Thu Dec 16 09:18am EST
Thanks to Sidney Crosby's(notes) mustache, the BBQ or wing or tomato sauce on Washington Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau's mouth was only the second most revolting thing found on someone's face during an HBO 24/7 interview. But rather than embarrassing, it was completely within character.
To those who wagered Boudreau would be the breakout star in HBO's "24/7 Penguins Capitals: The Road To the NHL Winter Classic," congratulations are in order. He was funny. He was charming. He dropped more F-bombs than a Lil' Wayne mix tape, making New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan's "Hard Knocks" performance look like a Ned Flanders impression by comparison. He was the fat coach who bitched about the HBO cameras being in the room as he kept one hand in his pants like Al Bundy watching a Bears game.
The worst stretch of NHL regular-season hockey for Boudreau was the best thing to happen to HBO.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, after all, were in the midst of a 12-game winning streak when this was filmed, so they were all smiling faces and Christmas parties and rookie pranks and mustache-growing contests. Without the Capitals' seven-game winless streak and Boudreau's off-the-charts frustrations, this show might have felt as edgy as a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie ... with lots of cursing and sporadic blood.
Instead, it was a hell of an hour of hockey, unfiltered and mesmerizing.
This Week on 24/7
The opening image of the series? Dirty laundry.
It was tumbling around in a washing machine as part of
montage that established what this series will give us: The hockey we don't
see, from angles we're not used to. We watch as two arena workers open the
doors to the rink from the Zamboni's perspective. The hell? Aren't all the
cameras usually out there?
The rest of the opening is prologue. Establishing the franchises. Establishing Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin(notes) as their stars, and Boudreau and Dan Bylsma as their coaches. Establishing the Winter Classic.
Then we get "Intro" by The XX on the soundtrack, setting the scene for our first bit of dressing room and on-ice action for the Penguins against the Toronto Maple Leafs -- highlighted by a Deryk Engelland(notes)/Colton Orr fight that features mic'd up audio and stitches in HD. Gross.
The Penguins' narrative in this episode was in a different trajectory than the Capitals'. They're the ones having fun: Matt Cooke's(notes) status as Mustache Boy for having lost a practice shootout, and the mantle being passed to Paul Martin(notes); Pascal Dupuis(notes) interacting with his family; little kids, and big ones like Max Talbot(notes), having fun at a holiday party; and, when the Pens hit the road, hijinks with some of their rookie players at the team hotel:
But overall, the Capitals are portrayed as a powder keg of pressure to win a championship and turn around their regular-season fortunes. A Boudreau locker-room rant during a loss to the Florida Panthers was scathing, featuring a profane speech that began: "I have never a seen a bunch of a guys look so [expletive] down when things aren't going right."
The dramatic climax to the episode was the loss to the Rangers, which featured both a classic Boudreau rant, an Ovechkin fight and assistant coach Dean Evason yelling, "When are you guys gonna grab your [expletive] sack and do something about it?"
The contrast in Episode 1 couldn't be clearer: The Penguins have the life the Capitals want. They're happy and healthy; the Caps are frustrated and ill. They're high on success; the Caps hang their heads after their opponents score a single goal.
It'll be interesting to see where HBO goes with the Penguins now that they've hit some adversity. As for Washington, this is either the start of a redemption story or a team caught mid-death spiral.
F-Bomb Count: Our count was 66, but Capitals Outsider claims it's 68.
Nudity Report: One Penguin buttocks, belonging to Engelland and seen in the distance before Matt Cooke shaves his 'Stache.
Hockey Geek Moment: HBO played "Get Right Back Where We Started" during a Penguins road trip montage -- a song that was basically the theme for "Slap Shot."
Money Quote, Capitals:
"Call timeout ... we're looking [expletive] defeated! We're looking [expletive] defeated right now! Show some [expletive] courage and play the game properly! You'll score three [expletive] goals if you do! I'm [expletive] sick and tired of losing. Let's [expletive] get our asses outta our heads!"
-- Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau, during a timeout in a game against the New York Rangers. The Rangers would score again soon after en route to a 7-0 rout.
Money Quote, Penguins:
"I want for Christmas your two little helpers."
-- Max Talbot and Santa Claus, during a Penguins holiday party.
3. Dan Bylsma,
Penguins. Disco Dan came off great in the first episode, dropping a few
F-bombs while seeming like the most genuine and awesome dude in the face of the
2. Matt Cooke, Penguins. Yes, as much as it pains all of his, he was charming during his Mustache Boy bit and his child speared Talbot during the holiday skate, which was hilarious.
1. Bruce Boudreau, Capitals. If you disagree, you really need to get your ass outta your head.
Next Week: The Penguins battle the Philadelphia Flyers while we get a glimpse at the adventures of Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin.