Reflections from a reporter born in 1987

Capitals talk '24/7' after practice at Kettler

December 16, 2010 - 02:08 PM
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Bruce Boudreau, NHL coach and TV star. (Photo: Associated Press)

Last night saw the premiere of the much-anticipated HBO documentary "24/7: Road to the Winter Classic," an inside look at the preparations of the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins ahead of their January 1 match-up at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

In case you missed any of the show, Dan Steinberg has transcripts of head coach Bruce Boudreau's most memorable rants, as well as a special appearance by Assistant Coach Dean Evason. Also, via SB Nation, here's video of Boudreau's post-second period rant in last Thursday's 3-0 loss to the Florida Panthers, which can reasonably be called the high point of the Caps' December, a month in which they've lost seven of their eight games so far.

WARNING: Naughty Words Ahead:

The Capitals were back at practice today at the Kettler Iceplex in snowy Arlington, and much of the talk was about, naturally, "24/7."

Now, the HBO cameras have been set up at Kettler to do promotional shoots for about a month now, but filming began in earnest over the past week (last night's show opened on Wednesday, December 8, two days after the Capitals' third consecutive loss of their current seven-game losing streak, the 5-4 shootout loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs).

According to Capitals Vice President of Communications Nate Ewell, the special demands of HBO consist mainly of spending a couple extra hours with selected players off the ice (as seen with Alex Ovechkin and Scott Hannan in last night's episode), making selected players (Ovechkin again) and coaches (Boudreau and Evason) wear microphones during practices and games, and filming scenes that are generally off-limits to the working press (like team meetings and in-game locker room scenes).

Now that principal filming has has started on the series, I asked some members of the Capitals how the reality of being under the HBO microscope matched up with what their original perceptions were.

"I actually thought it would be more intense than it has been," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "But [the HBO crews] have been really good at flying under the radar."

"It's been different," said Hannan, the newest member of the Caps whose house-hunting exploits were one focus of last night's premiere episode. "I'm not sure there's anything that can prepare you for it. It's different, but it's been a lot of fun."

Forward Matt Hendricks had no problem with the off-ice demands on the players' time ("You just have to watch what you say," he said.), while forward Mike Knuble said that he underwent a gradual adjustment period. "The first couple of meetings, you don't know what they're going to do and you feel kind of naked. But, you've just got to get used to it."

While some, like Alzner, were excited to watch the program (the Capitals had a game last night, so not many saw the premiere), others, like forward Brooks Laich, couldn't have cared less: "I have no interest in what's going on [with the Penguins]. I only see and live what's going on over here." Laich, who scored the only Washington goal in last night's 2-1 overtime loss to Anaheim, echoed his head coach. "I doubt I'll watch it," said Boudreau. "That's one of those things that you watch if you're on a ten-game winning streak. I've lived through the negative stuff, I don't want to see it again."

Not everyone in the Boudreau family observed the blackout, though. "TSN [the Canadian sports TV network] had one of my locker room talks on this morning," Boudreau related. "My mum [Theresa Boudreau] already called me."

So, with next Wednesday's program covering the events of this week, who should viewers be looking forward to seeing?

"A lot of us don't want to be that guy that hogs the spotlight," Alzner said. "So a lot of us aren't doing things we'd normally do, because we don't want to be that guy. But some of the guys are starting to come out of their shell. I think Jason Chimera will be someone to watch. He always does and says some things."

Injury Updates

Mike Green, who the HBO show revealed to be suffering from a sprained MCL, told reporters that he wasn't feeling any ill effects after playing 29:16 and blocking five shots against Anaheim, while Alexander Semin missed another day of practice with a lower body injury. According to Bruce Boudreau, his status for Saturday's game against Boston is uncertain.

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