After what’s been a surprising postseason, the NHL’s Stanley Cup Final is set. The Washington Capitals return to the Cup following a 20-year wait, still in search of their first victory. And opposite them is a team that wasted no time at all making it to the championship round. The Vegas Golden Knights, in their first season of existence, are now just four wins away from securing a title.
But the Caps and Knights didn’t just win their respective conference championships on the way here. They also won in terms of emotional reactions (ERs).
According to emotion measurement company Canvs, both teams and their players were all over Twitter conversations during the Eastern and Western Conference Finals. The Capitals were the most popular topic of all during the games, with 22,642 mentions (13.5% of the total for both series combined), while Vegas was second with 9.5%. Vanquished opponents the Tampa Bay Lightning (5.3%) and Winnipeg Jets (1.9%) weren’t all that close to as high when looking at the topics most responsible for Twitter conversation.
Extending out even further, Washington and Vegas’s players also performed well versus those of the Lightning and Jets. Capitals star Alex Ovechkin was the fifth-most popular topic from the conference finals, and Golden Knights’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was seventh overall. Of the 10 most mentioned players, eight play for either Vegas or Washington.
The most popular topics are not a substitute for audience ratings and viewership. However, it’s a measure to see what aspects of (in this case) the playoffs are guiding social media conversation — one of the prevailing ways audiences discuss live television today. In the case of sports programming where the outcome is in doubt, you can hope the most compelling narratives continue to be pulled through, but there are no guarantees. For scripted series, this data allows for new insights around how audiences perceive characters, storylines and other elements of a program.
In the case of this Stanley Cup Final, it appears that the NHL got what it wanted — at least when looking at the four teams in question and the conversation they were able to generate. Washington and Vegas were also popular all the way back in the first round of the playoffs. The two teams were the third- and sixth-largest drivers then, according to Canvs.
With a host of interesting narratives, including two teams both vying for their first championships, it could mean yet another round of the Capitals and Knights generating significant conversation, starting Monday, May 28 on NBC.