(ED NOTE: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.)
The best episodes of “HBO 24/7” are the ones that set up pins and knock them down throughout the hour, with an underlying tension building toward an eventual explosion. Which is why Episode 2 of “Red Wings-Maple Leafs: Road To The NHL Winter Classic” was a Herculean leap forward in quality from the first edition, and one of the finest hours of the series’ run.
The Big Narrative for the story was the plummeting fortunes of both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings, and the editors did a remarkable job presenting them not through the eyes of the players, but through the seemingly helpless coaches.
Mike Babcock, so used to easy success with the Wings, didn’t have any answers beyond chronicling the team’s injuries and hoping his leaders could step up and perform better.
Randy Carlyle blames the players in several expletive-laden rants, calling them lazy. (As 24/7 continued to push the idea that the Leafs are the materialistic big city team; Nazem Kadri’s million dollar condo and Audi lead into his playing poorly in a game.)
We hear things like:
“Winning in this league’s not easy. We know that.”
“We haven’t found ways to win. When you win, it breeds confidence in you.”
“Stable ships are built to weather storms.”
But in the end, the ships hit the rocks. The coaches go insane – Babcock literally kicks the cameras out of the room – and the teams are left in a death spiral.
Great episode. Coming up, a recap, some clips and images in our Episode 1 recap, including some superlatives.
KEEP IN MIND ALL THE VIDEOS HAVE STRONG ADULT LANGUAGE!
And here … we … go.
This Week On 24/7
Previously on “24/7”, we learned the Red Wings have a traditional of excellence against everyone but injuries and the Florida Panthers, while the Leafs keep getting suspended.
We begin with one of those wonderful HBO musical cues, as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros sing, “I’ve seen better days/dripping down your face” over scenes of the Leafs and Red Wings losing, coaches yelling, Jimmy Howard getting an MRI and David Clarkson finding another way to not play for Toronto. It’s pretty much perfect, right down to the grizzled faces of Teamsters as they protested outside the ACC.
Oh, and in case anyone needs a cheese grater in Toronto, Clarkson’s available.
Back in Detroit, Justin Abdelkader talks about how it’s his childhood dream to play for the Red Wings. Just like every war movie ever made, this usually means some tragedy will befall him during the episode. We certainly hope he doesn’t get concussed against the Pittsburgh Penguins later or something.
There’s a fun scene with Abdelkader and Brendan Smith, across-the-hall roomies, watching a truck skidding around in the Michigan snow. Alas, Riley Sheahan doesn’t emerge from the truck dressed as a Teletubby.
Hey, look, Sidney Crosby. Amazing they find a way to get a player from an opposing division to play both of the HBO 24/7 teams in the same episode, er, week.
The Chicago Blackhawks are in Toronto, and we’re immediately reminded how much more interesting their “24/7” would be than either of these teams. The game serves as a 7-3 moment of redemption for the Leafs, but more importantly as an introduction to camera-friendly rookie Jerry D’Amigo and to the Leafs’ victory song, the Miley Cyrus joint “We Can’t Stop.” Morgan Rielly seems to like it. Randy Carlyle prefers Black Sabbath, and compares techno to disco. Which might qualify him to review for Pitchfork.
Back in Detroit, HBO introduces Tomas Jurco without the word “YouTube” being used once, to our chagrin. The Red Wings lose to the Lightning, and lose Johan Franzen to a head injury, leading Mike Babcock to lament during intermission that “I have no mule.” (Nice glimpse at the Red Wings’ coaches room here by the way, with some high-end video equipment.)
GM Ken Holland arrives to remind us that the Red Wings aren’t panicking. Babcock: “We find a way not to win.” Great juxtaposition with Holland as the symbol of Detroit’s 16 years of dominance and the Red Wings struggling.
Back in Toronto … it’s time for ping-pong!
Whoa, got dangerously close to covering Phil Kessel there, HBO! Slow that roll!
