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Winter Classic HBO 247Flyers Top Rangers

Dec 15, 2011, 2:42 PM EDT

The debut of HBO's 24/7 last night had Flyers fans salivating, and with good reason. Here are our highlights from the show.

It’s not uncommon to
hear complaints in Philly that our side is painted unfairly when cast
under the national spotlight. It’d be hard to find anything resembling
that in the opening episode of HBO’s Flyers-Rangers edition of 24/7.
Philadelphia clearly came out the winner in this portrayal, aided by an
undefeated streak during filming and some entertaining characters.

Let’s take a look at some storylines and highlights.

The
show opened with an F-bomb–laden intro that would make Nucky Thompson
blush. If you had Peter Laviolette in the “First to Say ‘Fuck’ ” pool,
you took the pot. Overall, Lavvy came off great in the episode, which
should surprise no one. He was complimented by the narration, and lived
up to the hype of his “distinctive blend of intensity and passion.” We
saw him in a variety of circumstances from firing up his troops, calmly
talking to them on an off day, deciding on his goalie’s workload, and
learning about his star player’s shaky prognosis. Lavvy was every bit a
man in control of a successful team.

John Tortorella didn’t make an ass of himself or anything, but he
was portrayed as the frustrated coach dealing with a good team
struggling for a variety of reasons. His players were shown taking dumb
penalties and whining to refs on the ice repeatedly, with Torts pissed
at both the acts and the calls. He blew the doors off of Marian Gaborik
in the Sabres game, but it was shown to be a good motivator, as Gaborik
would score later in the game.

Overall, it was a tame performance for one of the league’s most
theatrical coaches. We’re looking forward to that changing at some point,
though Torts has made it known that he’s well aware he’s on camera. He
even called out Brian Boyle for not being able to think straight because
he was mic’d up.

Off the Ice
Both teams were shown with players doing positive
things for their cities’ kids on their off days. The Rangers loaded kids
into a limo bus (oddly named Exotic Limousines) and taking them to see
the Rockettes in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. Wayne
Simmonds was filmed as he made an on-ice appearance with kids playing as
part of the Ed Snider Youth Organization (more on that below). A few
Flyers had their kids out on the practice rink too, with Bryzgalov’s son
putting on the goalie pads and liking the camera as much as his dad.

The Avery Factor
Despite being waived earlier in the season
before returning a few weeks ago, Sean Avery was the first Ranger to be
focused on alone. Not surprisingly, he was shown sitting for a modeling
shoot. We did feel a moment of respect for him though as he humbly
described being waived, a demotion he took like a man as far as we ever
heard.

The Pronger Non-Factor
Along with Avery and Tortorella, Flyers
captain Chris Pronger and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov were anticipated to be
likely stars of the series when the Winter Classic matchup was
announced. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll get to see much of
the former, which is the least of the concerns with Pronger right now.
He was shot alone, in an empty locker room (as in, barely an item in it,
walls bare), and he talked about it being tough to be out of the
lineup. No HD footage of bone-jarring hits or Chris Pronger Comedy Hour.
Shots of his equipment at his stall looked like a shrine for a fallen
friend.

Concerns Over Giroux Only Grow
The footage gathered before the Pens game had G and Jagr in good spirits, singing each other’s praises. It was painful rather than celebratory for the viewer though, knowing what was about to come.

Seeing G take the knee to the head
never looked worse than it did on 24/7. We don’t know what changed, but
the response of his head and neck from the side view in slow mo looked
very bad. The response from the training staff and discussions between G
and others, and between Lavvy and trainer Jim McCrossin had it looking
like a near-certain concussion from the start. I don’t say that as an
indication that the team should have done anything differently, because
they have kept the player off the ice as they should. Only bring it up
because any worries we had over his near future were not helped by the
footage, and we didn’t see most of it.

As Giroux walks toward a day-lit door in street clothes, we hear
Liev Schreiber say, “The team’s best player is out indefinitely.” If
that didn’t give you a shiver… In terms of what it means for our
discussion of the show itself (obviously nowhere near the significance
of his health and playing ability), how much more will we see of Giroux
in this series? We don’t have to look much further than the on-camera
time of the also-concussed Chris Pronger to see that it might not be
much.

Ilya.Bryzgalov.renaisance.jpg

The Bryzgalov Show [watch videos here]
To say Bryz didn’t disappoint is an
understatement. He was the star of the first hour of programming, and it
wasn’t even close. From discussions on the nature of the universe to
Russian liquors and death penalties for tiger poaching in China, every
word was gold. Bryz’s first frames came with him taunting teammates
about his being “too skilled,” then cutting to an off-ice discussion of
all he’d heard about the pressures of being a goalie in Philly.
Fortunately, his thoughts on the universe’s grandeur seem to keep him
grounded in the philosophies of Bobby McFerrin.

