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HBO 24/7 Flyers/Rangers Episode 2 Recap: Laviolette and Tortorella shine

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After a short summary of last week’s episode of 24/7, we are further reminded of how awesome the city of New York truly is no matter where you go or what you do (I’m saying this in jest, of course). Why? Because that’s what narrator Liev Schreiber pretty much implies as the opening focuses on Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who is jamming with tennis great John McEnroe for a benefit in February. Are you impressed yet?......Lundqvist photo: nypost.com

I really can’t figure out here whether Lundqvist wants to be the next Ralph Fiennes or Chad Kroeger from Nickelback (which is everybody’s favorite death wish), but either way he’s probably better suited in front of the net for the Rangers.

Being that the Rangers have pretty much stunk up the joint thus far on the ice during 24/7, the producers have put more of an emphasis on life off the ice and family. This is further evident when Rangers’ defenseman Dan Girardi is seen playing with his young son Landon, and how upset he gets when his dad has to leave for a road trip. More on emotional heartstrings from the Rangers later on.

The Flyers’ story begins this week with the team assessing the recent injuries of Chris Pronger and Claude Giroux. GM Paul Holmgren stresses the importance of the rookies to step up during this time, and how the team must soldier on. A fact that might be lost upon some is the fact that the Flyers have seven rookies on their team who have been asked to step up this season. For the most part, they have all done so. However, like the Phillies bunch of youngsters in 2011, you have to wonder how these rookies will be able to perform down the stretch when it really counts.

As the team prepares to play the Capitals in Washington, coach Peter Laviolette gives the team a nice pep talk before the orange and black take the icePeter Laviolette photo:  broadstreethockey.com and give the Caps a 5-1 throttling. It’s the Flyers’ first win in the nation’s capital in almost three years and the team’s sixth straight win overall.

Laviolette’s dedication to his team is furthermore exemplified, when he is studying game film on his laptop immediately after the game. In a more lighthearted moment, he's later seen congratulating left winger Scotty Hartnell on his 200th career goal, then chiding him jokingly. 

“200 more than me,” says Laviolette, in reference to his NHL career.

Meanwhile, back in New York, coach John Tortorella’s main goal is to get the Rangers back on track. This is shown in a film session where his demeanor is a rather positive one towards his team. Don’t worry, Tortorella will get angrier as the show goes on.

Back to the Flyers and episode 1 star Ilya Bryzgalov, whose theories on the universe and killing tigers in Russia were some of the more memorable moments of episode one. Never at a loss for words, the Flyers’ goalie offered a second batch of quotable sound bites during this hour, going on record that he has a love-hate relationship with his profession, as well as his comparison of a siberian huskie to a woman with blue eyes.

Bryzgalov’s newfound fame was not lost upon his teammates. In fact, some of them watched the first episode of 24/7 and were quick to razz him about it.  In one of the funnier moments of the episode, Jaromir Jagr left the dinner table where he was eating to sit by himself as Bryzgalov came over to join him. Jagr is also seen giving the team a pep talk just prior to taking the ice against the Canadiens in Montreal. He really seems to have become a rock on this Flyers team. Laviolette also gives the team some encouragement before the game, but still manages to get a profanity in there in a calmly manner.

During the game however, Laviolette blows his top against the refs for a non-call on Jagr, which leads to a game-tying goal by Montreal. Laviolette, who insists it’s a home ice bias on behalf of the refs, rips them a new one in a clean manner, but definiately gets his two cents in before preparing for the third period. His methods seem to work, as the Flyers rally for a 4-3 win and their seventh in a row. However, much like their Christmas party, the team’s celebration is bittersweet as they get confirmation after the game that Pronger is lost for the season with lingering issues from his concussion.

 

Though not as serious as the Flyers, the Rangers are dealing with some injuries as well. Defenseman Marc Staal is also recovering from a concussion, and his timetable is undetermined, and Mike Rupp is making a return from a knee injury. On the ice, the team is still in a rut. And at the end of the first period in a game against the Blues in St. Louis, Tortorella gives his team a major ass reaming in the locker room. The team gets the message, but only for a short while, as some sloppy play and an unlucky bounce leads to another loss.John Tortorella photo: nj.com

In an unexpected move, you get a glimpse of a personal side of Tortorella that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from him. His efforts to befriend a 10-year old Rangers fan stricken with cerebral palsy are indeed genuine and heartfelt. Tortorella has become close friends with 10-year old Liam Traynor and his family, and has become one of the boy’s biggest supporters.

Opposing team or not you can’t help but admire Tortorella for lifting the spirits of Traynor. Plus one for him. His actions are to be commended, and the Rangers win the emotional advantage again for the week.

On the ice, the Rangers encounter an intense, bloody, physical game against the Coyotes in Phoenix that sees them lose defenseman Steve Eminger for several months with a separated shoulder. And even though the Rangers eek out a dramatic win on a goal as time expires (which requires a replay), losing Eminger is a tremendous blow to the team.

As the Rangers eek out a win, the Flyers close out 2011 against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center. Boston are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and they showed why, giving the Flyers a good old fashioned 6-0 whooping. Hartnell didn’t take too kindly to this and ended up taking his frustrations out on the Bruins’ Johnny Boychuk. Unfortunately, the game also featured a freak injury to Danny Briere’s house guest Sean Couturier, who accidentally took a hockey puck behind the ear off a shot by Kimmo Timonen. Man, what is it with people who stay with Danny Briere? Giroux lived their last year.......

Despite the loss (which snapped the Flyers’ winning streak), Giroux is improving, and Laviolette tells the team to hold their head high because they have been playing well. At the same time however, they should let the loss burn for a little bit.

Unlike episode one, the second episode showcased the efforts of Laviolette and Tortorella as they gear up for the big game on January 2nd. The team’s both have different obstacles they are dealing with, and how they make adjustments will be key as the next two weeks unfold.

As far as team personalities go (and I’m trying to be as unbiased as possible), I still think the Rangers are too vanilla for a series like this. Tortorella is more interesting than any of the players, and you don’t have a pulse if you aren’t touched by Traynor’s story. Even the players’ attempts at humor pale in comparison with the Flyers, who are clearly more humorous. The Rangers seem like decent guys off the ice, but that fact that you play in New York can only take you so far.

I’m not sure which direction episode three will take the teams, but one thing is for sure: Wednesday night’s shoving match between Laviolette and Dallas enforcer Steve Ott  will be a highlight. Bank on it!

You can catch a replay of episode 2 of HBO’s 24/7 on Dec. 22 (5:30 p.m. and 11:50 p.m. ET) Dec. 23 (3 p.m.), Dec. 24 (11:30 a.m. and 11:55 p.m.), Dec. 25 (8:45 a.m.) and Dec. 26 (4 p.m.).

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

Also check out Philly2Philly's interview with Flyers' legend Brian Propp

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Tortorella photo: nj.com

Henrik Lundqvist photo: nypost.com

Laviolette photo:  broadstreethockey.com