Snap review: 24/7 Penguins/Capitals an instant classic

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I’m writing this review as the encore showing of the debut episode of HBO’s documentary series “24/7 Penguins/Capitals Road To The Winter Classic” is going. I’m watching it again because watching it the first time I found myself so mesmerized with what I was watching I got lost in the show. The backstage access provided to the cameras show us how things go down inside the rooms of both teams. If you haven’t been noticing lately, things are going in very different directions for the Caps and the Penguins with the Caps mired in a miserable losing streak that’s now up to seven games while the Penguins were on a tear that ultimately turned into a 12-game win streak.

What everyone will be talking about is how Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau found a way to outdo New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan when it comes to using colorful language when addressing his team. Ryan became known for throwing four-letter words around like they were going out of style during HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series during NFL training camp this year. Boudreau managed to top Ryan by slinging the f-bomb 15 or 16 times during a rant at his Capitals team between periods in their loss to the Florida Panthers. We were given the heads up that the language would be spicy and Boudreau did not disappoint. Of course when your team is mired in a losing streak when they should be one of the top teams in the league, these things will happen.

HBO captures the game the way it’s meant to be seen with beautiful video that makes the game stand out unlike how it’s ever been seen before. The ice level shots are gorgeous and make hockey even more worth watching. Providing a look at how the guys live life off the ice helps give you a sense of how tough it can be for these guys to part ways with their family when it’s time to hit the road. Getting a comparison of how a married guy like Pascal Dupuis goes about life and bachelor Maxime Talbot do things is fascinating to see. It’s reality television that’s actual real life that isn’t scripted at all. It’s seeing how our heroes go about daily life and yet we’re fascinated.

It’s the little things that were the most enjoyable to see. Seeing the Penguins players playing PSP against each other and chiding one another is a pleasant change from seeing them giving the same responses during post game press conferences. Basically, we’re excited to see the players being regular guys. Seeing the players busting each other’s chops verbally is fantastic to see because it all plays into the colorful personalities a lot of these guys have. HBO adding subtle nuances like using music from the movie “Slap Shot” to bring road trip scenes together help make you enjoy things all the more.

Getting to hear players on the ice that are miked up for sound provides incredible insight to see what’s going on. These aren’t the sound bytes you hear during the game when a guy is wired for sound. Hearing Leafs enforcer Colton Orr engage Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland for a fight using a battle of f-words is humorous and seemingly typical of fighting guys.

Hearing Alexander Ovechkin talk to officials after teammate Alexander Semin cross checked Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles and got kicked out of the game shows Alex’s skills as a one-liner master. As the referee described what happened to Liles after the cross check and that he started bleeding on his neck because of it, Ovechkin fires back saying, “Well maybe he’s got sensitive skin, no?”

The juxtaposition of the Penguins and their winning streak compared to the Capitals and their losing streak makes for incredible theater. The Penguins look light-hearted and affable enjoying the game, meanwhile the Capitals are downtrodden, frustrated, and downright depressing to watch. HBO doesn’t need to craft the drama, it’s all right there plain as day for us to see and now we get to see it up close and personal and most of all, we like it.

You too often hear that professional athletes don’t care as much as the fans do when the team struggles. That’s not the case here at all. These guys live and die by how things go on the ice and witnessing it up close, warts and all, thrills us. We want and crave more of it and right now, with there only being three more episodes of this to watch we’re going to eat this up and love every bit of it.

Vegas wants ‘progressive’ head coach, says McPhee

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Golden Knights GM George McPhee continued to list the characteristics he wants from a head coach this week, explaining that he’s searching for a forward-thinking bench boss.

“We want someone who is very current on the game, who is progressive on how the game should be played,” McPhee said in a recent phone call with season ticket holders, per the club website. “We’re looking for that progressive guy that can really help us through the early years and help develop our team and our players.”

So, time to connect the dots.

Back in November, Vegas owner Bill Foley laid the initial groundwork for McPhee’s coaching profile, saying he wanted to hire an experienced head coach.

“He’s not looking for a first-termer,” said Foley. “Some may or may not be available. … I would say the coach that we name is going to be a recognizable individual.”

Among the names that have already been floated, many fit the above billing: Jack Capuano, Gerard Gallant, Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien, among others.

Vegas has already spoken with Gallant and reportedly made contact with Capuano as well, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Gallant was nominated for last year’s Jack Adams as the NHL’s top coach, and McPhee is familiar with Capuano, having worked as an adviser to Isles GM Garth Snow prior to taking the Golden Knights gig.

