24/7 Penguins/Capitals Episode 1: Introductions, F-Bombs and Pranks
Episode one featured the standard introductions of the key figures on each team (coaches Dan Bylsma and Bruce Boudreau, and the two teams' biggest stars, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin), as well as following the players around during games and practices, but also during normal day-to-day activities: attending the team Christmas party, participating in a skate on the National Mall, or recently acquired Capitals defenseman Scott Hannan searching for a new home in Washington after a mid-season trade.
The best action, however, was reserved for anything and everything associated with games. Here are some of the highlights ...
-- Leading up to the show an HBO executive claimed that this series would be more vulgar than this summer's version of "Hard Knocks" with the New York Jets, simply because that show took place in the preseason, while this one is taking place during the regular season. It's hard to say after one episode if these two teams are indeed more vulgar than Rex Ryan and company -- which would be a difficult accomplishment -- but there were plenty of expletives thrown around. And dammit, it was entertaining. Sure, there's probably going to be somebody out there that doesn't like it -- or is shocked that professional athletes swear ... a lot -- and frowns upon it (think of the children?) but this is the way it is. Raw. Uncut. And awesome.
When the microphone is on postgame, players and coaches rarely let loose and are quick to give the diplomatic, play-it-safe answer. During the game, however, it's a completely different animal.
One of the first scenes features the Penguins in a recent game with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In it, defenseman Deryk Engelland squares off in a fight with Toronto enforcer Colton Orr -- a re-match of an earlier season bout that saw Engelland drop Orr with one punch. The two exchange expletives and challenge one another to a fight, and proceed with their two-minute tussle. During the first intermission, the HBO cameras show Engelland dealing with the "collateral damage" in the form of three stitches to his face. Afterward, Engelland is seated in the locker room next to fellow defenseman Kris Letang, who taps Engelland on the leg and says, "Next time take a tough guy."
-- We get a look at how Bylsma and general manager Ray Shero evaluate their roster on following games, as the two sit in Shero's office and rate each players performance on a 1-5 scale.
-- The episode focuses on a recent stretch of games where the two teams were going in entirely different directions, and it wasn't hard to see which team was riding the double-digit winning streak, and which team was mired in its longest losing streak in years. The attitude around the Penguins seemed to be upbeat, while the Capitals seemed more down and, well, angry.
We know this much about Boudreau: He loves dropping F-Bombs during his rants. A lot of them. A [expletive] lot of them. Multiple times during the episode the Capitals coach absolutely let loose on his team, challenging them to step up. Between periods of a loss to the Florida Panthers he said he's never seen a team get so down when things don't go right, and to "[expletive] get your heads out of your ass" and "[expletive] work for it."
-- The Capitals' recent blowout loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden was featured at the end of the episode, including another lecture from Boudreau during a timeout, but also a between periods rant from assistant coach Dean Evason (no cameras were in the room, but the message was clear: Man up and do something).
-- Ever wonder what the discussion is like between a referee and a captain? After Capitals forward Alex Semin was issued a five-minute major for cross-checking, the referee explained to Ovechkin that the player on the receiving end (Avalanche defenseman John Michael Liles) was cut. In a moment of levity, Ovechkin, without hesitation, responded, "Well he probably has sensitive skin, no?"
Easily a contender for best line in the debut.
-- Along with struggling (or succeeding) on the ice, the show also gives a look at another factor teams have to deal with: Illness and injuries. A 24-hour stomach bug is sweeping through the Capitals locker room, to go with injuries to defensemen Jeff Schultz and Mike Green, limiting the number of players the team has available for practice and creating yet another headache for Boudreau and general manager George McPhee.
-- And for something completely ridiculous: During the Penguins' recent road trip to Buffalo, rookie Mark Letestu and second-year defenseman Ben Lovejoy are on the receiving end of a college-level prank while they're out to dinner. Before their return, a group of teammates, including goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, hatch a plan to move every piece of furniture from Letestu and Lovejoy's hotel room into the hallway -- and they succeed. As the two unsuspecting players make their return, they find all of their furniture in the hall and can be heard saying to themselves, "please God not [room] 622." After the duo returns all of their furniture, Lovejoy laughs, "We're going to find out who did it ... and probably do nothing about it."