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HBO 24/7 Flyers/Rangers Epsode 1 Recap: Bryzgalov and Grandma Callahan steal the show

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Since I really had no rooting interest in watching HBO’s 24/7 last season as the Penguins and Capitals (two teams I despise) prepared for last year’s Winter Classic, I went into this season with an open mind. Well, as open minded as I could be, with our beloved Philadelphia Flyers squaring off against the hated New York Rangers  in the fifth installment of the NHL’s frozen pond extravaganza on January 2nd.Flyers/Rangers photo: HBO.com

And after a strong two minute introduction, which was highlighted by a barrage of F-bombs from Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette, I got the feeling that this series was going to be pretty intense.

No, not because Laviolette was cursing. I have heard stories of his intensity, and I have now seen it first hand. In a perfect world, you’d like to believe the attitude of your team is reflected in the attitude of its coach, especially one like Laviolette. It seems that this year’s Flyers team is playing as a cohesive unit with a good locker room atmosphere.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that this was not always the case during the 2010-2011 season, in which now departed captain Mike Richards did not necessarily see eye to eye with his coach.  That’s ok, Richards doesn’t really see eye to eye with anybody. And I don’t care what anyone tells me, that’s one of the reasons why he’s no longer here. But I digress. Laviolette’s outburst was brief, but impressionable.

Now on to the Rangers. You get a glimpse of the current squad with some brief interview snippets with right winger Ryan Callahan  and centers Derek Stepan and Brandon Dubinsky.  After hearing how great it is to play for one of the “original six” and having to look at Mark Messier raising the 1994 Stanley Cup (didn’t he raise enough of those against the Flyers?), we have the pleasure of seeing Rangers’ head coach John (Fonzie) Tortorella  up close and personal.

Usually, Tortorella is much less polished when talking with the media than Laviolette. To be honest, he's fiery, but I thought he would be a little more amusing. Instead, I more or less got the impression he was going to tell Potsie to “sit on it” any minute. He got more agitated later on, telling his team  "We have our work cut out for us because of our own stupidity," after Artem Anisimov popped off against the Lightning, but I imagine Tortorella’s intensity will pick up as the game gets closer.Ilya Bryzgalov photo: thebiglead.com

The scene now shifts back to the Flyers and GM Paul Holmgren, who discusses some of the bold moves the team made during the off-season, namely signing ex-Penguins Jaromir Jagr  and Max Talbot. The real scene stealer however, is new goalie IIya Bryzgalov, whose idiosyncrasies are well on display in episode 1.

I won’t give give too much away, but I’ll just say Bryzgalov’s take on the universe, tigers and Russian liquor is truly something to see. And of course, there has to be the obligatory dig on Philly, as one of his friends tells him he is “going to hell” when Bryzgalov told them he was going to play in Philadelphia. Now to be fair, they may have been referring to the Flyers’ perennial revolving door of goalies, so maybe that’s why they said what they said. Who knows?

 

After some memorable sound bites from Bryzgalov, they make a note of the injury to Chris Pronger  and how devastating of a loss it is for the orange and black as well as Pronger. Expect more of this in episode two, as Pronger had only been ruled out indefinitely and not for the entire season at the time of the broadcast.

24/7 also tries to accentuate the positive role that both the Rangers and Flyers play in the community, with the Rangers taking disadvantaged kids to Radio City Music Hall, and the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds participating in Ed Snider’s  Youth Hockey Foundation.

Maybe it’s just the angst I have in regards to their sports teams, but it seems like the guys at HBO gave a slight bias towards the Rangers in this episode. The fact that Sean Avery uses his day off to model for a photo shoot seems nothing more than a feeble attempt to emphasize how glamorous New York is.  

Rangers’ captain Callahan is also the subject of the ‘hometown boy made good’ segment, in which his homecoming in his native Buffalo comes to fruition when he is congratulated by his 95 year-old grandmother after their game against the Sabres. I must admit, it was pretty cool and I won’t knock it. After all, my 93 year-old grandfather passed on last year. I get it. Emotional advantage: Rangers.

Back to the Flyers, who knock off the Penguins and celebrate, blaring Mac Miller's "Knock, Knock.”  The scene later shifts to the team’s Christmas party, but all celebrations are short-lived however, when it is confirmed that Simmonds’ accidental knee to the back of the head of Claude Giroux has resulted in a concussion.

Luckily for HBO, both the Flyers and Rangers are off to strong starts thus far in 2011, so their will be at least some type of buildup towards the big game (Philadelphia and New York are currently one and two, respectively in the Atlantic Division standings). However, for all the success the Flyers are having on the ice in this episode, it is bittersweet when you consider the team lost their best defenseman for the season (Pronger) and possibly their best player (Giroux) in the process. On the other hand, the majority of the Rangers’ issues are on the ice, but whether the Flyers’ injuries will allow New York to climb up in the standings remains to be seen.

After episode one, it’s apparent that the Flyers, with their unique characters and major injuries, offer a more entertaining and compelling story than the Rangers, who are just a little too vanilla for my liking. While it might make for good tv, the orange and black have some subplots developing that don’t necessarily bode well for the team itself. We shall see.

Episode two of 24/7 airs Wednesday night at 10pm EST on HBO.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Homepage and article photo: HBO.com

Bryzgalov photo: thebiglead.com