Penguins OK with first installment of HBO's '24/7'


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Evgeni Malkin did not become a movie star in the first episode of HBO's new reality series.

It was not for lack of mugging for the cameras at times.

"I tried," the Penguins' forward said, with a smile. "I had a microphone on my jersey, and I was talking with my teammates. Next show, maybe they'll show me more."

Overall, reviews of the debut of "24/7 Penguins/Capitals Road to the Winter Classic" were overwhelmingly good among the Penguins, who came off looking more relaxed, funnier and better adjusted than their co-stars.

That's with pretty good reason. Although the Penguins lost two games last week, the filming of the first of four installments came as they were on a 12-game winning streak. The Washington Capitals were in the midst of what was a seven-game losing skid going into a game Saturday against Boston.

The HBO production crew turned that into a marked study in contrasts.

"You had to expect that, though," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "You had two totally different stories and different situations."

The Capitals still have one of the best records in the NHL as do the Penguins.

What people saw in HBO "doesn't diminish all the games they've won or how good they are," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It just happened to be that particular time when they showed it. It was drama, but we're going to see us after two losses coming up in the next episode."

The second installment debuts Wednesday.

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau got a lot of air time in the first episode addressing his team in speeches heavily laced with the ultimate vulgarity. Bylsma dropped that bomb a few times, but it came in the context of firing up or complimenting his team.

"There was a lot of swearing," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "I thought it came out really good besides the language. That could have been a little better."

It should be noted that HBO uses bleeps when "24/7" is aired during the daytime.

One of the NHL's objectives in giving film crews full access during the regular season was to promote the sport and its Jan. 1 outdoor Winter Classic at Heinz Field. Orpik said, judging by some of the feedback he got, it is working.

"I got texts from a lot of people that watched it, people I haven't heard from for a while, people who besides being friends with me really aren't hockey fans," he said. "It's getting people to tune in who probably normally wouldn't tune in to hockey.

"The [texts] were positive. A couple of people asked me if I was still on the team because they didn't see me on the show. I said, 'That's the way I like it. Keep it that way.' "

Perhaps the most exclusive behind-the-scenes look came when Bylsma and general manager Ray Shero rated several players' performance from a recent game. They thought a fight by Deryk Engelland elevated his status but weren't wowed by winger Matt Cooke. Bylsma said revealing such details didn't bother him because the players already knew about the evaluations.

Although there were a few gritty moments, such as a close-up of Engelland getting stitches, the Penguins are shown in a lot of lighthearted moments -- playing video games on the team plane, laughing at their family holiday party, being normal at home.

Asked about his favorite part of the show, Crosby laughed and brought up a prank at a Buffalo hotel last weekend in which goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson and winger Matt Cooke transferred every bit of furniture from the room of rookie Mark Letestu and second-year player Ben Lovejoy into the hallway while the two were out for dinner.

"I loved Benny Lovejoy when they asked him about finding out who did it," Crosby said, and then quoted from the show. "He said, 'We're going to find out who did it and do absolutely nothing about it.' I thought that was good."

Even with the video evidence, Fleury was proclaiming his innocence.

"I was not even part of this," he said, unable to stifle a smile.

Forward Craig Adams wants to preserve a copy forever. His toddler son, Rhys, had a short closeup in the locker room at the team holiday party.

"He was on there for about 5 seconds," Adams said. "It's just funny to see him up there in high definition. Hopefully, we'll be able to hang onto that, and he'll appreciate it one day."

With cameras, sound booms and production people around them all the time, the Penguins were interested to see the edited version.

"HBO does such a great job with everything," defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "You take some things and throw some music in there and whoever that narrator is [Liev Schreiber], cool voice.

"You never know what's going to be on there after they condense it, so it's still a surprise. They did a good job of showing what it's really like."

Even if Malkin's personality remained mostly under wraps.

Maybe there will be more of Malkin, who was hurt during most of the filming for the first episode but is back in the lineup now. Then, he might have to cover his eyes and ears.

"I don't like watching myself, hearing my voice," Malkin said.


Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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