If you haven't caught a glimpse of HBO's series 24/7 Penguins/Capitals by now, you should just turn in your hockey fan rights and move onto a different sport. The series continued to live up to the hype on Wednesday night as the third installment treated us to another great episode.
Let's take a closer look at the 10 best moments of part three...
First up I want to highlight just how amazing the production of the show is. Up until now I've focused on the content and themes of the show, but it's imperative to point out the dazzling quality of work HBO is offering us.
Whether it is the action sequences on the ice, the seamless narrative or the balance between the serious and the fun, HBO does it right. At no point in time am I sitting there disinterested. Each scene unravels another layer of the game we love.
A lot of media outlets have craved this kind of access, but let's all be thankful that it was HBO that finally got that responsibility.
The game has never been so compelling...
What has become a running theme on this show is the gruesome up-close and personal look at the brutality of the game. Many of us fans take the injury report for granted.
We look at the headline and see Mike Knuble will miss three games with a broken jaw. We hear another report that Ben Lovejoy is day-to-day with a facial injury.
What we don't often think about, much-less see, is what these injuries actually mean for the players.
After watching Lovejoy's face swell up to the size of a beachball or seeing the metal coming out of Knuble's mouth I doubt I'll ever look at the injury news of the day the same.
What is possibly more interesting is the dismissive attitude these players take towards the pain. The hyper-masculine nature of the game is on full display as we see player after player shrug their shoulders about the reality of it all.
For the first time in this series Bruce Boudreau won't be making headlines for his postgame profanity. In both the New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins games, Boudreau didn't drop a single F-bomb in his speech to the team.
Instead we were treated to some of his off-color comedy during a Christmas shopping spree at Nordstrom. A quick stop in a Louis Vuitton shop should make his wife happy—unless of course he was looking to buy Mike Green another pair of gloves to wear while he rides around on his Vespa.
The thrill of scoring a first NHL goal is a memorable event. During the past week we saw Andrew Gordon and Ben Lovejoy get theirs and both were ecstatic about the achievement. Gordon was awarded the nightly hardhat for the feat, while Lovejoy was given the team shovel.
Too bad for Lovejoy that he was on the operating table instead of in the locker room. By the time he was painfully stitched up he told cameras just how emotional the night was. His first NHL fight, goal and puck to the face. Thanks to HBO, we'll remember it too.
"Did we get her the puck?"
Referee Kelly Sutherland after finding out the timeout coordinator woman was hit in the face with an errant puck.
It's no secret that the fundamental purpose of this show is the unprecedented access we are receiving. In this episode we once again see things that we've never seen before. During the Pittsburgh/Washington matchup Mike Green shot a puck that might have crossed the goal line during overtime.
To be sure we had to contact Toronto's video control room (powered by LG). We are treated to a live exchange between Colin Campbell, Kris King and referee Kelly Sutherland. Fascinating stuff. I've always heard of this mysterious control room located in the dungeon of some top secret building, but HBO finally showed it to us.
Have you ever wondered how these coaches game-plan in a video session? Wonder no more as HBO gave us the inside scoop on what some of the strategies are used before a game. In this episode we see Bruce Boudreau tell his players that the best way to attack Malkin is with physical punishment.
Because he is prone to retaliation. Sure enough as the game plays out this tactic works as Malkin takes an ill-advised two minute penalty.
So how did they plan to stop Crosby? We weren't privy to that information, but Boudreau did say that it didn't matter what way they tried to stop him, Sid the Kid wasn't going to take the bait.
During the intermissions we saw both coaches give their teams tips for the upcoming period. Among some of the inspirational and revealing messages?
"Shoot the puck."
Lost in some of the hoopla of the series is the final endgame plan—the Winter Classic. Near the end of the episode HBO shows us the initial stages of the Heinz Field transformation taking place in Pittsburgh, but before we get to see more they took their cameras inside the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room.
It was only fitting that one of the NFL players interviewed was heavy-hitter Jerome Harrison. He has made headlines all year with his helmet-to-helmet hits and helped sparked the public discourse on head injuries and concussions. I'm sure the NHL has enough to worry about and will kindly decline his offer to lace 'em up if the Penguins need him.
If you haven't seen the time-lapse video of the field-to-rink transformation, click on the embedded link to see it take place. Can you figure out how many hours the operation was dormant? I'm not sure either, but it wasn't many.
If you were fortunate enough to watch the Pittsburgh/Washington game on television last Thursday you'll know just how entertaining it was. However, being at the game was probably even better.
Yet, what HBO has managed to do is give us a third vantage point that we have never seen before. All the inside audio from the coaches, players and referees on the ice.
We have seen snippets of this in the previous two episodes, but the matchup between these two teams was front and center tonight and was heavily featured on the show. We got to hear the players yappin' at each other and if it wasn't uncensored, we probably wouldn't hear a lot of the exchanges. We got to hear the players yelling at the referees every time a puck was shot over the glass. And we were also given front row seats to the heated exchanges that go on between the coaches and the refs after a disputed penalty.
After watching the game on television and now HBO, it's hard to tell if it was the same game. Television cannot possibly capture the full intensity of the coaches, players and fans during a game and getting a taste of the real thing has both enhanced how I see the game, but it's also taken some of the fun away from it too.
Going back to regular game coverage has suddenly lost some of its appeal....
Easily topping the list are the two stars of each respective team. Many fans are sick and tired of the coverage these two superstars receive, but like it or not they are the faces of the NHL.
Having said that, both of them are shown in a light that we have never seen before. Each player had their moments of raw profanity and in-your-face confrontations. I'm not sure how many other leagues would allow their prized assets to be shown this way, but this is part of the appeal of the show.
During a scoring chance Sidney Crosby was interfered with and let's just say he wasn't happy about the non-call. I'm not going to repeat what he had to say to the referee Kelly Sutherland after the play, but he used more F-bombs per second than Bruce Boudreau's infamous speech. If he was worried about his reputation as a whiner, this clip isn't going to help his cause.
Thankfully for him, bitching to the referee is a common practice by most players. Soon after, Alexander Ovechkin was called for a penalty that he didn't agree with. I didn't rewind the tape, but he directed almost as many F-bombs towards Sutherland as Crosby did.
Ok so swearing isn't the biggest revelation in the world, but how often do we get to see the league's best battle it out like this on Hockey Night in Canada or Versus?
They both share an intense passion for the game and HBO did a great job at capturing it in its glorious, uncensored form.
One can only hope that the series finale is as good as the previous three episodes....