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There’s no shortage of 24/7 reviews out there these days, and the general consensus seems to be that the first episode was on the slow-and-boring side (with great cinematography!), and HEY DION PHANEUF OWNS BOWTIES. Personally, I thought it was a solid stage-setter. “Here’s the characters you’ll need to know.”

My plan today is to focus on the hockey side, but I’d still like to register my quips with the DoPS (Department of Player Sarcasm) because that’s half the fun of watching these shows.

So, in rough chronological order, the things that caught my eye from hour one of 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic.

***

Detroit is “bleak”

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I couldn’t help but chuckle, but also feel a little bad when the show opens in Detroit, and the narration begins: “While the bleakness is unavoidable…”

I mean, “bleak?” Oof. What a desirable characteristic. They basically painted the town as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol. Future isn’t bright, but they sure are scrappy.

Tomas Tatar as stand-up act

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A lot of coaches worry their guys get too uptight to play creatively. Babcock has recently started having guys read out the starting line-up, apparently “with whatever they would like to add.” That looks like a crap-ton of pressure to me, but I did enjoy the concept. Not as much as Babcock did, but still.

Mike Babcock is always coaching

At one point early on, Mike Babcock says something to the effect of “Unless you’ve coached or played with an Original Six franchise you don’t get the tradition.” That to me felt like Babcock trying to further emphasize to his guys that it’s a privilege to be there, there’s a tradition to uphold, and there are expectations because of that. Which, I think, is a pretty darn cool tool to use with your players. It’s an honor to be here, so you better work hard.

Man is he intense though. Phew.

He seems to do a good job mixing motivational coaching (you hear him a number of times say stuff like “Way to get available Mule” and “Atta pass it off him” after a good shot for a rebound, just like you hear him ask his guys for more when they’re sucking) and technical coaching (more on that in a bit). He’s definitely part old school, but stuff like requesting “east-west work to create confusion” as he did before the first Florida game shows his open mind. Most Canadian coaches are built on north-south hockey.

WARNING: TECHNICAL HOCKEY TALK AHEAD

Red Wings’ breakouts

In the past I’ve been able to grab a quick visual of the whiteboard behind a coach when he’s giving his pre or post-game speech, and this year was no different. They do a good job of not leaving too much up there (Davis Payne used to diagram every damn system we had for anyone who wanted to study more), but I got a little something.

So, faceoffs!

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(Click to embiggen.)

Starting in the D-zone:

Babcock starts off his pre-game meeting by saying “They split-off every face-off, let’s make sure we have a plan,” and by mentioning that they want their “wingers helping on draws aggressively” (the Wings win 51.3% of their draws for what that’s worth). I don’t entirely know what he means by “they split-off” (likely the Panthers’ wingers take away the walls, while some teams overload a side) but this is what they’ve laid out to counter it as the text on the board reads:

OUTSIDE FORWARD GET HIGH CREATE SPACE

In a nutshell, Detroit is making it hard on the opposing d-man by driving up their outside winger. If that d-man wants to take the risk of pinching down, he better not give the winger time to make a one-touch to the middle, and he better not let that winger chip it by him/let it go by him because…

CENTER PUSH PACE

The center is coming to the soon-to-be strong side as well, and pushing the pace (as in, showing that he’s flying the zone and not providing low support). This means the d-man probably has to slide back to not allow anyone behind him, which should open up room for the first guy we discussed, the outside winger, to make a pass or get his feet moving up ice.

He has those options off the DEFENSE DIRECT PASS TO OUTSIDE FWD because the inside winger is supporting low. A lot of coaches will ask that winger to jump through the circle then cut across higher. This inside winger is coming low and timing his support.

Overloading one side really forces one specific d-man to either make a play on the forward breaking out, or let the team leave their own zone.

For the two draws from the neutral zone, here’s a totally blurry pic just so you can see all the arrows. Obviously the first screenshot provides a clearer view of the language.

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(Oh god I’m getting dizzy. Enlarging doesn’t help that.)

Here’s where it gets hard, because we’re not in the room and don’t know how they’ve named their faceoffs. It appears to read “RT UP VS. SPLIT,” which might just mean “right up versus split,” but could mean “Respiratory Triscadecaphobia” for all we know. I’ve been on teams that used numbers, some colors, and others Mighty Ducks character names for faceoffs, f’real.

Anyway, they want to move the puck right up to the winger on the wall, which is pretty damn basic. They do have their winger going high though, which puts him in traffic, so they might want tip-ins, which is very common off a center-ice draw (everyone is already where they want to be defensively, sooo, yeah).

When the puck does get dumped in, they want a hard wrap (my guess is those illustrations are meant for any and all hard dump-ins, not a particular draw), with a HARD WRAP DOUBLE. Simply put, they want F1 on the puck, F2 above it, and F3 going behind the net so if F1 or 2 recover the puck, the have a low option to start east-west play.

PHEW. Back to 24/7.