It’s also believed former Flyers head coach Craig Berube is being considered, along with current Montreal associate Kirk Muller.

 

Pre-game reading: Tonight’s Kings-Flames game could get testy

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— Up top, the Calgary Flames don’t want Matthew Tkachuk to play any differently — even though Drew Doughty called the rookie winger a “pretty dirty player” after taking the 19-year-old’s elbow to the face earlier this month.

— Tkachuk was suspended two games for that elbow. Still, there could be fireworks tonight when the Flames and the Kings meet again in Calgary. Especially after Tkachuk replied to Doughty’s remarks with the following: “I expected more from him, honestly, than to go right to the media and start complaining after a loss.” (Calgary Sun)

— TSN’s Gary Lawless thinks Sergei Bobrovsky should win the Hart Trophy over Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. Lawless writes: “No other player has been as important to his team and its results as Bobrovsky has to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Take Bobrovsky off the C-bus and it’s not necessarily in the ditch but it isn’t nipping at the Capitals for the league lead.” (TSN)

— Coyotes captain Shane Doan is understandably frustrated about the lower-body injury that’s kept him out of the lineup the past six games. At 40, this could be Doan’s last year in the NHL, so hopefully he’s able to return and play at least once more in front of all his fans. (Arizona Republic)

— Golden Knights owner Bill Foley doesn’t want each team’s protected list to be made public ahead of the expansion draft. That being said, Foley is also realistic: “I’d rather we know what each team has left unprotected and we make our picks and it’s a big surprise. I think there’s going to be a lot of leaks, though. I found one thing about the NHL that … everyone talks.” (Yahoo)

— An appreciation of the Detroit Red Wings playoff streak, which will finally come to an end this season. The last time the Wings missed was 1990. As noted by Nick Cotsonika: “No player in the NHL today was in the NHL then, not even Jaromir Jagr. Nine of the franchises in the NHL today weren’t in the NHL, 10 if you include the Vegas Golden Knights, who begin play next season.” (NHL.com)

Enjoy the games!

The Leafs’ remaining schedule is no cakewalk

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The Toronto Maple Leafs took care of business last night, sending the floundering Florida Panthers to a 3-2 defeat at Air Canada Centre.

Now comes the hard part for the young Leafs. They have seven games left to book their first playoff appearance since 2013, and their schedule is no cakewalk.

The Leafs’ next three games are all on the road, in Nashville Thursday, Detroit Saturday, and Buffalo Monday. After that, it’s a four-game home stand to close out the schedule, all against formidable opponents: Washington, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Columbus.

With a four-point playoff cushion, the Leafs can afford to lose a few games down the stretch. But head coach Mike Babcock doesn’t want his players looking too far ahead.

“I really believe with our group if we just focus on the day we’re playing and play right, we have a real good chance to win,” Babcock said. “That’s what we talk about and that’s kind of our mantra every day is just play right, play fast and we have an opportunity to be successful. We don’t get all caught up in the race. We know the standings, it’s in the paper every day, so we know that.”

The Leafs today sent goalie Garret Sparks back to the AHL. That can only mean good news for starter Frederik Andersen, who could play Thursday after missing last night’s victory with an upper-body injury.

Backup Curtis McElhinney got the nod against the Panthers, calling it the biggest game of his career. The 33-year-old then went out and made 25 saves to earn the win.

“It was great,” said McElhinney. “Getting a couple of goals in the first period there helped out a little bit and let me settle into it. It was a nice win.”

Parise ‘pretty black and blue’ after Wilson high stick, but injury not serious

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Zach Parise looked in bad shape after taking a Tom Wilson high stick to the face in Minnesota’s loss to Washington on Tuesday.

Thankfully for the Wild, Parise’s early diagnosis is a good one.

“He can see and is fine as far as that goes,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said on Wednesday, per the club’s Twitter account. “He’s sore in the upper body. I don’t think he’ll be out long.”

Boudreau went on to add that Parise was “pretty black and blue” and unlikely to play tomorrow, when Minnesota hosts Ottawa. That said, the club expects the 32-year-old to return next week.

It goes without saying that losing Parise is huge. The alternate captain has 17 goals and 37 points through 64 games this year, and is averaging 17:33 TOI per night. And for a Wild team that’s mired in a horrific slump — just three wins in its last 15 games — being down the services of such a vital contributor is costly.

Related: Stewart fought Wilson in response to the high stick