Flyers Dance Party [watch video here]
The footage of the Flyers coming off the ice
after beating Pittsburgh, dancing and singing to Mac Miller’s ‘Knock
Knock’ song, was one of the most fun clips I’ve ever seen of this team.
Despite a crush of media so thick at every home game that locker room
access was recently cut back for smaller outlets, I’ve never heard this
song or celebration mentioned. Good to see the boys still had something
that was just for them (until now?).

Max.Talbot.jpg

screengrab by PD

Jagr and Talbot Penguins Reunion
We got a pretty healthy dose of
the press covering Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot facing their old squad
leading up to that game, and while it was covered as part of 24/7, it
wasn’t one of the more memorable Flyers segments. No mic’d up exchanges
between Talbot and his former mates, just an unremarkable meeting
between him and Dan Bylsma before the game. Jagr, who downplayed the
reunion at every turn, and rightfully so given that a decade has past
since he last played for Pittsburgh, did say some interesting things
about not going back there. In particular, he indicated that if he had,
his number might have been retired. And he picked Philly, a team in
total transition that on the surface probably did not appear more likely
to send a banner of a different kind to the rafters at the time. So
glad he did.

Simmonds and Transcendence
Wayne Simmonds had two scenes of
prominence in the first episode. Unfortunately, one had to do with his
knee colliding with Giroux’s head, then discussing the tough
feeling of having been involved in even an accidental collision. The
other portion was much more enjoyable, opening with Simmonds driving up
North Broad Street, Temple campus and neighborhood buildings passing
behind him. Simmonds was on his way to an event for the Ed Snider Youth
Foundation, which brings positive experiences to high-risk youths in
Philadelphia and Camden through the vehicle of hockey. The amazing
things ESYF is doing is deserving of much more discussion than we’ll get
into here, but we were glad to see it make the episode. On the way to
the youth rink, Simmonds discussed being one of the NHL’s few black
players, which the narration said is an identity he embraces and hopes
to transcend. He also talked highly of Philly and his teammates, noting
that this is a way better hockey town than LA. At the rink, one of the
youth participants told him he saw the goal he scored the night before.
That’s pretty awesome.

Other Random Highlights and Observations
Scott Hartnell blowing
off Matt Cooke’s criticism of one of his hits, “This coming from
dirtiest player in the league,” was brilliant.

Brandon Dubinsky
gets the Crybaby award for the fit he threw in the penalty box after he
and Artem Anisimov were penalized following a melee that broke out in
response to Anisimov’s “reloading” celebration.

Interesting to hear Lavvy compliment Jagr during a discussion with
Craig Berube by saying he thought he looked good on the back end of two
games in two days. A little surprised at the old man’s ability to pull
that off?

The Flyers appear to keep the nameplates of former players on a wall
in an equipment room, seen below while Jagr was tending to his stick.
Not sure if this is meant as respect to those who have walked through
the doors in both directions, or a sign that your stay here doesn’t have
to be permanent. Then again, could just be a bunch of old nameplates on
a wall, like license plates hanging in a garage. 

nameplates flyers past.png

Seeing the rookies enjoy themselves, dancing and dangling their
gangly limbs as they walked into the locker room winners over the
Penguins
for the first time in their career was a great part of the
Dance Party highlight. We barely knew who Kevin Marshall was when the
season started. Now we have footage of him dancing in skates.

The narrative supported the Flyers, both in real life and HBO’s
decision making. Cutting from a celebrating Flyers team to a screaming
mad Rangers team is more than just the circumstances of on-ice play.
Will the trend reverse in the next episode?

Either way, the Flyers were shown to be the looser and possibly even
the more disciplined bunch. Their segments were more fun, and while we’re
clearly biased on that, we’ve also seen previous editions of this series
and enjoyed both sides more than we did the Rangers elements last night.
So far, no love gained. If anything, they seem a bit boring.

Quote of the Night
Hard to pick between all the gems Bryz gave
us
, but there was one statement from Lavvy that really stood out. His
statement about the team philosophy:

“Play fuckin hard. Play for
each other, support each other. Come back to the bench fuckin drippin
tired with fuckin sweat and exhaustion. Put your foot on the fuckin
gas.”

Let’s. Go. Flyers. 

*

This post was a joint production by The700Level.com staff