Saturday, December 25, 2010

Review: 24/7 Episode 2

Screencap courtesy of

As the second episode of the 24/7 Pens/Caps series opened, we see Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis sitting in the hotel, watching "NHL On the Fly" on the NHL Network. Sid proceeds to describe his November fight with Dallas' Matt Niskanen. This is a pretty funny moment, and in some ways, Sid seems kind of nerdy on camera. Not uncomfortable, but his personality seems like the type of person that isn't aware of how funny they are.

From there the episode follows a very similar format and surely will for the remaining two weeks. We are introduced to some new people, and find ourselves viewing new situations.  There are locker rooms, coach meetings, road trips, practices, families, and some intersting off the ice stuff. By the end of the episode, I found myself disappointed that time was up. I wanted more. There's so much I would like to see or expand upon, but an hour can only hold so much.

From a coaching standpoint, we see more interaction by Washington Coach Bruce Boudreau and his team. His tune is similar, and for most of the episode the team's fate is as well. In the last segment, the Caps finally break their losing streak. Before then we see a very telling moment. The Caps are down 2-0 to the Senators at intermission. For the first time in this series, Boudreau's words seem to have an impact on the players. He tells them simply that "they don't want anything bad to happen" and that "too many of us like it here". He isn't lamenting the rumors that he could be jettisoned as head coach. He's talking about any of them with the exception of Alexander Ovechkin. When a hockey team doesn't lift their nose out of a funk, people start to go. Not just coaches, player too. Friends/brothers/teammates.

In Washington, the man in charge of those personnel decisions is GM George McPhee. We get our first interaction with him. Frankly, he doesn't seem to light up a room. His words seems flat and cliched. When Boudreau and he meet to discuss previous games, it seems more like people shootin' the breeze than it does people with a purpose. A moment that caught my ear was McPhee denouncing critics of the team and front office as if all of them are mornons. If they "knew anything about hockey", they'd be involved in the game in his words. Respectfully, I disagree George. It would be like dismissing someone that rebuilds cars as a hobby, because they aren't an auto-worker. You can have passions in life that aren't your living. In fact, I dare say, for most of us our passions have nothing to do with our livings. If anything though, this shows the pressure building around McPhee and the Caps. I would contend that it doesn't matter much what happens until the playoffs. But another failure in the spring, and both Boudreau and McPhee likely will find themselves in need of a knew place to practice their knowledge of the sport.

From the Penguins side, we see interactions between Dan Bylsma and Tony Granato. Granato seems to censor himself in discuss Dupuis' performance, but he and Bylsma agree to talk to him. They seem displeased with his output on a line with Crosby. He also discussing Malkin having trouble with the difference between "defending a teammate" and "making the right play".

In Bylsma's case, a glimpse is offered in to his family life. We meet his wife and son, and see him playing hockey with his son. He's just having fun, and "not his coach" as he makes it clear to the cameras.  Family is a recurring theme with the Penguins it seems. We also see Craig Adams and his kids. They are looking at some photos of the players on the team, with each being named by the child. After a few the kid says "Craig", to which Adams replies, "you mean daddy?".

Then there's some time seeing Alexander Ovechkin's home life. It consists of him and his parents. I think it's part joke, part difference in culture when he says someday he'll find a wife and live with her but for now it's them because he's not going to cook or clean. It would be interesting to hear them talk a bit. What an interesting story it is for two Cold-War era parents from Moscow to live with their son as the toast of Washington DC.

A highlight of the episode for many will the appearance of Pens Owner and Legend, Mario Lemieux. He doesn't appear the least bit rusty during the scrimmage at Consol Energy Center. Not very surprising that after 5 years not playing in a game, he can still dangle the puck around anyone he wants to with that long reach.

At the end of the day, this show is about the present day players though. There's plenty of practice rink and locker room time in this episode. We see Caps D Mike Green working his way back from injury, and owning a Vespa. I think the series' oddest moment has been sewn up. I'm not sure what anyone could do to be stranger than this. During a game in Boston, Caps Alternate Captain Mike Knuble lets the team know that this game "will not turn in to a laugher". Seems like everyone in that room believed him. This moment made me realize something we haven't seen yet...either team's Captain say much of anything in a locker room setting. To me this is peculiar. I realize both Ovie and Sid lead by example and all that, but I always thought wearing the "C" meant more than on-ice performance or work ethic. It's for guys with the respect of the room and the sack to say what needs to be said at any given moment. Maybe we'll catch a glimpse of this yet from either side. I would love to see what these guys do in terms of the diry work required for their "C". So far we've seen Ovechkin's massages and Crosby's superstiations. Maybe next week.

Off-ice hijinx continues as well, with Penguin Matt Cooke going in to the Coyotes dressing room to tamper with former Penguin Paul Bissonette's gear. As the Caps embark on a road trip, there's also some silliniess going on at a team dinner with "shoe checking" and lobster heads.

The in game content has become suprisingly non-descript in the second episode, in my opinion. After the first, I found myself wanting more. This week, I find myself realizing you're only going to get so much out of the context of a game. A new element was introduced though, the referees. We hear more of what they say during post-whistle scrums and fights. Bill McCreary chides Mike Green for swearing at him about what he thought was a missed high stick. We also see inside the referees dressing room after a controversial call in the Penguins game. Steven Walkom is congratulated by the linesmen for a gutsy call. Rather than re-hash this call, I will say that the refs and linesman have  a tough job night in and night out. I'm not a big believer in whining about refereeing. The fact of the matter is if you put yourself in a situation where one call makes or breaks you, you probably didn't do your job.

Our second hour glimpse behind the curtain has now came and went. The next episode promises to have some quality in-game audio from a spirited contest between these teams at the Verizon Center. If the first two episodes are any indication, we will be checking the clock and wishing for more. Hard to think that there are only two more episodes of this excellence. It's going to be hard to shut the curtain and not get to look back in for the rest of the season. Give HBO plenty of credit for that, but also give these teams and the NHL a doff of the cap for having the sack to allow them in.

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