Thu Dec 22 04:24am EST
(Ed. Note: This review contains spoilers.)
The theme for Episode 2 of "HBO 24/7 Flyers Rangers: Road To NHL Winter Classic": relationships.
Like the one between a father and a son; between a coach and his players; between teammates on the road; between referees and the coaches and players; between professionals and their fans.
Oh, and between a goalie and a tennis superstar; and another goalie and his Siberian Husky, whom he considers to be like a hot blonde woman. More on that in a bit …
These bonds drove the narrative for an inconsistent but entertaining sophomore effort that suffered from bad timing: The material on Claude Giroux's injury and its impact on the Flyers was undermined by his return to the lineup on Wednesday night in a 4-point effort. D'oh.
If anything, Episode 2 suffered by focusing too much off the ice. It's not that the material wasn't compelling; it's just that the most candid and honest material is always going to emerge from the action on the ice and in the locker room — as the episode's two classic coaching rants about effort and officiating (respectively) prove.
Otherwise ... well, when the Flyers are aware of Bryzgalov's "Universe" speech from Episode 1, it makes you wonder how calculated some of their on-camera antics will become.
Coming up, a recap, some clips and images from Episode 2. What did you think of the show?
This Week on 24/7
Henrik Lundqvist has some down time, so he grabs his guitar, drives his James Bond car over to a rehearsal space and jams with tennis legend John McEnroe in preparation for a charity gig in February.
Hockey players: They're just like we are! … if we were super rich and had celebrity friends and had piercing blue eyes that make Bradley Cooper's look as vivid as Snoopy's by comparison. (Henrik Lundqvist … swoooon.)
We catch up with Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, who is hanging with someone even cooler than Johnny Mac: 18-month-old Landon Girardi, his son and the owner of a better one-timer than Wojtek Wolski. He's blonde and adorable, Girardi's wife seems cool and they keep an impressive collection of booze (Goose, Crown, various mixers) near the front door of their apartment. How very Don Draper.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers aren't feeling sorry for themselves for losing Chris Pronger (though it's yet to be revealed he's been lost for the season) and Claude Giroux (who was completing a 4-point night in Dallas as this episode aired, draining this plot line of every ounce of drama).
We see the Flyers defeat the Washington Capitals in flashback as Philly players board a plane at National Airport. Laviolette breaks down game film. Byrzgalov reads Tolstoy. "War and Peace" is a huMANGous book.
Back to the Rangers, who we see board their charter plane for a road trip, with thumping music and slo-mo shots of hair and suit jackets blowing in the wind, as if Michael Bay filmed an episode of "Entourage." We finally see John Tortorella using a computer instead of, like, yelling at it.
(About 12 minutes into the episode, we're watching a segment with the Rangers equipment manager and thinking that this episode sort of sucks. Spoiler: It redeems itself, but the first few segments were mostly duds — all filler, no killer.)
There was a nice behind the scenes moment next, as Tortorella breaks down film with the Rangers: Giving props to Michael Del Zotto, talking about not letting points get away from them, asking captain Ryan Callahan what time the team will leave. The Rangers do a remarkable job staying focused and not concentrating on how horrifically creepy their coach's thumb is:
Back to the Flyers, and we're talking about the seven rookies on the team, including Sean Couturier, who gets a shout out by Danny Briere. Seems like a nice kid. Hopefully he doesn't get hit in the head with a puck later or something.
(Unintentionally hilarious moment: Jaromir Jagr taking a shot with a Viagra sign prominently displayed in front of him.)
One of our favorite moments of the first season of "24/7" was the hotel hang time between Pascal Dupuis and Sidney Crosby. Here, it's Harry Zolnierczyk and Zac Rinaldo talking about being awestruck by Jagr:
Next ... hey, a Marc Staal sighting! He's on the mend, it's a tough road back, but things are looking up. Which means for the second straight season, we'll get a Staal back for the Winter Classic.
(An aside: Although entertaining, the previous three segments had the unmistakable whiff of self-aware clowning for the camera.)
The Rangers face the St. Louis Blues, and get down by two goals. We go to the locker room, where John Tortorella strides in looking like Larry Brooks just rear-ended his car, saying:
"I asked you to [expletive] defend. I've seen you [expletive] defend before! And you're gonna do it here. If that's how we're gonna battle, we're not going to have a chance TO WIN! Jesus Christ, how much time do we have to talk about it? If that's all the juice we have, as far as competing against that team, WE WILL GET KILLED TONIGHT. And we have two periods here. So I've asked you all to buy into how we have to play. If that's it, we're [expletive] done. PACK IT UP! And I know that this [expletive] team isn't that way. I'VE SEEN YA!
"We've got 40 [expletive] minutes to go. Take each shift at a time and chip away. They're not that good in their end zone. And we know our club. That's the biggest [expletive] positive of our team is how hard we play. So [expletive] screw it on right here. Screw it on and let's be ready to go each shift at a time. Stiffen up here! And if you're not going to be stiff you're not going to play!"
Slow clap … this speech was Bruce Boudreau as portrayed by Al Pacino, if Al Pacino were from Southie. Alas, the Rangers lose. And you can understand why Tortorella was so upset, being that the Rangers lost two in a row and were only 19-8-4.
