of this opportunity to showcase the sport of hockey and to build on what will be an incredible day of programming on NBC.

 

I know you didn’t have Doc for game one. Kenny Albert is someone who’s gotten, I think, more of a presence than he has years past on NBC Sports network. Was he the obvious choice to go forward with game one?

 

Sam Flood:  Well, Kenny just came off the Western Conference Final, so it’s natural to have him come back in and do this. And he’s also worked a number of games during the playoffs with Pierre, so there’s a chemistry there.

And Ed, I believe, you overlapped with Kenny once or twice this year as well. So we think it’s a good place to be and we’re excited that Kenny has this opportunity but we’re all thinking about Doc Emrick, our good friend.

 

Pierre, you kind of let a little bit of a cat out of the bag earlier this morning. I’m just wondering if you could share how many times you’ve interviewed with the Penguins. What – are you under the impression that you’re a finalist? And this is for you or anybody – could – if you’re hired as this job during the Cup Final, are you going to be permitted to continue with your role with NBC?

 

Pierre McGuire: Well first of all (Rob) thanks for the question. Secondly I’ll answer this question once because I think it’s really appropriate to keep the focus on the eyes where it belongs. And that’s the Stanley Cup Final with two unbelievable teams — Los Angeles and New York.

I met with the Pittsburgh Penguins. I talked with the Pittsburgh Penguins but they have a lot of other people. It’s a long list. It’s an attractive job. There are a lot of people in the hockey world that would like to have that position.

Ray Shero, the former General Manager there and his staff did an amazing job building up the infrastructure of the talent with that team. And that’s why think it’s a very appealing job for a lot of people.

In terms of whether I’m a finalist or not I can’t speak for that. I have no concept to that except to tell you this. There are a lot of people that would like that job.

 

I was wondering if I could follow-up with (Sam). (Sam) knowing that his name is out there what do you think that does in terms of attracting even more interest to sort of his role for the Stanley Cup final?

Sam Flood:  I think it changes interest in what he’s doing. Yes maybe some people in Pittsburgh might look at it differently. But for the rest of the country it’s still inside the glass given the insights. And he’ll do all seven games of the final as planned regardless of what happens.

 

A lot of people including the oddsmakers have the Kings big favorites in the series. What has to happen for the Rangers to win the series like if Eddie, Pierre and you can all comment on that?

 

Keith Jones:  For me Lundqvist would be the number one reason if the New York Rangers win the Stanley Cup. He has to be spectacular in this series. I think he’s shown that he has the ability to do just that. I think defensively they’re going to have to have a big series from Staal, Girardi and McDonagh. I think those three players would be the key for Rangers success and I think they’d have to establish their speed game early.

They’ve got some really talented forwards especially on the wings that cannot just get there with their wheels but can cause problems in the offensive zone with the great cutting ability that they have, the wraparound plays, the way that they can make offensive plays down low in the offensive zone below the goal line. I think it’s a big plus for the Rangers. So if they were to win they would have to have those three things come through.

Their discipline has never been a problem so I don’t foresee that being one in this series. And they’ve stayed to the structure their team throughout the first three rounds so I would expect that to continue.

But the number one thing would be Lundqvist and goal coming up with the big saves.

 

Eddie Olczyk:  To me the strength of the Rangers is that their ability and want to score off the rush so meaning move the puck from their defensive zone through the middle of the ice and score right on that official play to the net.

And Jonesy touched on the speed of the Rangers a couple of times here. I think the LA Kings are going to want to take that away and they’re going to force the Rangers to become a dump and chase, a chip and chase type of team. I don’t think that’s their strength.

They did score some goals against Montréal early in the series by grinding it out playing below the goal line in the offensive zone.

But this is a much different animal that being the LA Kings than the Rangers have seen in these playoffs. And I think that the Kings are going to take away the rush game and to see if the Rangers can try to grind it out and score offensively.

I mean to me that really is the series is can the Rangers get enough offense other than off the rush against the LA Kings?

 

Pierre McGuire:  I agree with both Keith and Eddie but I’ll add a couple of other things. I go back to game one of Montréal versus New York. And it was a thumping by the New York Rangers over the Montréal Canadians.

They lit them up. They got seven goals in that game. And the biggest thing that happened is the Montréal Canadians couldn’t bring the enthusiasm and the momentum that they generated with their game seven win over Boston.

I think because Los Angeles has been forced to play three straight games sevens and one that was unbelievably emotional Sunday night in Chicago I have to wonder how much they’re going to have in the tank for one game one.

And plus you compound that with time zone travel and the physical wear and tear I think the Rangers because they finished their series off last Thursday had that kind of physical edge that can carry over to game one.

And if they could ever steal game one and change the whole complexity of the series so that’s something that I’ll be watching for early in game number one and early in the series, the fatigue factor of the Los Angeles Kings with all the carryover from the last three series but particularly the last game seven.

 

Gentlemen if you can address the coaching match ups in this series and if you could also expound on why the Rangers have succeeded so well under Vigneault? Thank you.

 

Eddie Olczyk:  I’ll say with the philosophy change that’s happened with the Rangers Glen Sather deserves a lot of credit with the type of team that he has put together here in the last year plus a much quicker team.

Pierre has touched on it, Jonesy’s talked about it. I think Alain Vigneault has allowed a guy like Ryan McDonagh who was more a defensive specialist prior to this year has been allowed to be an all-around defenseman which has really been a big help when you talk about a guy that’s being on the ice 26, 27, 28 minutes a night.

