What they're saying about HBO's upcoming Winter Classic series

pens-caps-24-7-logo.jpgWith the news breaking early this morning that cable giant HBO would be producing a documentary leading up to the Winter Classic featuring the Penguins and Capitals, it’s only fair that we hear from those who will be involved in everything.

The production will be called “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic” and will debut the first episode on December 15th at 10 pm. The show will follow both teams leading up to and including the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day in Pittsburgh. It will also include a regular season meeting between the two on December 23rd. Think this will be punchy at all? You better believe it.

As for the players who will be featured, they’re beyond excited about it as D.C. Sports Bog’s Dan Steinberg found out from the Caps perspective. If some of these quotes are any indication, NHL fans are going to eat this up like it was breakfast.

The Caps players were told about the series by GM George McPhee on Thursday morning, and then the media had at them about the prospect of being on unedited national television. Especially the unedited part.

“Well, hockey players don’t swear, so we don’t have to worry about that,” Matt Bradley said.

“Well, if I’m gonna say some bad words it’s gonna be Russian words,” Alex Ovechkin said. “Probably you guys don’t understand it. I don’t know. We’ll see.”

“I don’t know if guys are gonna be able to watch what they say or what,” Mike Knuble said. “There’s nobody in here that’s just an absolute idiot, saying dumb things all the time. I mean, I guess in the course of your workplace, you always let something stupid come out of your mouth. Some people it’s once a day, some people it’s once a week….We’ll have language. That’s the reality of pro sports. It happens. There’s moments that are kind of ugly at times. Stuff might get ugly at times, but probably our year will be going pretty smoothly.”

So whose mouth will you have to watch out for?

“Schultize,” Bradley said, straight-faced. “Schultzie gets pretty crazy behind the scenes. A guy like him, him and Tom Poti, those two guys, when you get them alone behind the scenes might get pretty crazy.”

“I mean, there’ll be certain guys like [Jason] Chimera that will take it over the top,” Knuble said. “When he sees the camera, it’ll be a whole different person.”

The way I’m picturing this playing out is if you took the Twitter account of Coyotes pugnacious forward Paul Bissonnette and acted it out in real life in front of the cameras. Except that no one would be acting. If you’re looking for ways to have the NHL showcase the personalities of its players, this HBO mini-series is going to be the elixir we’ve been clamoring for.

If you’re worried about the series being all about Ovechkin and Crosby, you’ve likely got a reason to be nervous as those two personalities demand a lot of attention anyhow. That said, the folks at HBO are at least saying this will be an all-encompassing project and not just the Sid and Ovi show. Steinberg asks the pertinent question with his own take on things.

How much of this is about Ovi and Crosby?

“It’s a show about the sport, it’s a show about the teams and about the journey with two teams simultaneously during a four-week period leading up to a very very unique event,” HBO senior VP Mark Taffet said. “It’s not specific to any one player, and we know we’re going to have a great experience, because these two teams are very open-minded, very creative, and they’ve shown a great willingness to allow us in places where many cameras haven’t been before.”

My translation: a lot.

All right, so people are going to be skeptical until it’s made and that’s fair. They will be doing their fair share to show what goes into putting on a game outdoors as far as setting the rink up and doing maintenance on it and ensuring that the players will have the best and safest ice out there.

We’d be remiss if we failed to mention that the Winter Classic will be live on NBC on New Year’s Day so consider this HBO project to be your warm-up for all the goodies going on here that day. Don’t worry, we’ll be talking plenty about it as the time approaches. I promise.

(Picture courtesy of the Pittsburgh Penguins)

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    Following ‘disastrous’ effort, Stars lose Honka to injury

    Lindy Ruff
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    Dallas only surrendered two goals in last night’s loss to Calgary — not the markings of a terrible defensive night.

    But in many ways, it was exactly that.

    Head coach Lindy Ruff called the second period “disastrous.” The Morning-News wrote the number of high-quality chances Dallas surrendered was “almost shocking.” And Julius Honka, one of the club’s brightest young d-man prospects, suffered an upper-body injury that will force him to miss the next few games.

    Tough times in Dallas.

    The Honka injury will throw the defense into further arrears. Ruff has spent most of this season juggling the group, with mainstays like Dan Hamhuis and John Klingberg getting parked in the press box as healthy scratches. Stephen Johns has been in and out — which included a stint in the American League — while the likes of Esa Lindell, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak have been platooned as well.

    The Stars were forced to finish last night’s game with just five blueliners, though Honka’s injury isn’t believed to be serious. Dallas plays next on Thursday night at home against Nashville, then heads out for a back-to-back road set — Saturday in Philly, and Sunday in Chicago.

    Related: What has happened to the Dallas Stars?

     

     

    After a slow start, the Preds have really turned it around

    Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban (76), center, celebrates with Filip Forsberg (9), of Sweden, Kevin Fiala (56), of Switzerland, and Mattias Ekholm (14), of Sweden, after Subban scored a goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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    The Nashville Predators are still outside the playoff picture in the Western Conference, but they’re very clearly putting a slow start behind them.

