October 28, 2020

DSP REVIEWS: Episode 4 of Epix Road to Winter Classic: Capitals vs. Blackhawks

Journey with us, back to Tuesday night, when Epix debuted its fourth — and final — episode of Road to the Winter Classic. It was just like HBO’s 24/7, only even more melodramatic and over-scripted. Anyway, District Sports Page’s Capitals crew watched, took notes, and provides these reviews, which probably coincide greatly with what you already thought about it.

ERIC: Favorite quote: “In hockey, the reality is that every day doesn’t start out the way you wish it could. But there is one that does.” –Narrator Bill Camp at the top of the show.

Biggest laugh: A Capital saying “Ovi’s hair is getting grayer, let’s go” while they were on golf carts, getting ready to head to the entrance.

Biggest surprise: Call it a pleasant surprise, but I loved how much emphasis they had on the game itself, and the buildup to it.

Least favorite part: I disliked the montage of the Caps and Blackhawks playing at the same time. It seemed a little forced, but I’m glad it didn’t take away from too much coverage of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

J.J.: Most memorable quote: “It’s just a regular game day.” “But is it though?” Tom Wilson and Michael Latta on their way to the stadium. I loved the sentiment of how the players were trying to approach this game like it  was just any other game, but underneath it all, they knew it was something special.

Biggest surprise: I’m not sure why, but the Chicago players seemed to enjoy talking about Michael Latta. Maybe teams just recognize another team’s fighter and zero in on him, but it seems odd to trash talk a fourth line player. If you want to get under a player’s skin, why not go for someone more likely to do damage against your team? Latta seemed like an odd target.

Biggest laugh: As both teams shook hands after the game, Barry Trotz and Joel Quenneville argued over which one cursed more in the series. Not surprisingly both coaches claimed the other had the fouler mouth. Of course, neither one of them compared to Bruce Boudreau, but I digress.

Least favorite part: One of the big storylines that came out after the game was Troy Brouwer’s father being at the game to witness his son scoring the winning goal. The show introduced us to Brouwer’s parents early in the episode and talked about how it was hard for his father to travel after he suffered a stroke a few years ago. I thought the show was setting itself up for a grand finale with Brouwer’s parents, maybe an interview of what that moment meant for them or seeing their reaction after the game, but that didn’t happen. Brouwer’s parents were never mentioned again. So…no one working with the show thought to talk to Brouwer’s family after the game? What was the point of showing them come into town? It seems like such a throwaway scene that it felt like it had to be setting something up. This was a real missed opportunity.

Even with that, however, this episode finally captured what it was I was looking for the entire time, a real behind the scenes perspective. This episode showed how the players talk and interact with one another prior to the game, on the ice and on the bench. They swore at the referees, they swore at their opponents, coaches swore at….well, everyone. I wanted to see pregame speeches, I wanted to see prep, I wanted to see the part of hockey we never see and this episode finally had it because it was not bogged down by endless game recaps.

4 puck of out 4

Overall, this series lacked the flair and gravitas that 24/7 seemed to carry. The HBO series gave a fascinating look behind the curtain of hockey while building its audience up into a frenzy of excitement for the eventual Winter Classic. This show simply didn’t carry the same excitement and much of that was due to the game recaps.

The show did a great job of showing life away from the ice, but it focused far too much on telling us what we already knew. We can get game recaps anywhere.

2.5 pucks out of 4

DSP REVIEWS: Episode 3 of Epix Road to Winter Classic: Capitals vs. Blackhawks

Journey with us, back to Tuesday night, when Epix debuted its third episode of Road to the Winter Classic. It was just like HBO’s 24/7, only even more melodramatic and over-scripted. Anyway, District Sports Page’s Capitals crew watched, took notes, and provides these reviews, which probably coincide greatly with what you already thought about it. [Read more…]

DSP REVIEWS: Episode 2 of Epix Road to Winter Classic: Capitals vs. Blackhawks

Journey with us, back to Tuesday night, when Epix debuted its second episode of Road to the Winter Classic. It was just like HBO’s 24/7, only even more melodramatic and over-scripted. Anyway, District Sports Page’s Capitals crew watched, took notes, and provides these reviews, which probably coincide greatly with what you already thought about it.

