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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.)

WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Sharks at Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Pittsburgh Penguins fans sit outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.

Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.

The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.

Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Vlasic on the unenviable task of matching up against Crosby

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21:  Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 and Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada look on during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff against the United States on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
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Plenty of people believe that the San Jose Sharks’ defense is superior to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ personnel, but it’s one thing to be better on paper. When you’re on the ice, against a speedy and talented team, can you really stop the Penguins?

All signs point to sorely underrated Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic drawing the difficult assignment of trying to slow down Sidney Crosby.

Vlasic, a former Team Canada teammate of Crosby (as you can see from this post’s main image), realizes that he’ll have his hands full. In fact, he seems to believe that this will be an even tougher challenge than trying to solve St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

The fantastic all-around defender isn’t exactly expecting to reinvent the wheel in his strategy against Crosby.

“It will be the same as in the first three series,” Vlasic said, via The Hockey News. “We’re playing against the top players on every time – Sid, (Evgeni) Malkin and those types of guys for Pittsburgh. Me and (Justin Braun) will just keep doing what we did, taking away time and space and hopefully it works out.”

The two players have had glowing things to say about each other for some time, but don’t be surprised if this high-level competition turns those happy thoughts into hard feelings.

It stands as one of the matchups to watch in what could be a fresh and fascinating Stanley Cup Final.

Red Wings look to future in net … a future possibly without Howard

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 07:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on April 7, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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This summer looks like it could be one of changes for the Detroit Red Wings, even beyond the most obvious storyline of Pavel Datsyuk‘s future.

One area where the Red Wings would like to make some tweaks is in net, namely in trading Jimmy Howard. The Detroit Free-Press points out that GM Ken Holland admitted that moving the former franchise netminder “might be good for the organization.”

It’s reasonable to wonder what kind of market there will be for Howard, whose deal ($5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19) looks pretty tough to stomach on paper.

Maybe it’s best to consider the Red Wings’ options if Howard starts the 2016-17 season off on a strong note, or something of that nature. Perhaps an expansion draft could “solve” that problem if Detroit cannot find any takers?

The Red Wings remain forward-thinking and patient, which likely explains why the Free-Press focuses on their confidence with prospect Jared Coreau.

“In the big scheme of things, he’ll play in Grand Rapids for another year, but now we know he can play a lot of minutes if needed,” Goalie coach Jeff Salajko said. “Jimmy Howard played four years in the minors. We’re not rushing Jared, but he is going to be an NHL goalie, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”

In other words, a pairing of Petr Mrazek and Coreau wouldn’t just be a cost-effective duo … it might just be the Red Wings’ ideal scenario in the not-too-distant future.

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.