Our review: First '24/7' episode picks up right where last year left off

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
12:24
AM ET

HBO's "24/7" came out of the gates with some early fisticuffs and F-bombs to reel in the audience, but settled down to begin character development, awe you with the kind of access networks have dreamed about for decades and left you wanting more.

Why fix what isn't broken, right?

The show featuring the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers kicked off Wednesday night with a solid opener and, like last season, I figure each episode will beat the last in a buildup to the Jan. 2 Winter Classic capper.

Once again, the beauty of this show is it has an allure for all walks of life; whether you've never watched a hockey game before or you make a living covering it, you come away finding out something you didn't know.

In the case of Wednesday's opening episode, I didn't know Ilya Bryzgalov was so pent up about the creation of the universe and the immensity of the solar system. How long do you think it took HBO producers to figure out they had a bona-fide series star in Bryz?

More moments that caught my attention:

• Just minutes into the show, you had a coach launching into an F-bomb-filled rant that would have made Bruce Boudreau proud.

"Play f---ing hard, play for each other, support each other, come back to the bench f---ing dripping tired of sweat and exhaustion and put your foot on the f---ing gas."

Thing is, I was shocked it was Flyers coach Peter Laviolette and not Rangers coach John Tortorella.

• But you knew Torts would not go an entire show without swearing, right? His dressing-room speeches are terrific. As a player, I'd want to play for that guy because you'd always know where you stand and he is clear on what he's looking for. Consider his message to the dressing room before facing winger Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs:

"With Kessel, if you have a chance, finish him," said Tortorella. "He's a good player, but don't s--- your pants on him. Don't play off of him. We have to still try to take time and space from him."

• Later in the same game, a loss against Toronto, Tortorella loses it on the bench when Brian Boyle misses a defensive assignment. Here, we get our first hint at the coach's annoyance with HBO's cameras.

"Brian Boyle, we've done that f---ing coverage all f---ing year long," said the coach. "You get that f---ing mike on, you can't f---ing think straight."

• I thought it was interesting that Tortorella would ask assistant coach Mike Sullivan for his opinion on whether or not to pull goalie Henrik Lundqvist when the Leafs went up 3-0 in that game. Sullivan recommended Lundqvist stay in and the head coach complied. I wish I could hear that stuff when I cover a game!

• Bryzgalov doesn't disappoint in his first interview of the show, talking about signing a big contract in a market that has traditionally eaten up goalies.

"When I signed here, people said, 'You're going to hell,'" Bryzgalov said with a smile.

• We were introduced to the reborn Jaromir Jagr and got the glossy version of why he chose to sign with Philadelphia over his former team, Pittsburgh, this past summer.

"Sometimes you think your brain knows everything, but maybe you should follow your heart first," Jagr said.

Um, we're pretty sure it was the other way around, Jaromir. The Flyers offered more money and you followed your brain. I don't blame you at all, but let's not romanticize a business decision.

• Flyers winger Scott Hartnell verbally jousting with Penguins winger Matt Cooke during a game against Pittsburgh: "You're the dirtiest player in the league, good job," Hartnell said sarcastically to Cooke.

• You knew we would get some fun footage after Artem Anisimov's bone-headed goal celebration against Tampa Bay. When informed of his 16 minutes of penalties by the officials, the miked-up Anisimov, looking absolutely surprised, said, "For what? What [did] I do?"

Then, there was postgame dressing-room footage of Anisimov apologizing to his Rangers teammates for the strange goal celebration that ignited a near brawl. Good on the kid. Mind you, his teammates would tease him for the next few days, which HBO made sure to pick up on. This is why we watch the show, for footage like this.

• I loved the footage of Rangers captain Ryan Callahan having dinner with his parents before a game in Buffalo. Hockey is so much about family; it's about the sacrifices other family members make to help that NHL dream come true for their son or brother. The postgame scene with his other relatives was also touching.

• There was a great clip of Tortorella talking about Callahan: "He understands the intangibles, he respects the game. I think that's something we've lost a little bit with our athletes; that's not Ryan Callahan."

• A moment later, Torts unleashes a tongue-lashing on Marian Gaborik on the bench, who, of course, pays his coach back by scoring a big goal late in the game against Buffalo.

• Most of the final scenes focus on Flyers star center Claude Giroux and the concussion he suffered after being accidentally kneed in the head by teammate Wayne Simmonds. You get a glimpse of the NHL's in-game concussion protocol, and the follow-up concussion tests Giroux is put through in the days that follow. What better proof for the NHL to show it is trying to deal with the problem. And what a storyline to follow as the series ramps up.

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