After a thrilling game seven win by the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, the first round of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs are over. And given the excitement that the postseason usually creates for fans, we wanted to investigate the individual games, teams and players that were driving the conversation around the NHL on social media so far.
That’s where we turn to emotion measurement company Canvs, which compiles Emotional Reactions (ERs) on Twitter during each U.S. broadcast. Fans of all 16 teams — yes, even the Canada-based Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs — had plenty to share about the games, though some had stronger reactions than others.
A total of 388,397 ERs have been generated over the course of 41 NHL playoff games so far, with traditional fan bases seemingly leading the way. Game 1 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers drove the most ERs of any first round game, with 37,522 — with positive reactions like “love” (21.3%), “enjoy” (16.2%), “crazy” (15%) and “excited” (10.1%) leading the way there. Below is a rundown of the top ERs from that contest, which aired on NBC Sports Network.
Other games in the all-Pennsylvania series also ranked highly in terms of total ERS. Pittsburgh’s Game 6 win over the Flyers was the only other first round broadcast to top 30,000 ERs (30,562) and Games 2, 3 and 4 were also among the top five in terms of driving ERs. The Penguins-Flyers series generated the highest number of total ERs for any first round series (122,272), plus the highest per-game average (20,379).
Despite the Penguins and Flyers series a lot of the ERs (nearly one-third of the total), it ended up being the Bruins that were the top individual driver. Boston drove 17,310 ERs over the seven-game series with Toronto, which was 4.4% of total ERs in the first round. Left winger Brad Marchand was the third-highest player in terms of ERs, with 2,814 total. Pittsburgh stars Sydney Crosby (4,522) and Evgeni Malkin (3,924) were the leaders there.
This highlights how traditional fan bases (and the teams they support) are such a key part of the NHL’s viewership. Eight of the top 10 games in terms of ERs came from the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia series (five games) and Boston-Toronto (three games). The latter, a matchup between “Original Six” clubs drives home the point around the interest these traditional teams/markets/fans generate. The top six players in terms of ERs were also from those two series.
Fans were not shying away from the other series either, though, and surprisingly it was the expansion Vegas Golden Knights that ranked highly in terms of ERs. Boston and Toronto (10,042) were understandably tops on that front, but Vegas (3,478) was actually third in terms of ERs of any NHL team during the first round. The Golden Knights’ four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Kings ended up averaging 9,486 ERs per game (third-highest figure of any series).
The Washington Capitals‘ six-game series win over the Columbus Blue Jackets was the fourth-highest in terms of ERs per game (7,599), and both teams were among the top 25 individual ER drivers during the first round. While he didn’t necessarily motivate ERs during this series, Caps future hall-of-famer Alex Ovechkin is also a major draw for casual fans.
Looking forward to the second round, the Capitals-Penguins series would project to be the league’s major ER driver of those four matchups. As mentioned, both clubs were part of series that generated high ER numbers in round one, and the teams and players involved also ranked highly when looking at individual ER drivers. Boston, which faces the Tampa Bay Lightning in round two, also projects to be near the top of the list once again.
Moving all games to NBC and NBCSN in round two may also provide a spike in ERs around all games, regardless of teams. Round one games were split between six networks, including NBC, NBCSN, USA, NHL Network, Golf Channel and CNBC. During the first round, NBCSN games drove nearly two-thirds of all ERs. NBC was second at about 19% of the total.