Five standouts from HBO 24/7 Flyers/Rangers episode two

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The second episode of “HBO 24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the Winter Classic” began with Henrik Lundqvist jamming with … John McEnroe. That was a pretty stunning opening, yet an hour later, it barely reverberates compared to the rest of the content. Here are five things that stood out the most from the second hour of the network’s fascinating documentary series.

1. The Kids

Children dominated episode two, covering every end of the spectrum.

On the adorable side, Dan Girardi’s (year and a half old) son Landon rocked his little toy guitar but couldn’t quite connect on his father’s one-timer passes when cameras were on. Danny Briere’s considerably older boys interacted with Sean Couturier, who is upholding the time-honored tradition of living with an older player as a rookie. Briere’s kids trolled Couturier while they played hockey video games and clearly reveled in his presence.

The most heartwarming moment featured the softer side of John Tortorella, who regularly exchanges text messages with Liam, a boy who with cerebral palsy. His reaction to the New York Rangers’ jaw-dropping last-tenth-of-a-second win against the Phoenix Coyotes added some gravity to that moment.

2. Good Torts/Bad Torts

That interchange with Liam gave Tortorella some valuable dimension, because the other footage features a starling, profane taskmaster. (Some believe that his intensity will eventually burn the team out, which is a stance you’re welcome to debate in the comments.)

source: Getty Images3. Peter Laviolette: “Montreal typical” and officials

Peter Laviolette was inflamed when Jaromir Jagr didn’t draw a penalty, going as far as to accuse officials of playing to the crowd in Montreal. If you see someone react to a Habs-friendly call with “It’s Montreal typical,” then you’ll know where that little meme came from. (Laviolette just seems to rub his hosts the wrong way, as you can see from this altercation with Steve Ott.

The officials made a big impact on the show, in general. One basically admitted to making a bad call, there was a great moment in the referees’ locker room and well-placed recording equipment caught some fascinating behind-the-scenes bits.

4. Injuries

From Steve Eminger’s separated shoulder to Chris Pronger’s season-ending injury and Couturier taking a puck to the head, those pull-back-the-curtain moments were awfully interesting. The most telling footage centered on Claude Giroux’s recovery from a concussion. Cameras caught trainers working with Giroux and a doctor running baseline tests that one could imagine being administered when a cop pulls over a drunk driver.

Giroux’s four-point night showed that he must be feeling OK, although time will tell.

5. Ilya Bryzgalov, again

The Flyers certainly caught the first episode of 24/7, because they really let Ilya Bryzgalov have it during a team breakfast. One player gave him the greeting of “Hey, Universe” (which must be his nickname from now on). Jaromir Jagr teased him and even changed tables on Breezy.

Even with reduced screen time, Bryzgalov provided another priceless gem. The Russian goalie stupefied audiences by saying that his blue-eyed husky is “basically like a hot girl.”

Moments like those make us all a little sad that there are only two episodes left.

2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class to be named Monday; Selanne + who?

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The 2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class is expected to be announced on Monday, and every indication is that Teemu Selanne will be on the list. Beyond that, well, there are a lot of question marks.

NHL.com notes that there’s at least a possibility that Selanne will be the only NHL name to be part of this class, which would mark a first since 2010 (when Dino Ciccarelli was the lone addition).

It’s a nice way to continue what’s been a buffet for hockey fans: the 2017 Stanley Cup Final’s conclusion, the expansion draft and then the 2017 NHL Draft. The HHOF announcements are nice appetizer before free agency gets, well, frenzied?

“The Finnish Flash” was also an obvious top choice in last year’s poll to see who should be in the class.

Now, that doesn’t mean he is the only interesting name.

For one thing, Daniel Alfredsson will be eligible for the first time, much like Selanne. “Alf” falls in the “Maybe” category with some interesting, debatable other options: Mark Recchi, Dave Andreychuk, Alex Mogilny, Jeremy Roenick, Paul Kariya, Chris Osgood, and more.

The 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame class included Eric Lindross, Rogie Vachon, Sergei Makarov, and Pat Quinn.

