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Playoff television ratings soar after first two nights of postseason

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

Did you love watching the first two nights of the playoffs? You weren't alone.

For the first time, each first-round game is being broadcast nationally and it's paying off for NBC. The opening two nights produced some of the best ratings hockey has seen in 10 years. Overall, viewership in the States was up 34 percent on the first two nights.

The networks were a little blessed with the first-round matchup between the Penguins and Flyers. Clearly that's the money-making series in the first round. Compared to last year's opening telecast on Versus (now NBC Sports Network), viewership was up an astounding 83 percent. That was the game producing the best mark in a decade, including the years ESPN broadcast the NHL playoffs.

Just don't think it's all about that Flyers-Penguins series making the numbers higher. Night two, when there were only three games, was also up compared to last year. Courtesy of Puck the Media, here are the individual numbers for the three games on Thursday and how they compare to similar slots last year.

2012: Washington vs. Boston, 576,000.
2011: Washington vs. Montreal, 510,000.

2012: Chicago vs. Phoenix, 499,000
2011: Los Angeles vs. San Jose, 381,000.

And while the Sharks and Blues game didn't have a comparable measure to last season with more national games this year, its 320,000 was not far behind the 336,000 that checked out Game 1 of Red Wings and Predators, also shown on CNBC.

Even better? That doesn't take into account how the local broadcasts did. Those scored big numbers in the first couple of nights, too.

Whenever I see numbers like this and they continue to trend up it makes me hope and pray that the NHL doesn't lose any momentum it has been building and fans it has regained with another work stoppage this offseason. Because slowly but surely, the fans are tuning into hockey in the States again.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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