Joffrey Lupul might be able to return from injury

The biggest effort at god-making in episode one came with Joffrey Lupul, being that he’s a good-looking well-spoken guy. What blew me away from the probably-too-long Lupul segment, aside from the camera-eye contact with him while he got his thigh rubbed, was Lupul skating with Barb Underhill while trying to recover from a pulled groin. She has him hooked up to an elastic band and driving his knees upwards. After, Lupul says “It feels good, I might be ready to go, we’ll see,” and all I could think was, if your teammates see you can work like that, you better f***ing play. I know that sounds like macho BS, but it ain’t your brain and knowing what other guys play through, that’s gonna be good enough, Joff, thanks. Kinda expect you out there.

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I mean,  you’re okay guy.

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You’re playing (he did of course, and well. The hesitation just surprised me).

Anyway, the best thing he said all show was talking about the Leafs’ 46-year Cup drought: “As far as the 46 years go, it really doesn’t have anything to do with me, or any of the current players or current staff.” All you can do is play when you play.

Hockey players sure can be vacant

The five Red Wings players that went to a fish restaurant reminded me that not playing the game for a living anymore isn’t all that bad. You can’t choose your co-workers in any profession, but there are plenty of times in hockey where it’s you still can’t choose your co-workers, but you also can’t choose to avoid these guys on the planes and buses and at team meals and in hotels all day for eight straight months. I’m sure HBO was like “We should get some fun conversation out of thisHOLY S**T THIS IS DULL, GUYS, PLEASE TALK ABOUT PAVEL DATSYUK.” That…that was not scintillating dinner chat, and we got the highlights.

Leafs Money-On-The-Board

While trying to find some Leafs’ systems (good luck getting something out the Carlyle-with-a-dead-pen drawing random direction lines), I came across the Leafs’ “money-on-the-board” section.

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What we learned:

* Phaneuf, guilty over the suspension, was going to donate $1000 to the guy who got the game winner.

* Lupul, first game back from injury, was going to give $500 to the team slush fund for a win.

* Bernier, playing the team that he used to play for that traded him was also in $500 for a win.

* Two others guys with poor writing (is than an “11″? A “TR” for trainer? Is that a 9, or a zero? I can’t tell).

I love this stuff. $1000 directly to one guy is a pretty big prize being tossed out there.

Randy Carlyle got baffled by a toaster

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This would happen to me, so I’ll shut up.

Stephen Weiss

I need info on this guy. I get the impression he…he um… I get the impression he could beat himself at X’s and O’s, if you get what I’m implying.

More screenshots of coach’s stuff!

I believe this is Tom Renney’s card that he’s showing to Babcock against Detroit.

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(click to enlarge)

Here’s what I thiiink this card says, with my opinion of what it means.

TAKE AWAY THEIR RELOAD – TAKE AV CUTOFFS

I think the second part is just shorthand for take “away” cutoffs. In a nutshell, D will try to regroup by pushing the puck up the wall, running it back to their partner who will hinge below them, then run it back up the other side to a winger who’s waiting low. So, I’m guessing when Florida tries this, Detroit is trying to eliminate the D-to-D pass and force that d-man into pressure (trap) with the puck.

1. CUTTING PEOPLE OFF! GETTING AVAILABLE

Teams use more picks than is generally publicized, so their “cutoffs” could be a reference for that, but I don’t really know. Also could be just making sure guys are in the right lanes to cutoff the Panthers systems.

Getting available generally refers to play without the puck. If guys are content when covered, it’s awfully tough for the guy with the puck to make a play.

2. NOT SKATE TONIGHT

Those three letters “not” might be wrong, it could be someone’s initials or something. Either way, it seems to imply a similar point. Guys aren’t “skating.”

3. D-ZONE POISE, EXECUTION

Panicking leads to flip outs which leads to a loss of possession. Nick Lidstrom was so beloved because of his lack of panic. Wait that extra second, and something usually opens up.

4. KINDL? DRIVE SIP! THROW TO FEET! HANDS!

Not sure if that says Kindl or what “drive sip” means, but it could say “drive net?” Second part could mean a couple things: the simple “we need to stop passing at guys boots,” or something you only see at the highlest levels of hockey – it’s okay to give a guy a bad pass if that’s your only passing lane. Guys call for passes at chest height (they can catch), or ones at their boots, just as long as you get it through. Can’t do anything with it if it gets blocked. Anyway, it likely means just make better passes.

5. S CONNECTED! BE AVAILABLE

Stay connected refers to systems on both side of puck. Everything works on hinges, and if you’re not playing at the same speed, some guys get too far ahead, others too far behind, and the plans fall apart.

ACTIVE D

Get up in the play if there’s a chance to jump, create some odd man rushes, late shots.

PK ___ FAR SIDE 1ST & 3RD

Something system specific. You usual push your opponent to a specific side when short-handed because you’ve set up pressure before the red line on that side.

NO RELOAD! F3..ugh…GRAVOL TRADE?

Definitely gravol trade. I have no idea.

And then you clearly know the numbers.

And finally, Todd Bertuzzi

No words from Todd in the whole show, just a weird/great Sons of Anarchy shot where he’s drinking (alone?) a Corona with a lime in it. HARD. CORE.

