Posts Tagged ‘Colorado Avalanche’

December 16th, 2010

Some Thoughts on 24/7 Penguins Capitals: The Road to the NHL Winter Classic

I just finished watching the first episode of 24/7 Penguins Capitals: The Road to the NHL Winter Classic for the second time, and I’m already planning on watching it again.

Yes my friends, the show is that good, and if you’re a hockey fan who doesn’t already have HBO, you need to get in touch with your cable or satellite provider right now to address that oversight. If anything, episode one consistently exceeded my expectations. The cable outlet has another breakout winner on its hands, and the NHL should be thanking whatever god they pray to for being along for the ride.

The moment that kicked the show into overdrive for me was during Pittsburgh’s road trip to Buffalo, footage that was backed musically by the 70s hit, "Right Back Where We Started From," by Maxine Nightingale. It was an obvious nod to every hockey fan’s favorite film, "Slap Shot," and one that sent the message that the folks doing the series love and respect the game as much as its most ardent fans—a welcome change from the message national media outlets usually telegraph when it comes to their feelings about the game.

It was great to see hockey treated in a manner that we usually see reserved for other major sports. My colleague at The TV News, Jeff Grimshaw, says the key to shooting hockey for television is to eschew the traditional "eye in the sky" view for tight shots on the action, and HBO seems to understand that implicitly. So while you may have watched hockey in HD, few have ever seen it like this, which means while this series is a great reason to subscribe to HBO, it’s an even better reason to buy an HDTV if you don’t already have one.

But while it’s impossible to ignore what I saw last night, it was what I heard that couldn’t help but warm my heart. Sure, there have been plenty of times when players have been wired for sound during a game, but those audio tracks have usually been sanitized for a family audience. That’s not the case with 24/7. Instead, we get to eavesdrop on fights, meltdowns on the bench and players cursing under their breath after enduring a locker room tirade. We’ve always known that Washington winger Alex Ovechkin had a wicked sense of humor, but he kicked his reputation to a whole new level last night. After an official explained that teammate Alexander Semin had drawn blood after cross-checking Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles in the neck, a horrible lapse in judgment that earned Semin a game misconduct, Ovechkin deadpanned, "He (Liles) must have sensitive skin."

Considering his team was in the midst of a 12-game winning streak at the time, I’m not surprised that Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma was depicted as cool, cerebral and in control. Then again, through the lens of HBO, it was hard not to come away with the impression that Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau’s stock had crashed out of the NASDAQ and into the pink sheets.

That impression crystallized while watching footage of Sunday’s 7-0 loss against the Rangers. With his team down 3-0, Boudreau called timeout during the second period in order to rally his troops. After berating the team for demonstrating a lack of courage and strafing them with a string of F bombs, Boudreau wrapped up his rant with, "Let’s get our fucking asses out of our heads," a line that can only be described as "bass ackwards." One can’t help but wonder what Boudreau’s players thought of his malaprop.

After one episode, we have our storyline: one one side we have the Penguins, a team that already has a title, riding high and feeling confident. On the other, we have the struggling Caps, a team with a well established reputation for failing when it matters most, struggling to get things back on track.

After taking it all in, it’s impossible not to wonder how the show is playing inside each organization, especially here in Washington. In the past, if the Caps stumbled into a losing streak, the media attention would be negative, but not nearly as searing as it would be in a more rabid hockey market. But now, with expectations of success and television cameras recording their every move, ending the losing streak has become more imperative then ever before. Washington had a chance to alter the narrative last night, but still found a way to lose to Anaheim at home, 2-1 in overtime.

With six days left before the next episode airs, Washington has three chances to alter the storyline: first on Saturday in Boston, on Sunday in Ottawa and back home again against the Devils on Tuesday. As the losses continue to pile up, and the gap between Washington and the rest of the pack in the Southeast Division tightens, you have to start wondering whether or not collars are going to begin to tighten in Washington’s executive suite too. Stay tuned.