You could pick through the now completed HBO series “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic” and list dozens of compelling scenes that illuminate life in the NHL. One of my favorites – Caps general manager George McPhee in the elevator after Washington’s crushing 3-2 loss at Boston on Dec. 18 extended its losing streak to eight games. McPhee, whose team rallied from 3-0 down and destroyed the Bruins in the third period with a 26-2 shot margin, slumps against the wall in despair, a man wondering if his team can pull out of its tailspin. Or is it too late?  

“When we agreed to do this we agreed to let [HBO] see everything and experience everything,” McPhee said. “I personally was having a hell of a time during that [streak] and they caught it pretty well. And what they captured was exactly how I was feeling. That’s not an easy thing to go through. I guess it made for good television.”

Ironically, when negotiations began with HBO about doing the behind-the-scenes documentary most in the Washington organization were concerned about McPhee’s reaction. He can be tight-lipped with the media, after all, and this was unprecedented access for a pro sports team during a season, not before it like the NFL’s “Hard Knocks”. Caps owner Ted Leonsis joked about his concerns to McPhee after one meeting with HBO. But they needn’t have worried. McPhee admitted he’s long watched the network – even subscribing when he was still a college student at Bowling Green in the early 1980s. He’s watched “The Wire” and “John Adams” and “Hard Knocks”. And he knew HBO’s knack for quality programming would mesh perfectly with his sport. The NHL wants to sell itself to the casual sports fan in the United States. This was a perfect vehicle for that – even if it meant showing McPhee’s own team at its lowest point in three years.

“We outshot a team 26-2 in their own building. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a team that did that. But we didn’t win the game,” McPhee said. “And I was thinking ‘Boy, oh, boy this could really slide if we don’t get a win here in the next game or two. We could be in trouble.’ And that’s how this business is. You go game-to-game. And then you start the first period in Ottawa [Dec. 19] and you’re down 2-0. I just felt really bad for the club because I believe they’re a much better team than that. Anyway, that’s the sort of thing that can go on in this business and that’s how you live in this business. And so there it was and HBO got it.”

Follow me on Twitter @bmcnally14