January 09, 2011
The four-episode epic that was "HBO 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: The Road To The NHL Winter Classic" is over; but as Bruce Boudreau might say, "The [expletive] memories [expletive] remain, you [expletive]."
Here are Puck Daddy's 24 greatest things about "HBO 24/7 Penguins/Capitals," a television program that showed us the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, referees, potty mouths and eye injuries in an entirely new light.
In a game against the Colorado Avalanche, Alex Semin is ejected after cross-checking John-Michael Liles in the face and cutting him. Alex Ovechkin(notes) goes to the referees for an explanation and builds Semin's case for innocence by saying of Liles, "Well, he probably has sensitive skin, no?" (Video here.) Liles addressed the scene on Puck Daddy Radio last month.
22. "Right Back Where We Started From."
"24/7" was full was inspired musical cues, like using "The Black Parade" by My Chemical Romance under a preview of the Classic. None made puckheads geek out more than when Maxine Nightingale's "Right Back Where We Started From" played during a Penguins' road trip montage in Episode 1; a callback to the song being the unofficial theme for "Slap Shot."
21. Emo McPhee
The lighting, the frank demeanor, his general appearance ... every time they interviewed Capitals GM George McPhee, it looked like a deleted scene from some long lost U.K. goth pop video from the 1980s. Our suggested casting for "HBO 24/7: The Movie"? Gabriel Byrne.
A glorious monstrosity he wore to a Penguins holiday family skate, made all the more memorable when he tried to make Santa his wing man in picking up an attractive "helper." Runner Up: Whatever the hell Brent Johnson was wearing here. (Image via Lollyknit on Flickr.)
19. Bruce Boudreau's
Appetite for Ice Cream
Boudreau and his children go shopping for mom on what we're led to believe is Christmas Eve morning, and at 10:30 a.m. Boudreau has a craving for Haagen-Dazs. For a man who gave us more than a few memorable lines in the show, "I smell food" could take the cake.
An unexpected breakout star for the Pens, from our glimpses into his home life to his hanging with Sidney Crosby(notes) on the road to his now-legendary greeting to Evgeni Malkin(notes) at Penguins practice. (Immortalized on this NSFW-SERIOUSLY-BAD-WORD shirt.)
17. The Hotel Prank
The Penguins veterans prank the youngsters, whom we find are powerless in attempting retribution.
16. Bruce Boudreau's Saucy Mouth
It's gotten to the point where we're wondering if this ketchup/wing sauce/pasta gravy was actually part of the pre-interview makeup applied by HBO. "No, honey, he needs more condiment..."
Ben Lovejoy of the Penguins suffered an eye injury after taking a puck to the face. The doctors said air pressure might affect it; they were right, as his face blew up like that poor girl in "Cloverfield". Crosby's reaction to this was priceless, giving him a look that screamed "WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOUR FAAAAACE?!"
The older player on the Capitals was recast as one of the team's better leaders with a locker room speech that went like this during a game against the Boston Bruins:
"It will not [expletive] turn into a 5-0, 7-0 [expletive] laugher where they're [expletive] giggling getting out of their [expletive] mess here. We're [expletive] down 3-0, and we are going to come back and were gonna [expletive] win this thing. We're not [expletive] going in the tank. That's enough right there. That's [expletive] more than a year's worth. It's not going to happen again."
There was also a visit to the dentist that reinforced his toughness. Ouch.
The Penguins goalie was a profane chatterbox during their practice at Heinz Field, mocking his teammates and talking trash as they battled in a shootout. This bit was too R-rated for us to include here, so just picture this with a Def Comedy Jam's worth of potty-mouth insults:
12. Mario Skates!
If hockey owns even a bit of your soul, then seeing Mario Lemieux back on the ice against Penguins coaches and employees was a fanboy moment to cherish ... even if it did lead to some people actually claiming he could play today. Because, you know, edited footage on a cable show tells us so much. (See: Crosby, concussion.)
Memorable on-ice moment in the Capitals' game against the New York Rangers, as emotions boil over and Ovechkin gets into a mic'd up fight with Brandon Dubinsky:
Off the ice, he's a family man who wears matching suits with his young son, who plays pranks on opposing players like BizNasty and participates in mustache growing contests. On the ice, and in the Winter Classic, he was an irredeemable pest who drove referees insane and instigated the only "M-F bomb" of the series from John Erskine of the Capitals.
9. The Capitals Beat Dat Beat Up
Washington celebrates victory by hilariously fist-pumping to DJ Pauly D. Read the DC Sports Bog investigation into its origins.
8. The Winter Classic Pregame Montage
A remixed "Star Spangled Banner" and a montage that summarizes all the major players in the series up to that point. Great editing and a perfect lead-in to the game.
7. Dan Bylsma
Did anyone's stock rise higher than Bylsma's in this series? He came off as a smart, analytical coach; as an even-tempered motivator in the locker room; as a great father. Total star-making moment for Bylsma, in the sense that he may have opened more eyes here than he did when he won the Cup.
6. Inside the War Room
During a disputed goal in the Capitals/Penguins game, HBO gave us a total-access look at the process from the ice to the War Room in Toronto. Awesome stuff.
5. Sidney Crosby
Here's what "24/7" did for Sidney Crosby: It humanized him.
Too often he's been defined as a progeny or "the chosen one" or someone who shies away from emotion during interviews. HBO made him one of the boys, hanging out watching hockey highlights in a hotel room or playing games on team flights. It opened his mic on the ice so fans could hear him (a) talk like we do and (b) exhibit a candor we've never heard during his guarded interviews. It showed us he needs to eat the same kind of peanut butter and jelly sandwich before every game; and really, who can't relate to obsessive compulsion?
Whether you like Sid more or less because of "24/7" is beside the point. We didn't learn anything we didn't know about Ovechkin; this show gave us another side of Crosby, and we're not sure that was anticipated beforehand.
If there's one image that sums up the brutal beauty of professional hockey, it's this.
3. The Refs Are Actually Human, Sorta Cool
The all-access footage from the games allowed HBO to present officials in a new light: As down-to-earth, blue-collar dudes who talk smack and drink beer after the game. The between whistles stuff with players made us wish the NHL would mic up the refs every game.
2. Bruce Boudreau's Crudely Inventive Palette of Profanity
The man cursed. A lot. He even cursed when he was trying to pay his team a compliment. For the amount of profanity that emerged from Boudreau during the series -- and we'd wager it was about 60 percent of all F-bombs -- the Capitals coach had to offer a variation or two on the traditional potty mouth chatter. Our favorite: "You really need to get your ass outta your head!"
1. The 26 Minutes of Penguins vs. Capitals
Finally, the best part of "HBO 24/7": The all-access, tightly edited, exhilarating coverage of the Penguins/Capitals game in December. It blew away the Classic for drama and storylines. It was, simply put, the sort of revolutionary thing we hoped to see in this series -- and pray to see again.