With the Winter Classic being a couple days away, things are starting to heat up between the teams competing in the annual showcase of the National Hockey League. The buildup to the game is ever increasing, but before the teams meet at Citizens Bank Ballpark Monday afternoon, the two teams met at Madison Square Garden in this episode.
I don’t know if the NHL is done this on purpose with the scheduling, but having the teams meet at the other teams barn prior to the Winter Classic is a genius move. Similar to last year when the Penguins and Capitals met at Verizon Center, the game between the Flyers and Rangers brought a lot of intensity and is able to set the table for the Winter Classic.
But before we recap the game, let’s hit on what happened in the episode.
The Rangers did some holiday-related team activities. We got to see the team, as well as children and WAGs, skate at Bryant Park. We got to see the return of Landon Girardi take his first steps on ice. He had prettier looking skates as a 2-year-old than I ever had. In addition to his first time on the ice, the camera pans over to other kids before he was able to play 3-post with his one-timer that we saw in Episode 2.
The greatest moment so far that didn’t involve Ilya Bryzgalov was the Rangers’ team Christmas party. In typical form, the attire of the night was ugly sweater. Hockey players do know how to throw a theme party better than just about any athlete out there. Feel free to watch the video, courtesy of Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy blog. Pause it at 1:26 and check out Michael Del Zotto’s reindeer sweater. I can’t describe it at family-friendly Hockey World Blog, but to quote a fellow Ranger “Twice the fun for Rudolph.”
There was also a cool moment when Marian Gaborik went to buy a Christmas tree not far from his home in Tribeca. He looks about as lost and confused as us regular Joe’s when it comes to buying a natural tree.
Over on the Flyers side of things, they are in the middle of a road trip to the middle part of the country. The game was at Colorado while the second was at Dallas. The Dallas game is where we saw Claude Giroux return after a concussion suffered earlier in the series. While Giroux is back on the ice, Sean Couturier isn’t yet. Couturier took a puck to the ear in a December 17 game. He told the HBO camera crew that he passed all the concussion tests but doesn’t have hearing back in one of his ears yet. That’s very scary because you still need your hearing after you’re done playing hockey.
Onto the moment we have been waiting for all night. Flyers vs. Rangers at The Garden. As usual between rival teams, a lot of hitting. A lot of chirping (including from recent AHL-call up Tom Sestito chirping the Rangers bench) and a couple fights. The hockey geek moment of the night was another visit to the NHL War Room in Toronto, where Mike Murphy watches games on several screens every other hockey fan envies. He got a call from MSG, watches tape and reviews it with the officials. Standard procedure with the calls he receives every night. The Rangers go on to win the game 4-2 and New Yorkers make their feeling towards the Flyers known by chanting “FLYERS SUCK!”.
This week’s Top Stars:
1. Scott Hartnell inviting Claude Giroux and others to his condo for Christmas. He takes things into his own hands and attempts to operate a camera (ugh) and has a several coin-op games including Buck Hunter.
2. The Flyers taking the Amtrak back to Philadelphia from New York. You don’t see many teams traveling by any other way other than charter flight. It would be pretty cool to stand at the train station and all of a sudden you see Bryzgalov, Giroux, and Wayne Simmonds.
3. Brad Richards for putting the kibosh on Sestito and his chirping when he said “One day in the NHL for you. Fantasy camp for you.”
Check out the finale of 24/7 Wednesday night at 10:00 p.m. EST on HBO.