The Jonathan Bernier/James Reimer friendly rivalry is covered, and Reimer smiles through the insulting awkwardness of the way the Leafs have treated him.
Now we’re on a plane and it’s snack time!
That’s not how you spell kale. But then again, it appears they’re also eating Brussels sprouts with the “baron.”
Speaking of food, some of the Leafs’ younger players go out to a steak dinner and play “credit card roulette” to find out who foots the bill. It was D’Amigo, “one of the lowest paid players at the table” who loses out. (Also, no one had a forced conversation about Pavel Datsyuk or turned down a tequila shot from a fan. So, yeah, not the Red Wings.)
Back in Detroit, the Ilitch family donate a Zamboni to a local youth rink because Ed Snider can’t be the only NHL owner to hijack a “24/7” segment with his charity.
There’s a lengthy segment on Niklas Kronwall that doesn’t amount to much, because he’s at practice and doesn’t demolish anyone with a questionable hit. But it does establish that the Red Wings’ veteran players need to lead the team out of its slump, and there’s a not enough of them healthy now.
Back in Toronto, a longshoreman sneaks onto the Toronto bus, mistaking it for a Greyhound to Bangor.
The Leafs are playing the Penguins, and as we chronicled in an earlier post, Sidney Crosby basically stole the show with his debate with Dion Phaneuf and calling Nazem Kadri “a joke.” Check out that coverage here. The game action is the best of the series: hits, fights, drama and the like. Carlyle’s fuse is lit, and he puts the blame on the players.
In Detroit, there’s a great scene with Babcock and his white board, previously introduced when talking to Jurco. There was a time, he said, when the Red Wings could overcome injuries. Not so much now, as he chronicles all the veterans with injuries and the young players filling in. At one point he points out the utter ridiculousness of his team’s injuries by saying his daughter told him she’s medically cleared.
In Toronto, we visit Nazem Kadri’s condo for some materialism porn, which includes a trip down to his Audi. We also hear from his dad, who wonders what was up with Crosby in the last game. Carlyle talks about Kadri as a No. 2 center who thinks he’s No. 1.
The Leafs play Florida on the latest edition of “HBO 24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs/Panthers.” The Red Wings, meanwhile, play the Ducks at the same time.
And here … we … go.
The show cross cuts between the games, tying up several narrative threads – Jurco scores, injured players watch, Kadri turns the puck over, Reimer gives up shots. Kyle Quincey makes a mistake, hitting Ryan Getzlaf and getting ejected when he cut the Duck. (Quincey: “The blood [expletived] me.”) There’s a piano playing in the background that sounds like a ticking clock.
And then BOOOOOOM.
(AGAIN, STRONG ADULT LANGUAGE HERE!)
Babcock rushes into the Red Wings room and kicks the HBO crew out. “That’s why I shut the door … get the [expletive] out of here!”
Carlyle doesn’t let the camera in either, but we hear audio as he rips into his team as “[expletive] lazy” and “we suck” and “if you’re not going to work for that sweater, work for one another in here!”
The teams lose. Hope is lost. The Leafs hit the bikes, looking in pain. The Red Wings have a “humbling night” according to Babcock.
So says the narration: “In the midst of their marathon season, the darkness of even a single night can be overpowering.”
We see cars leaving the parking lot. The ice has melted into slush.
42, and Randy Carlyle had more than a few of them.
Not even a glimpse of Jimmy’s Howard in a hospital gown.
Hockey Geek Moment
Abdelkader is concussed by Deryk Engelland, and we get an interesting glimpse at the concussion protocol in the NHL:
That’s why we love “24/7.”
Missing In Action
Dave Nonis, Phil Kessel talking to a camera, Todd Bertuzzi doing anything but staring blankly, The Big House, Rob Ford.
3. Mike Babcock’s bitterness. We’ll take an hour of him lamenting life at the white board.
2. Jerry D’Amigo. He seems fun.
1. Sidney Crosby. For the record, he has hit a few people this year.
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