Last night’s episode may have been the most intense so far.
The show opened with Flyers coach Peter Laviolette ripping into his team after two lackluster periods in Colorado. It was intense, cold and yet still motivating—which is something we’ve come to love about Laviolette during this series.
HBO then turned to the ongoing drama concerning star forward Claude Giroux’s concussion. As the Flyers practiced, Laviolette marveled to the guy they call “G” about how great he looked at practice. Giroux grimaced and said he wasn’t sure how that would translate into a game, saying, “This is just practice.”
It was enlightening to see how a concussion can crack the confidence of a player of Giroux’s skill level. One has to wonder if all the concussion talk around the league made him wonder a bit.
That wonder was quickly evaporated as HBO mic’d him up for his four-point return game. Those clips were highlighted by Giroux teasing Dallas’ Steve Ott about taking a faceoff. Ott barked back that he’s fifth in the league in faceoffs, according to NHL.com.
Ott also got into an altercation with Laviolette between periods, which resulted in Ott giving the Flyers coach some unsolicited advice on what he could do with himself. When asked about by the media after the game, the coach slyly smiled and claimed he didn’t know what the reporter was talking about. Funny stuff.
The real story of this episode was the buildup to the Rangers-Flyers game last week.
If you thought this rivalry was intense just because they were both two top teams, we now have video evidence that it is beyond intense.
There is actual animosity.
HBO covered both head coaches addressing their teams prior to the big matchup and both struck similar chords. Both Laviolette and Rangers’ John Tortorella preached tough physical play, but play that was disciplined.
24/7’s greatest gift to hockey fans is the on-ice action. The game between the Rangers and Flyers showed just how much animosity there can be during an NHL game.
The highlight of this might have been Flyers rookie Tom Sestito yelling at the Rangers bench, promising that he was going to “knock every one of you out,” to which Rangers captain Brad Richards responded with a “This is like fantasy hockey camp for you.” Great stuff.
On the ice, the game was rough and physical and at one after-whistle scrum, Mike Rupp got into it with Philadelphia’s Jody Shelley, telling him that Shelley was “totally irrelevant out here.”
With stuff like this, we are going to miss this show in a couple of weeks.
After the game, which the Rangers won, we got to see the softer side of the players as they hit their Christmas break. We saw Marian Gaborik shopping for a Christmas tree and then carrying it home on his shoulder.
They showed us several Flyers spending the holidays together and Rangers' Brian Boyle heading home to Massachusetts to celebrate with his large family.
The show ended with a look at the outdoor rink being prepared for the Winter Classic. With one more episode left, the focus will surely be on the outdoor game January 2nd. Hopefully the game between these two rivals will be just as intense as the preview was.
Best Ilya Bryzgalov Moment:
HBO teased us this week by hardly mentioning the budding television star all episode long. Were they going to stiff us?
At the very end they gave us a look at Christmas at the Bryzgalov home.
We got a look at his Siberian husky that he compared to hot blondes the week before and Bryzgalov gave a rambling explanation about how many faces he has. Last count was seven, and we are still confused.
But the line of the night actually came from his young son. Sitting with his, sister the young Bryzgalov told her that he “was more English and [she was] more Russian.”