    The Preds beat Colorado, 4-3, last night in Nashville. They are now 9-4-1 since beginning the season 3-5-3, and they are winning with the kind of puck-possession game that many expected from them.

    Via Puck on Net, here are the top 10 teams in score-adjusted Corsi over the last 10 games:

    preds

    That is some excellent company the Preds are not only keeping, but leading. The Blue Jackets, right below them, are the hottest team in the NHL. The Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup champs. The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy last season. The Sharks won the Western Conference.

    Though strong puck-possession numbers don’t always translate into wins — just ask the Carolina Hurricanes — they typically lead to good results over the long run. The one thing that can sink a strong possession team is poor goaltending, but Pekka Rinne (11-5-4, .926) has been mostly solid this season.

    The Preds are also getting good production from their big offseason trade acquisition, defenseman P.K. Subban, who has 17 points, including seven goals, in 25 games.

    “I just try to do my job and just keep it simple, try to put the puck on net,” Subban told The Tennessean. “Sometimes you’ve got to get some bounces, and you only get those bounces when you put pucks at the net.”

    The Preds are averaging 31.6 shots per game, the sixth most in the NHL behind Pittsburgh, Boston, Toronto, Edmonton, and Philadelphia.

    Next up for Nashville is a date with the Stars in Dallas tomorrow. That’s a huge game for both Central Division teams. The Stars lost again last night, falling 2-1 to the surging Flames.

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    Report: Leafs win arbitration case with Cowen

    OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 21: Jared Cowen #2 of the Ottawa Senators prepares for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre on January 21, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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    The Toronto Maple Leafs have won their arbitration case with Jared Cowen, who will remain bought out.

    TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported the news today. It is a significant loss for Cowen, the 25-year-old defenseman who came to the Leafs in February as part of the Dion Phaneuf trade.

    From Sportsnet’s story before the ruling:

    At issue is whether Cowen was healthy enough to have the final year of his contract bought out by the Leafs last summer. A lengthy section of the CBA is devoted to “procedures for determining fitness to play,” and they include a player’s right to pursue a second medical opinion beyond what is provided by the team.

    That information, plus witness testimony and other evidence, will be taken into account by the arbitrator while rendering a decision.

    For Cowen, there is $3-million in salary at stake. That represents somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25 per cent of his career NHL earnings to date – a huge amount given his injury history and diminished future earning potential.

    For the Leafs, it’s significant win. They’ll actually get a $650,000 cap credit this season. Next season, they’ll take a $750,000 hit, and after that their obligations are over.

    If they’d lost, they would’ve lost the credit and assumed a $3.1-million cap hit this season, the final year of Cowen’s contract.

    Sportsnet explains why the Leafs didn’t want to lose:

    That’s a $3.75-million cap swing in total and would almost certainly result in the Leafs invoking long-term injury relief on one of three players – Nathan Horton, Stephane Robidas or Joffrey Lupul – to remain compliant.

    Even though the LTI maneuver would offer immediate relief, it’s something the Leafs hope to avoid since it would increase the size of the cap overage penalty they’ll carry into next season because of performance bonuses expected to be earned by as many as five rookies in their current lineup.

    Cowen had hip surgery after he was bought out. It’s been reported he may not be ready to play until February, assuming he can find a team. He played 37 games for the Senators last season, registering no goals and four assists.

    Related: Lupul to start season on injured reserve, still aims to play again

    No hearing for Taylor Hall after Larsen hit

    NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 06:  Taylor Hall #9 of the New Jersey Devils hits Philip Larsen #63 of the Vancouver Canucks in the second period on December 6, 2016 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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    Devils forward Taylor Hall will avoid supplemental discipline for his big hit on Vancouver’s Philip Larsen, an NHL spokesman has confirmed.

    Midway through New Jersey’s eventual 3-2 win over the Canucks, Hall caught Larsen behind the Vancouver goal with a massive bodycheck, knocking Larsen unconscious. The Danish blueliner was prone on the ice for several seconds before receiving medical attention, and was eventually stretchered off.

    Hall wasn’t penalized on the play.

    Larsen spent the night in a New Jersey-area hospital, per Sportsnet, and is flying to Vancouver today to meet with team doctors.

    Hall said he didn’t regret throwing the hit, but felt awful about the result. He and Larsen do have a history, having briefly played together in Edmonton.

    “I’m looking to make contact there, but I never want to see a guy laying on the ice there like that,” Hall said, per NJ.com. “I only know how to play the game one way, and you’ve got to play it hard. But like I said, I feel terrible.

    “When you see him laying on the ice like that, he’s a former teammate of mine, and I just would have loved to make a hit there and continue the play. I hope he’s OK.”

    Related: The Devils are hanging around, thanks to a great home record