Meanwhile, the Flyers are at the Montreal Canadiens, and things get really interesting with the officials. Jaromir Jagr doesn't earn a call; Couturier is whistled for slashing. Coach Peter Laviolette is enraged about the non-call, going as far as to use the word "fricking" in speaking to the official.
Please tell us there's a "Typical Montreal" T-shirt already.
After a Flyers victory, things get grim: Chris Pronger's season is over, and Laviolette solemnly talks with the media about it. (Note: We never hear from Pronger in Episode 2.)
Back to the Rangers, and "24/7" Season 1 veteran Mike Rupp is returning to the lineup from knee surgery at the expense of Sean Avery. (Who has been mentioned and shown multiple times here in an increasingly desperate attempt to keep him relevant for the program, despite being an afterthought for the Rangers.)
Now, grab the nearest tissue box and learn about Tortorella's relationship with 10-year-old Liam, a Rangers fan with cerebral palsy:
First off: That's an incredible bedroom. Well, if you're a Rangers fan. Second: This is what "24/7" does best: Show these men in their element and then reveal the full content of their character off the ice. Moments earlier, we were watching Torts curse up a storm and snarl at his team. Now, he's like a Fonzie-edition Vermont Teddy Bear. He's someone you want to root for.
Back to the Flyers, who are dealing with Pronger's loss, hoping for Giroux's comeback and listening to Bryzgalov ask whether he or his defensemen are more crazy. (Video here.)
We visit with Danny Briere and his kids … including Sean Couturier, who moved in when Claude Giroux moved out. He hangs out, plays video games, is a quiet and respectful guy. Seems like a nice kid. Hopefully he doesn't get hit in the head with a puck later or something.
Back to the Rangers, and that rather eventful game vs. the Phoenix Coyotes, with 10-year-old Liam watching back home. (HBO cuts back and forth here, and again it's a weeeee bit staged.)
There's a great moment where referee Tim Peel is at the Rangers' bench and respectfully asks Rupp and Ruslan Fedotenko not to engage in any rough stuff after the whistles. There's another great moment when we go back into the referees' room, as they discuss calls and drink Gatorade and use salty language. They seem like really interesting people. Too bad the media's barred from speaking with them after games.
The Rangers' Fedotenko gets stitches (ouch) and Steve Eminger separates his shoulder (double ouch). We eventually reach the frantic final few seconds, when Brad Richards scores while Sam Rosen says "and this one is going to overtime." The puck crossed at 0.01 in the third; there's some great mic work as Tim Peel exhales before delivering the news to the home crowd that the game is over. Tortorella gives Ryan Callahan a fist-bump. Young Liam gives us a thumbs-up before being placed in bed, smiling all the way. It's quite touching.
Back to the Flyers, prepping for the Boston Bruins. Here's "29-year-old bachelor" Scott Hartnell, who purchased a Christmas tree and didn't even get a chance to put it up. Man, first the Richards trade, now this.
We see Claude Giroux taking concussion tests and doing well; which, again, seems superfluous because we already knew he scored four points that night. (Not HBO's fault; just happenstance.)
The Bruins/Flyers game is realized in all its brutality. Like the Kimmo Timonen shot that hit Couturier on the side of the head, giving him a significant gash. (He takes a concussion test that involves reading a random sequence of numbers backwards. We don't want to say it's difficult, but two-thirds of the country might have a concussion based on the results.)
The Lucic hit on Rinaldo has Wayne Simmonds screaming "you [expletive] know you hit him from behind!"
The Flyers lose to the Bruins, and Laviolette asks them to let it burn.
The Flyers and Rangers board planes, enter hotels, gear up for the next game. The narration talks about the uncertainty of each game as "Midnight City" by M83 plays on the soundtrack: "Waiting in a car/Waiting for a ride in the dark."
Unofficially, 39 F-bombs in Episode 2, down from 43 in the first week. Tortorella accounted for a good chunk of that in that locker room rant.
Other than Brian Boyle threatening the full monty after a naked nap, nada.
Hockey Geek Moment
When the official tells Max Talbot he's going to get a penalty, he gets a penalty, he's told it's because of a number of questionable plays on the same shift that "accumulate," and then is told it's a bad call. (Runner Up: The concussion testing.)
Missing In Action
Top 5 Quotes
5. "The Arizona desert would never be mistaken as a natural habitat for ice hockey" — Narrator, to the cheers and roars from Canada.
4. "You don't want to film that." — Brandon Prust to HBO camera, after Brian Boyle announces he's naked in a hotel bed.
3. "They doesn't have the goalie gear, but they have to block the shot. So who is more crazy, me or the defensemen? Who is more weird?" — Ilya Bryzgalov
2. "What a disgrace. Typical Montreal." — Peter Laviolette on the officiating.
1. "My husky, basically, she's a hot girl, man." — Ilya Bryzgalov on his dog. OK, not literally. Although …
3. Peter Laviolette, Philadelphia Flyers. The Montreal conspiracy theory rant was getting the slow clap around the League.
2. Landon Girardi. We'll remember this episode when he's taken in the first round of the 2028 NHL draft.
1. John Tortorella, New York Rangers. An epic locker room rant, some great moments of insight into his coaching process and prowess, and that moving segment with a 10-year-old Rangers fan with cerebral palsy. The world learned a lot of Torts in these 60 minutes; and they liked what they learned.