Eric: Most memorable quote: “Ice cream. Need ice cream.” –Alex Ovechkin, on the way to picking up a few ice cream cones at a Wizards game.

Biggest surprise: Ovechkin likes country music, according to a “Coors Light Cold Hard Fact” at the start of the episode.

Biggest laugh: A Capital saying “Coach Korn is pitching a tent in the stands right now” late in the Panthers shootout. Guess somebody paid attention last week.

Least favorite part: I might go with Corey Crawford’s abrasive demeanor with the media, but I can imagine that it’s difficult to have a video camera stalking you while you’re dealing with an injury.

In general, this was a much better episode than last week’s, and rivals the quality of even some of the better HBO ones. Epix did a much better job of showing what life in the NHL is like this week, instead of just telling us what happened in every game while adding little insight. Also, I’m glad they put in a tribute at the end to Blackhawks assistant equipment manager Clint Reif, who passed away over the weekend.

3.5 pucks out of 4

JJ: Most memorable quote: “Versteeg has always got somethin to say even if you don’t want to hear it and you usually don’t.” Chicago assistant equipment manager Clint Reif giving insights on what his job was like dealing with the players.

Biggest surprise: How different this episode was compared to the first. The first gave us a game by game breakdown that felt tedious and really didn’t give the type of insights I was looking for. This episode was completely different with talks between the coaches the coaches game planning, more family time, locker room speeches, etc.

Biggest laugh: Seeing Jason Chimera and his son. Not only did his son score on Alex Ovechkin during the family skate, but Chimera also talked about how parents are mad at him after he introduced hockey to the neighborhood and one kid got his tooth knocked out.

Least favorite part: As much as I liked this episode, the game breakdowns were still there. The Caps’ games against New Jersey and Columbus felt like they took up half of the episode.

As I alluded to earlier, I liked this episode. Not only did it have the insights I was looking for, but it also took a very difficult situation and dealt with it exceptionally well. Reif’s death was a tragedy and as much as I want insight’s into the player’s mentality, I thought nothing could have summed up how everyone felt better than seeing Joel Quenneville giving his statement about Reif with tears in his eyes. Very well done.

3.5 pucks out of four

DSP REVIEWS: Episode 1 of Epix Road to Winter Classic: Capitals vs. Blackhawks

Journey with us, back to Tuesday night, when Epix debuted its first episode of Road to the Winter Classic. It was just like HBO’s 24/7, only even more melodramatic and over-scripted. Anyway, District Sports Page’s Capitals crew watched, took notes, and provides these reviews, which probably coincide greatly with what you already thought about it.

Dave: To be honest, I couldn’t care less about the family narratives these shows give us. I know there’s a large section of the fan base that want to see the players and coaches with their kids. I get that it “humanizes” them. I really do. I just don’t care. So if the best parts of this hour of hockey-related content comes from them showing the family aspects or how quirky Mitch Korn is in his living arrangements, I’m not gonna be happy.

If the league gave us a premium subscription channel of the benches, creases and locker rooms mic’d up — and no other sound — I’d pay at least double, if not triple, than what I already do for Center Ice. That’s what I want to see and hear. And there wasn’t enough of it.

As for the “interviews”, I found it particularly difficult to sit through the semi-scripted narratives that were presented. More real-life, less faux documentary, please. And what was with the backwards chairs?

Most memorable line: “I have a four-year college education.” Joel Ward, responding to Jason Chimera accusing him of only “reading the pictures” in the newspaper.

1 1/2 pucks out of four.

J.J.: The narrator first refers to the Caps as a “proud franchise.” Maybe Washington sports have left me a bit jaded, but I feel you need more than one conference championship before you can be labeled a proud franchise.

The show tackled the issue of whether Alex Ovechkin was coachable right away. Despite everyone on the team, every coach and every analyst close the team saying that uncoachable narrative surrounding the Great 8 is overblown, every armchair GM continues to run with it. Multiple coaches come and go and Ovechkin remains, so all of the team’s problems must stem from him. It’s lazy analysis and I was glad to see the show tackle it right away. Granted it’s not as if Barry Trotz can go on camera and say Ovechkin is a pain and they can’t work together, but I liked seeing their interactions with one another.

