Capitals owner miffed by back-to-back schedule
Three events in eight days at Mellon Arena required the NHL to schedule the Capitals and Penguins to play Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series in Pittsburgh on Friday night and Game 5 at the Verizon Center in Washington on Saturday.
"You don't want to play back-to-back," Capitals general manager George McPhee said. "Neither team wanted it."
The teams are playing every other day during the series except for the back-to-back games. Normally, the teams would have played Friday in Pittsburgh, Sunday in Washington and Tuesday (if necessary) in Pittsburgh, but the Yanni concert conflict ruled out Tuesday.
Instead, Game 6 would be played Monday night in Pittsburgh, the third game between the teams in four days.
A WWE wrestling event this past Tuesday and a Dane Cook show on Thursday in Pittsburgh also factored into the NHL schedule.
"It is a shame that both teams will have to play back to back games ... because the Pittsburgh building -- against NHL rules -- booked a series of concerts and forced the league to alter the playoff schedule," Leonsis wrote recently on his blog, Ted's Take. "This is bad for the league, both fan bases and for the players.
"The playoffs are very intense and physical and players need time to recoup. No one is advantaged by playing back to back games so no one can complain but it is unfortunate that the Yanni concert takes precedence over high quality NHL playoff hockey."
There have been no other back-to-back games so far in the first two rounds of the NHL playoffs, although they have occurred fairly regularly in past years. Last season, teams played on back-to-back days five times.
Two years ago, the Penguins and Senators played first-round games on successive days in Ottawa and Pittsburgh.
"We agree with Ted Leonsis and the Capitals that it is unfortunate when you have to play back-to-back in the playoffs," Penguins CEO Ken Sawyer said in a statement issued by the team. "However, it has happened before, it is sometimes unavoidable, and it impacts both teams equally. The NHL has to consider building availability and national television preferences when making the playoff schedule."
"We saw the schedule," Crosby, the Penguins captain, said Friday. "That's the way it is."
Leonsis has a reason to dislike playing two games in two days. Last season, the Capitals played on successive days in their first-round series against Philadelphia and lost Game 7 in Washington, 3-2 in overtime, a day after winning Game 6 on the road.
The Penguins' Max Talbot said he didn't think it was a big deal.
"Whatever teams wins (Game 4) will have the momentum going into Game 5, which is good," he said. "I like it."
According to NBC's Web site, the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals are scheduled for Friday, June 5 and Saturday, June 6, although -- unlike the Capitals-Penguins games -- they would be played in the same city. NBC is televising all but two games in the finals.