Kevin Shattenkirk Capitals NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 28: Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the Washington Capitals speaks at a press conference prior to his first game with the team against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on February 28, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Washington Capitals’ general manager Brian MacLellan has said only a championship will make their season successful following their big acquisition of defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, and now NBCSN has decided at the eleventh hour to cover the start of the Shattenkirk era and the Capitals’ push for a Stanley Cup. NBC announced Tuesday afternoon that they’d added coverage of Washington’s road game against the New York Rangers Tuesday night (7 p.m. Eastern), Shattenkirk’s first in a Capitals’ uniform, and that they’ll feature that game on NBCSN in most markets, with only Denver and a few other markets receiving the originally-scheduled Avalanche-Flyers game (also at 7 p.m. Eastern). Here are the details on what’s going where from their release:

  • Nationally, most viewers will receive Capitals-Rangers on NBCSN;
  • Select markets will receive the originally-scheduled Avs-Flyers game on NBCSN;
  • Denver will receive Avs-Flyers on NBCSN;
  • Philadelphia, Washington, and New York will receive their local team on their respective regional sports networks, as originally scheduled, across all distributors;
  • DirecTV subscribers will receive Avs-Flyers on NBCSN (220), and Capitals-Rangers on the NBCSN alternate feed (220-1);
  • AT&T subscribers will receive Capitals-Rangers;
  • Dish subscribers will receive Avs-Flyers;
  • Both games will be streamed on and the NBC Sports app.

It’s interesting that Dish subscribers are still getting Avs-Flyers and that Avs-Flyers is given the more prominent placing on DirecTV, as just about everywhere else is going to be Capitals-Rangers. That’s a move that makes sense on an importance level, too, even without Shattenkirk’s debut; the Capitals lead the league with 89 points, but the Rangers are sixth (and fourth in the Eastern Conference, and currently holding a wild-card spot) with 82 points, and they’ve won both of their games against Washington so far this year.

Meanwhile, Flyers-Avalanche is much less relevant nationally given how this season’s played out. Colorado is dead-last in the league with just 37 points (second-worst Arizona has 51), while Philadelphia is 21st with 63. The Flyers still have playoff hopes, and they’re six points out of a wild-card spot with 21 games to go, but there are three teams between them and that last spot too.

It makes sense for NBCSN to make this switch and feature Capitals-Rangers, even at the last minute, and it may help continue NBC Sports’ recent hockey momentum; the Flyers-Penguins Stadium Series game on NBC Saturday was their most-watched regular-season NHL game ever (non-Winter Classic division) with an average of 1.9 million viewers, and they drew 594,000 to NBCSN Sunday for Blues-Blackhawks, that network’s most-watched non-exclusive regular-season telecast in nearly a year (Capitals-Penguins last March 20 drew 648,000).

It’s unlikely Tuesday night’s game will do quite as well, especially with it starting while many outside the Eastern time zone are still at work, but Capitals-Rangers should outdraw what they’d get for Flyers-Avalanche, even with the late scheduling change. While this does feed in to some of the criticisms they’ve faced about featuring the teams with the biggest fanbases more, they do have to do some of that to keep things profitable, and it’s not so bad when those teams are doing well in the standings and worthy of the coverage on their merits.  Credit to NBC for finding a way to get an important game on the air nationally.

[NBC Sports Group Press Box]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.