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EPIX Road to the Stadium Series, Episode 1: Sharks Up, Kings Down

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The Good, The Bad, and the John Scott from Road to the Stadium Series Episode 1.

Jonathan Quick will stop what you're doing to watch this show
Jonathan Quick will stop what you're doing to watch this show
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

EPIX's Road to the Stadium Series is the spiritual continuation of HBO's 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic. The series tracks two teams in the month that leads up to their eventual meeting in an outdoor game.

This iteration of the popular documentary series is interesting to us, obviously, as Kings fans, but it is also a chance for the spotlight to be shone on the west coast hockey scene for once. We often hear about "east coast bias" and it's easy to note the ways in which the Western Conference - particularly the Pacific Division - gets overlooked. Perhaps this could be the first in series of moves that help correct this imbalance.

EPIX starts the series with a monologue about California. About how wonderful California is. It's a place for ideas and dreamers and freedom. And it all took on this weird tone of, "California was great, AND THEN HOCKEY ARRIVED." Though it was certainly unintentional to make it sound like hockey had ruined California, it set the tone for an episode that, at times, was a bit aimless and misguided. The episode also failed to capture a couple of rather large storylines that surrounded the Kings during the week in focus.
  • The episode completely, 100% ignores Mike Richards even being a part of the team. He snuck into a few shots early in the episode, and then was never brought up again. HE GOT WAIVED! HE PLAYED ON THE FOURTH LINE! THIS IS A HUGE STORY! I understand that EPIX may have missed his actual waiving but there is no excuse to not talk about this at all. I can't fathom that it won't be addressed at some point, but this is one of the biggest transactions of the year, and almost certainly the most talked about storyline surrounding the Kings at this particular point in time. If there were a literal road to the Stadium Series game, it might be paved with Mike's remains.
  • Los Angeles played its first game without Mike Richards against the Chicago Blackhawks. As in, a rematch of the Western Conference Final of the previous two seasons. As in, one of the best match-ups currently running in the NHL. EPIX basically treated it like just any old game. It didn't exactly get the treatment of the Kings/Bruins game at the end, which was mostly glossed over (or Sharks/Blackhawks for that matter, another awesome match-up that got shoved to the side), but it wasn't really expanded upon in a very meaningful way.
So, the show has some flaws. The music is blah, the writing is weak, and the theme - "CALIFORNIA HACKEY," basically - was not expanded upon very well. Maybe a better approach would've been to play up the rivalry inherent in a northern/southern California match-up instead of lumping the two regions together. It would also be interesting to me to see discussion of how the hockey landscape has changed in California to allow it to host two outdoor games in two seasons. Perhaps this is yet to come.

Thankfully, in spite of the aforementioned flaws, the episode had plenty of fun moments.
  • John Scott literally didn't do anything right, and we didn't even get to see his on-ice skills. He can't do a push-up and he didn't know where James Sheppard went for his vacation during the all-star break. In fact, John Scott might be me. I am tall, I am bad at hockey, and I can't do push-ups. We're twins! His footage on the show was more entertaining than anything he has done on the ice in his hockey career. I smell a future in show business!
  • It took about 7 minutes of run-time for first f-bomb, and of course it belonged to Darryl Sutter. In fact, he dropped a bunch of them in succession for no reason. I think he hammed it up. Maybe he didn't! I'm thrilled by either possibility, to be honest.
  • The episode's first focus is on the January 21st meeting between the featured teams. Pictured below is a very well-rested Jonathan Quick pumped up and ready for action:
jonathan quick
  • Darryl Sutter's biggest problem with that game is that the Kings were not physical enough. They didn't get on the man. They didn't compete dammit. WHY WON'T THE KINGS COMPETE!? The Kings lost the game, so we won't dwell on it much longer, but we did get this special insight into the Kings' strategy. It doesn't look too complicated:

white board

  • I like to imagine that Darryl Sutter diagrams plays by attaching drills to etch-a-sketch nobs.
  • From there, the series shifted to the All-Star game. In an interview, Drew Doughty inadvertently roasted the Sharks by saying that beating Chicago - a series they led 3-1 at one point - was their toughest feat of the playoffs. Not erasing a 3-0 deficit against San Jose. Ouch.
  • Alex Ovechkin's performance at the All-Star Game draft was a show-stealer. It seemed so odd for a very rich person to clamor for a cheap, family-oriented sedan, but here Ovi was, doing just that. It emerged afterwards that Ovechkin was lobbying to win the car so he could donate it to a worthy cause. Drew Doughty had a hand in ruining this. Of course he did.
  • How did EPIX do an entire feature on Joe Thornton fishing and not make one pointed comment about sharks eating fish? Embarrassing. Hire me.
  • Joe Pavelski's putting practice is trash. He's practicing on artificial turf and making the same little putt over and over again. Get some real grass! You think the greens are gonna turn to astroturf for you at Pebble Beach? Well, think again buddy. Practice from different distances and locations! Go through your entire routine every time you roll a putt! Ugh. Shaking my head at you, Joe. I expected better golf out of a San Jose Shark.

The episode closed with more heavy-handed narration over a highlight montage of the two teams' last games before the break. The Sharks are winning. The Kings are losing. Oh no. The end.

Not without its flaws, the episode was definitely fun enough to watch that most hockey fans should tune in. It's pretty clear that both teams have some actual characters to enjoy, and those characters are new to most of you! They haven't been featured much before! That's all pretty exciting! The second episode airs on February 10th. Make time for it. Or else.