Florida Panthers aren’t afraid to change, but will they actually improve?

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Change is often a necessary thing in sports, and the results can be swift and brutal. There’s a fine line between rolling with the punches and blindly swinging, however.

The Florida Panthers’ history as a franchise makes you wonder if they’ll ever find the right balance between stability and innovation. Amid all these years of flip-flopping and regime tweaks, there may only be one unsettling constant: the on-ice product being middling-to-terrible.

Just look at the way they burn through coaches.

Six of their 14 head coaches were behind the bench for fewer than 82 games, including Tom Rowe, who was seemingly thrown out with the analytical approach last season.

Their GMs haven’t fared much better. Dale Tallon’s probably received the longest leash of them all, and this past year or so made a mess of that situation. And it’s arguable that things have only degraded as Tallon aims to clean up supposed “messes.”

The Panthers didn’t just lose cheap 30-goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault to Vegas; they also shipped Reilly Smith to the Golden Knights. Smith was a golden boy of sorts to the more stats-leaning members of the franchise, and while he struggled last season, it sure seemed like the Panthers were eager to get rid of him.

The same could be said about Jason Demers.

MORE: Welcome Demers to the trade rumor mill

As abrupt as the Gerard Gallant firing felt, the Panthers didn’t necessarily give the analytical approach much time. At least from an “optics” standpoint.

Now, parting ways with Marchessault, Smith, and possibly Demers may end up being reasonable in hindsight. Still, there’s no denying that Tallon made some mistakes in his stead; the “computer boys” didn’t sign an atrocious Dave Bolland contract and didn’t pick Erik Gudbranson over superior talent.

The bottom line is that the Panthers haven’t won a playoff series since John Vanbiesbrouck led them to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final. There’s legitimate concern that this franchise will keep making the same mistakes – and keep changing the cooks in the kitchen – while the results leave much to be desired.

Will Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau share the same frustrating path as Jay Bouwmeester and others before them?

This summer could serve as a serious fork in the road, as Tallon has some building blocks in place and an estimated $20 million in cap space. Even if the Panthers remain a budget team, they’re likely to have some room to work with.

Perhaps they’ll finally make the right changes?

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Panthers look to be aggressive in adding scoring

Devils will give top pick Hischier a chance to make team right away

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There’s at least some question regarding whether Nico Hischier is ready to jump straight from being the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft to becoming an immediate part of the New Jersey Devils’ roster.

If he went back to junior, it would break a lengthy trend of No. 1 choices going to the big time right away.

Devils GM Ray Shero seems pretty optimistic that he can handle that jump, though, as you can see from this presser via MSG:

MORE: Devils pick Hischier over Patrick

As one would expect, Shero said that the Devils won’t rush him if it’s “apparent” that the Swiss-born forward isn’t ready. Still, Shero seems convinced that Hischier has the size, skill, and smarts to earn a spot.

Much like Nolan Patrick with the Philadelphia Flyers, Hischier didn’t deny that he wants to make the big time right off the bat.

“Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s my goal, so it is important for sure,” Hischier said on draft night. “I really want to achieve my goal, but I still know I have to prove a lot of things to play there.”

Hey, maybe Taylor Hall could even ease his adjustment?

Burns and Thornton pose nude for ESPN Body Issue, and yes, it’s weird

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Hey, have you ever wanted to see Brent Burns and Joe Thornton essentially line up against each other naked?

Well, ESPN the Magazine interrupted your answer either way, going ahead and doing it for their vaunted Body Issue.

Considering Thornton’s UFA status, there’s at least an outside chance that this will be their final action together as members of the San Jose Sharks.

This is your last chance not to scroll and see Thornton, Burns, beards, tattoos, and not a whole lot else.

/waits

Former teammate Jason Demers captured it on Twitter, making it his background, and generally winning the Internet for the day:

Did anyone else think about Thornton’s line after Tomas Hertl scored four goals? No? OK.

The real highlight might be Burns and Thornton giggling in robes, honestly.

Click here for more on that issue, including information on U.S. women’s ice hockey team members who will also be featured.