NBC knew the Stanley Cup Final would be a ratings challenge after the Devils ousted the Rangers in the semifinals.

The network also knew it would be hurt going against the NBA’s conference finals most nights. Normally the finals of the NBA and NHL alternate days. Not so in this lockout-delayed basketball season.

What NBC and the NHL did not anticipate was the Kings getting off to a 3-0 series lead while both NBA conference finals turned into long, compelling ratings-grabbers.

The good news was the Devils avoided a sweep by winning Wednesday. Then came Thursday: The Heat beat the Celtics, forcing a Game 7 and ensuring an NBA-dominated ratings onslaught Saturday night when the numbers come in.

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