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That’s all for episode one, friends. I’ll try to keep the next one shorter!

Comments (20)

  1. Regarding Detroit being bleak, everyone should check out the Cleveland Tourism videos. There’s two, they’re only 50 seconds long, and you won’t understand the link to Detroit being bleak until the end of the 2nd one, but they’re just so awesome (though completely unrelated to hockey) that I felt the need to share them.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysmLA5TqbIY

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZzgAjjuqZM

  2. Hey, we throw passes at people’s hands and chests all the time in my adult league. Some times it’s even intentional :-)

  3. I have a feeling number 2 says “MUST SKATE TONIGHT”

  4. the Bertuzzi shots made the whole episode worth watching. I’d love to have a beer with that guy, holy shit.

  5. Regarding Lupul being ready to go (aka the “macho BS” portion of the post) …doesn’t the trainer have a say in that too? Don’t they have to be cleared to play? I guess I took that whole thing is “Yeah I am ready but I am just saying the party line because I can’t make that call myself. I am being polite unlike later when I am gonna cuss some dude out which will be HIGHLY entertaining.” Or maybe I was confused because of THIGH.

  6. On that period two note deciphering, maybe “F3 Always Triage”? As in, F3 pick up whoever is left open?

  7. Dont you dare make these shorter… Plenty of editorializing out there but very few detailed breakdowns of whats on the board. I completely missed the dollars on the board and would have never went back probably – so keep doing exactly this.

    • I agree. I don’t know of anywhere else that I can read an informed opinion like this, and I don’t want any of it to be cut out. Most other writers take a TV/movie review approach to this, with a little bit of fanboy-ism thrown in too. So please, keep all the stuff about the technical aspects of the game in your reviews. That’s what I come here for.

  8. Add my vote to the “don’t make them shorter!” side. This is exactly the decoder-ring stuff that I want from a show like this.

  9. Ace to get an insight, however small into Babcock’s mind.

  10. The center is coming to the soon-to-be strong side as well, and pushing the pace (as in, showing that he’s flying the zone and not providing low support). This means the d-man probably has to slide back to not allow anyone behind him, which should open up room for the first guy we discussed

  11. The cinematography and production value were so good with that Bertuzzi parting shot that I almost felt sorry him despite the fact that he’s hanging out in Florida in December and playing in the NHL. Meanwhile, I’m back in Detroit killing my back shoveling snow before my beer league game. Bravo, HBO.

    I didn’t think the episode was too bad. I think Bryz is a hard act to follow as far as pure entertainment value (I prefer Boudreau, personally) so in comparison, the current crop seems a little bland. I have to believe that the only reason that Phaneuf is featured is to get his wife involved. Dion alone really couldn’t be a less interesting person if he tried. Also, the Detroit ruin-porn is really played out; The fact that the city’s bankruptcy was even mentioned shows me that they’re really reaching for some storylines. Can’t wait till Saturday.

  12. I actually preferred this one to the two prior 24/7 NHL Winter Classics. In my opinion, it focused less on the dramatic and more on the realistic nature of life in the NHL. The suspension of Phaneuf, dealing with injuries, the ebbs and flows of winning and losing and the toll it takes on teams, how moving affects a player’s family, the stresses of goaltending, are just some examples of how I believe this episode is a more mature, no-holds-barred, depiction of professional hockey.

    It seems to me as if the coaches and players of this series are less concerned about the presence of HBO camera’s, and more at ease with simply being themselves as hockey players, which I find refreshing to the antics of previous players showing off to the public when cognizant of being filmed. And if you look at the history of these two clubs, there is a great deal of respect that the players have for the team’s that they’re representing, which I believe is another motivating factor of remaining loose, yet simultaneously professional.

    One aspect that struck me is the completely different coaching styles of Babcock and Carlyle compared to New York’s former head coach John Tortorella and Philadelphia’s former head coach Peter Laviolette. The emphasis with the Detroit and Toronto coaching styles seems to be more on technical teaching and proper motivational methodology and less on the drama and flair as previously shown by Tortorella, Laviolette, and even Bylsma and Boudreau from the Penguins, Capitals series. Both Babcock and Carlyle command the respect of their players, while instilling a high value on work ethic and repetition of what they learn.

    Finally, I too truly appreciated the subtle, yet captivating look at Todd Bertuzzi, a great player whose character was defined by a momentary lapse in judgement. Those two shots of him sitting alone nursing a beer, in a small but powerful way, sum up what he has been going through in regard to the infamous, “Steve Moore Incident,” back in 2004. Despite how people feel about him, one cannot help but come to the realization that Bertuzzi has had to deal with the consequences of his decision, financially, emotionally and as an aging NHL player. Those two shots perfectly establish that, and I hope that HBO will delve more into Bertuzzi as a player and a person.

  13. Justin, did you happen to watch any of the games afterwards to see if the teams followed up with what the coach asked? Specifically something like the faceoff strategies in the Detroit/FLA game? I may take a look out of curiosity but I’m not as good on the technical side as you would be.

  14. KQ SKATE TONIGHT

    = Kyle Quincey

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