Bruce Boudreau was the breakout star of the HBO series in the Caps’ first Winter Classic and unfortunately this first episode lacked that kind of show-stopper personality. Barry Trotz was featured prominently and showed why he is one of the most likeable people in hockey, but he didn’t steal the show the way Bruce did.

Maybe I’m just weird, but did anyone else notice that for every one-on-one interview they had the players and coaches sit backwards in a chair like he’s the cool kid in high school? Why? It didn’t really bother me until the interviewed Ovechkin who was too big for the chair. He looked like a teenager trying to sit in a toddler’s big wheel.

Hockey players are just different. If my face ever looked like Brian Bickell’s did in this episode, I’d be in the emergency room just hoping I didn’t have the bubonic plague.

Line of the night: An angry Trotz wanted an explanation for the Jason Chimera penalty that cost the Caps the game against Columbus and was promptly told, “You were on the power play all f***ing night.”

Overall it was a good episode, but not great. What makes these shows fun is getting to see the real world of hockey, the part most people don’t get to see. I love seeing the coaching the pregame/postgame speeches, the interactions during the game, etc.

This episode did a lot of game by game recap. Most people watching this show know what happened in each game and those who don’t can look it up. That’s not why we’re watching. We want to go deeper than that. I even wanted to see more of some of the Chicago storylines like how Scott Darling prepared for his first game or felt afterwards. There was none of that, just more recaps. Save that for SportsCenter.

2 pucks out of four.

Katie: Most memorable quote:  “It’s a really, really nice apartment, but we don’t have … really nice things.” -Tom Wilson, on the apartment he shares with Michael Latta.

Biggest surprise: How little time was devoted to things that probably deserved longer segments. It felt rushed.

Biggest laugh: Joel Ward and Jason Chimera chirping each other in the locker room while Ward was reading the paper. It captured them perfectly.

Least favorite part: The overwrought writing and lack of memorable music. Hockey is intense, Epix, we know this. The voiceover felt bland and was too heavy-handed for my taste. Show, don’t tell. Let people actually see things rather than explain to them what they’re seeing.

While the production value was good, the episode itself felt rushed. It seemed like the series was geared toward attracting new hockey fans, rather than people who watched because they are already fans. Ted Leonsis talking about Alex Ovechkin and how much the team wants to win a cup was overkill. Every team wants to win a cup, and no one in their right mind thinks Ovechkin is a coach-killing scrub. Spend more time on developing stories, and less time on game footage. Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn have the greatest possibility of stealing the show. Their segments were arguably the most interesting.

2.5 pucks out of four.

Eric: Most memorable quote: “If I step on toes, I step on toes” -Barry Trotz

Biggest surprise: With a lot of the folks that worked on HBO’s productions coming over, I was slightly surprised by the heavy use of archival footage early on, and an overall lack of “behind the scenes” footage and heavy emphasis on game footage compared to the past couple seasons.

Biggest laugh: I loved hearing Scott Darling list all the teams he’d been part of in the past four years. I lost track at nine.

Least favorite part: I didn’t enjoy what I thought was an over-emphasis of Chicago. I’ll chalk that up to an Epix oversight, but I remember HBO giving each team relatively equal airtime in 2010-11, 2012-12 and 2013-14.

In general, I thought that it wasn’t as good as the three HBO editions of the series. With that said, I’m willing to give Epix a pass simply because they haven’t done anything like this before. I was pretty underwhelmed with the production value and I’m glad I watched, but there was a lot left to be desired.

2 pucks out of four.

OPINION: Nats offensive problems nothing new, it’s who they’ve always been

Over at Nationals Journal this morning, Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore finally saw the light. Well, he got part of the way, anyway.

“Consider: The Nationals have scored 14 percent of their base runners – dead-on league average. As of Sunday morning, they had produced 2,343 base runners – the fewest in the National League.

Also consider: The Nationals are hitting .242 with the bases empty this year. With runners in scoring position, the Nationals are hitting – you guessed it – .242.”

