How HBO, NHL might top the first 24/7 series

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To call HBO and the NHL’s 24/7 experiment a success is an understatement. For hardcore hockey fans, the mini-series was so outstanding that many people became genuinely emotional during the last episode’s final sequences.* Yet the biggest gains might have come in the impact it made on casual fans and those totally ignorant to pucks; all of a sudden a brand new audience – and a sophisticated one in that – learned about some of the most interesting people in sports.

The great news is that all signs point to another 24/7 series between HBO and the NHL. Yet as HBO president Ross Greenburg explains in a video at the bottom of this post, it will be tough to top the groundbreaking original series.

NHL executive John Collins already discussed the potential idea for HBO to follow two teams around during a playoff series, so I thought I’d pass along a few ideas/suggestions for a 24/7 sequel and solutions for possible problems.

Following a playoff series

Why it would be awesome: One thing that gave the Penguins/Capitals special some extra juice is the fact that the two teams really don’t like each other. Imagine the kind of vitriol that would develop during a grueling, high-pressure best-of-seven series? It’s OK, you can get excited about the idea.

How to make it work: Of course, the tough part is that teams go from secretive to Big Brother/CIA-level scarce with details during the playoffs. (Just wait for the vague “upper/lower torso” type injury reports we’ll be stuck with in April, May and June.)

My suggestion to (partially) solve that problem: air the footage after once the series concluded. Sure, that would hurt it a bit from a “timely” standpoint, but then teams could feel slightly less paranoid about information “leaking” via HBO’s cameras and microphones.

Follow a buzz-poor team during a full season

Why it would be awesome: It was hard not to get a little attached to Bruce Boudreau, Dan Bylsma and players such as Matt Hendricks (seen in a screen capture that is this post’s main image) during the 24/7 series, but it was just the tip of the iceberg since it followed only a month (or so) of play. Imagine how amazing it would be to follow a team during the course of an 82-game season?

Maybe an elite team like Pittsburgh or Washington would balk at the idea, but what about a team struggling to generate buzz like Florida, Phoenix, Dallas or Atlanta? The last two would be especially interesting because they have been successful during this season and employ colorful characters like Dustin Byfuglien and Steve Ott. HBO would gain a full season of access; the team would find an unusual way to drum interest in their squad.

How to make it work: Again, the team could request a slight delay on the footage or maybe enter into an injury-related gentleman’s agreement with the network.

***

OK, so those are two ideas worth considering for the future of the 24/7 series. How would you try to top that great Penguins/Capitals series? Let us know in the comments and enjoy Greenburg’s reflections on the special and its future.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

* – Did I go into “trying not cry during sad movie” mode during the end of that episode? Maybe. (Crushes beer can on forehead to compensate for expression of feelings.)

Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

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Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

“He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

“I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

“We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

“It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

“It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.