But the Rangers have that, you know, that depth. They’ve had the emergence of a guy like Chris Kreider. And Rick Nash has played really well in these playoffs.

He might not have the offense of numbers but the work ethic has been second to none in a lot of situations.

I mean Zuccarello and Brassard and Pouloit have been an unbelievable support line in a lot of situations. And you could argue that they’ve been the best line in the playoffs from, you know, or even over the course of the season.

But to me I think that the coaching and the team that has been put together has allowed this team to be a fun watch.

The Rangers aren’t going to grind you out. They’ve got some great role players in Moore and in Boyle but to me is that their strength is their speed game. And that goes hand-in-hand with the philosophy change in coaches and also the type of players assembled by Glen Sather the General Manager.

 

Keith Jones:  I would just add to that he’s a player’s coach. And players like Pouliot are a great example of what Alain Vigneault brings to the table , struggled early in the year. Some questioned whether he would just be bought out or sent down to the minors and Alain Vigneault stayed with him and kept believing in him and he was really struggling.

And then he found a way on that third line with Broussard and Zuccarello to the point where they became, you know, a one A type of line.

But individual players that have, you know, stepped their game up is a great indication of a coach that has a real good touch.

Kreider being another player that even when Vigneault arrived was a question mark on what his role would be with the team. And now Kreider‘s grown into a primetime performer that the LA Kings will have to be well aware of.

I think that’s a big plus for the Rangers the way that he’s handled this team. And he’s now a four-line team coach after, you know, learning in the Stanley Cup final battle with the Boston Bruins which he ultimately lost to Vancouver you figured out there that four lines are really important if you’re going to get there and have something left and be able to bring that physical level of play up.

The Rangers have done that all year. The LA Kings have always done that but it will help the Rangers in this battle with that fourth line contributing.

 

Pierre McGuire:  The one thing about LA — and this is Pierre McGuire — that I really respect is how they dealt with the Marty St. Louis tragedy and the passing of his mother and how it galvanized their team. And I think the coaching staff, the managerial staff Eddie talked about Glen Sather the job’s he done. The Dolan family it was amazing to see what transpired before game number five in the Pittsburgh series when they were down 3-1 and how that moment brought them together.

That’s about communication. It’s about trust. It’s about a group coming together. I thought it was an amazing part of what happened with this Ranger run. I’m down there between the bench as I can tell you as lose as any coach in the league, as communicative with his players as any coach in the league. And he delegates amazingly well to Scotty Arniel on the power play and Ulf Samuelsson on the penalty kill. So it’s been a fun group to watch.

 

Hi guys. Thanks for doing this — appreciate it. Jonesy, do you feel maybe Lundqvist needs to win a cup to be considered the best goalie in Rangers history?

 

Keith Jones:  Yes I do. I think, you know, if you’re looking at Mike Richter, he managed to win the Stanley Cup. So yes there’s no question that if you want to be up there with the all-time greats the Stanley Cup matters. And this will be a big-time challenge for Lundquist in this series against the Kings team that brings an awful lot.

And slowing down one of his former teammates in Marian Gaborik is going to be part of the equation. And I don’t think too many Ranger fans would have been that overly concerned about Gaborik based upon how he played as a Ranger.

But for me if Lundqvist wants to be the best ever in the Stanley Cup I think is right up there in helping him get to that great achievement.

 

Eddie Olczyk: The one thing I will say an add-on to what Jonesy is talking about is there seems to be this — I don’t even know what the word is — that over the course of these playoffs how it’s developed it was this talking about how Henrik Lundqvist has vindicated himself or whatever from getting out of that 3-1 hole Pierre talked about against Pittsburgh, and then getting into the Montréal series.

I mean this guy let’s make it perfectly clear, this guy has carried the Rangers franchise for the last seven years. He has had not a lot of help offensively. This has been a team that has tried to win games 2 to 1 not having a lot of offense ability.

I’ll say this about Gaborik he had two 40 goal seasons for the Rangers. He was the guy. I think he’s in a perfect situation where he now is a support guy for the first time in his career with the LA Kings.

But Henrik Lundqvist has carried this franchise for the last handful of years. That – he hasn’t been playing in front of the LA Kings or the Chicago Blackhawks or the Pittsburgh Penguins.

His team has been good but he’s been off the charts. And he is one of the top three goaltenders in my opinion in the National Hockey League whether he wins or not. But to me anybody that thinks that, you know, for to look at Henrik Lundqvist a little bit differently because he’s gotten to the Stanley Cup Final, OK, I can understand that.

But this guy has been as good as any guy over the course of the last seven years. I mean just look at the teams that he’s played so-called in front of. The numbers are pretty impressive when you look at it.

 

Pierre what if anything do you feel is different about the Kings team this year than the one that won the cup a couple years ago?

 

Pierre McGuire:  Mike I really think Tyler Toffoli out of the Ottawa 67’s organization and Tanner Pearson out of Barrie Colts’ organization are two things that have changed the dynamic of this team unbelievably when it comes to pure offense and manufacturing off the rush off the cycle insulating Jeff Carter at center.

There’s been a lot of question whether Jeff Carter should be a wing or a centerman. But he can play center with those two kids because they got a lot of get up and go.

Pearson may be one of the most improved skaters coming out of junior. He was not a highly regarded skater but he’s really improved his skating.

Toffoli could always score. I think those two kids have changed a lot of it. But the other thing is that the developed play of Alec Martinez, the developed play of Jake Muzzin, both those guys have taken their games to other levels that they weren’t at before.

So you’ve got four players basically that have changed I think a lot of how the Los Angeles Kings approach things.

 

END