This really isn’t news. In fact, if you’ve been reading this space for the past few years (first, thank you), you’ve known about this problem all along. I first wrote about it in May 2011, when the bulk of this team was still young enough to be capable of changing their approach.

“Rizzo and Riggleman are absolutely correct that the team isn’t hitting well with runners in scoring position.  But as the statistics show, they aren’t hitting well period, hitting .230/.301/.361 overall (15th, 15th and 13th in the N.L.), and the difference between their numbers with RISP and not is, well, statistically negligible.”

I have to admit, it was kind of fun to go back and look at that article that quoted Jim Riggleman. Seems like that was forever ago. But the point still stands. Teams’ batting average with runners in scoring position is meaningless. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals: Mortgage or jeopardize future for shot at Zack Greinke?

Earlier this week, Jason Reid of the The Washington Post wrote a column advocating the Washington Nationals trading for soon-to-be free agent Zack Greinke, currently pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers. Friday, Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com published an interview with Nats owner Mark Lerner indicating the Nats “could be in the market for a starting pitcher” at the trade deadline since the team plans to shut down Stephen Strasburg when he reaches their internal innings limit in his first full season after returning from Tommy John surgery, just as they did with Jordan Zimmermann last year. [Read more…]

Speculation and rumors swirl around Capitals coaching position

Sunday evening, Nick Kypreos, former Washington Capitals winger and current hockey analyst for Rogers Sportsnet’s “Hockey Central”, speculated on the possibility of Caps coach Bruce Boudreau possibly being dismissed “in the next 24-48 hours.”  Kypreos was careful to say that information was speculation, but then went on to explain that another former Caps player (and three-year Kypreos teammate) Dale Hunter, owner, president and coach of the OHL London Knights, could be a possible replacement.

Caps Head Coach Bruce Boudreau (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

According to this report by The Washington Times Steve Whyno, a Caps’ spokesman dismissed the information as “Not true. Just speculation.”

Whyno’s report also has a full transcription of the exchange between two other hosts on “Hockey Central” and Kypreos.  The comments, taken in isolation, sound pretty serious and credible, especially coming from Kypreos who most certainly still has ties with Hunter and within the Caps organization.  But reading the full transcript (and you should read the transcript), were it not Kypreos dispensing the information you’d probably find yourself taking it with more that a grain of salt.

Regardless, this is sure to be a big week in this franchise’s history either way.  The Caps have three consecutive home games with St. Louis on Tuesday, Pittsburgh on Thursday and Ottawa on Saturday.  With the team still reeling from back-to-back losses where they looked largely uninterested and missing assignments left and right, this homestand is a chance to get healthy.  On the other hand though, it could prompt personnel or coaching moves if the team continues its lackluster production.

Usually, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  This situation has been burning for a while now and we all have to see how it plays out.  Right now, it’s up to the players.  If they want to maintain the status quo and continue under Boudreau’s direction, they need to play this week like his job depends on it, because that might very well be the case.

ESPN shoots “SportsNation” in D.C. area for Veteran’s Day

ESPN’s SportsNation, with co-hosts Michelle Beadle and Colin Cowherd, produced their Nov. 8 show live from Joint Base Myer/Henderson Hall in Arlington in honor of Veteran’s Day.  On hand was NFL analyst Herm Edwards, who spent a lot of time mingling with the troops and taking photos.

“I got to see the changing of the guard today at Arlington National Cemetery and it gave me goose bumps” said Edwards.  “As an American, you just can’t help but be touched by everything the men and women here do every day.”

Beadle and Cowherd got many of the troops involved with the program, including having a “jury” off to the side of the stage with “YES” and “NO” flash cards to help score the day’s sports arguments.

Col. David P. Anders, Commander, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment, presents a token of appreciation to the hosts of ESPN’s SportsNation after the live broadcast of the show at Joint Base Myer/Henderson Hall, Va. Nov. 8, 2011. (U.S. Army Photo by Jose A. Torres Jr.)


ESPN's Sportsnation hosts Michelle Beadle and Colin Cowherd pose for a shot with Soldiers from the Military District of Washington before the start of the show at Joint base Myer/Henderson Hall, Nov. 8, 2011. (U.S. Army Photo by Jose A. Torres Jr.)

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