You can take all of the hype leading up to the January 1, 2011 NHL Winter Classic. The incessant NBC promotion, the alumni game, Crosby and Ovechkin appearing on a game show with entirely the wrong demographic. You can even throw in the game itself. I'm sure it will be a great one. But none of it will resonate the way HBO's 24/7 Penguins/Capitals series will for years to come. If you missed this one, shame on you for six weeks. Not a minute after I eased into bed to watch last night, exhausted from a long day and a longer Penguins loss to the Rangers (no, I'm not ready to talk about it), I was transported through the Fort Pitt tunnel toward Pittsburgh's familiar skyline, and into the Penguins' spectacular new locker room, where head coach Dan Bylsma was telling his troops to get "right to our game." And I looked at my wife, deep into her eyes, and I said, "This is (expletive deleted) awesome." Without further introduction, here are GTOG's Top 10 Moments from Part I of this epic documentary series.
10. Capitals' coach Bruce Boudreau earnestly addressing the camera with spots of orange sauce on his cheek and lips.
9. Bruce Boudreau's complete meltdown between periods of the Caps' 3-0 loss to Florida. Mrs. Artistry turned to me after Boudreau dropped about 32 f-bombs while conveying little in the way of meaningful English. "He's totally getting fired," she said. She may be right. The Caps dropped their seventh in a row last night, and Boudreau doesn't strike me as a guy in control of the ship. You?
|"You f---in' need to f---in' think f---in' about how this f---in' will look on HBO."|
8. Max Talbot sitting on Santa's lap at the holiday party and whispering that what he would really like for Christmas is Santa's helpers, specifically the two good-looking elves standing nearby.
7. Bruce Boudreau remarking to his team that HBO is bound to talk about how well the Penguins are playing in contrast to the Caps, just as his hands crept dangerously close to the waistband of his unfortunate red jumpsuit, evidencing a self consciousness about the cameras that never let up the whole hour and manifesting the seemingly eternal Caps' Nation inferiority complex. Along the same lines, Caps owner Ted Leonsis later noted - and you knew he had to get in front of a camera at some point - "We have to win the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh's already won theirs."
6. The Penguins not even acknowledging the existence of the Capitals.
5. The fights. First we got an inside look at the Deryk Engelland-Colton Orr rematch ("Let's go then!") and the brutal price guys like that pay for their team every night. Just incredible footage. Then, later, the Ovechkin-Dubinsky battle during the Rangers rout of the Caps, and the "Good job, buddy" exchange as the two team leaders tumbled to the ice, satisfied with the show they'd put on for the fans and for their teammates.
4. The Bylsma meeting with Pens' GM Ray Shero. Their conversation, their easy rapport, their sober assessment of player performance, their business-like approach to game preparation - if that didn't crystallize for you the difference between these two organizations, I don't know what would. I mean, aside from Bruce Boudreau sticking his hands down his red jumpsuit.
3. The stars emerging. No, I don't mean Ovechkin and Crosby. I mean the other guys who will come out of this white hot spotlight with endorsement deals and magazine covers. Max Talbot and Marc-Andre Fleury come off as charming, fun-loving and charismatic. No surprise there. But here's one we didn't see coming: Bylsma. Talk about charisma. The scar gives him character, he tells the camera, his eyes glistening. "I was a hockey player." F---in' right.
2. "We're going to find out who did this. And we're probably not going to do anything about it." Ben Lovejoy, after Talbot and his team of merry bandits removed every item of furniture from the hotel rooms of Lovejoy and Mark Letestu and placed it in the hallway.
1. "F--- you, Geno." Pascal Dupuis, casually, to Evgeni Malkin, after tenderly kissing his adorable kids and wife goodbye, driving to the rink while softly and thoughtfully praising Sidney Crosby as a special player and person who "does everything the right way," and walking into the locker room.
To be sure, we're fortunate that HBO trained its cameras on Pittsburgh during a 12-game winning streak - it's the best of times. But here's the thing: we're just fortunate, period. Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are about as pleasant and ego-less as you could ever expect players at their level to be. How could you not like those guys (note to Sid: Please shave)? We've got players, coaches, a system, and a culture that makes us proud and that others will want to connect with and be a part of. You don't think the 2011 unrestricted free agents are watching this show? Exactly.
Pens/Rangers Get to Our Postgame is coming later today. Not because we want to, but because we don't run for cover in the face of adversity. LGP.