Showtime Sports premiered "ALL ACCESS: Quest for the Stanley Cup" on Friday. The series will chronicle the Eastern Conference and Western Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final. It's the first show to nationally televise the championship of one of the four major North American sports as it unfolds. It is narrated by 2016 Tony Award-nominee Bill Camp.
The episode begins with clips of past Stanley Cup winners before a look inside the locker rooms of each of the four teams remaining in the playoffs: the St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning.
The scene quickly shifts to the Penguins locker room, where coach Mike Sullivan gives the team a pregame speech, and then to the Lightning locker room, where coach Jon Cooper is doing the same prior to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at Consol Energy Center.
Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is shown writhing in pain on the ice and leaving the game on a stretcher in the first period. But his replacement, 21-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy, helps the Lightning to a 3-1 win in Game 1 and is presented with a jacket as the MVP of the game from defenseman Victor Hedman.
Next, we move to Scottrade Center in St. Louis, where the Blues are in the conference final for the first time since 2001 and host the Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Final. Center Paul Stastny grew up in St. Louis; his dad, Hockey Hall of Fame member Peter Stastny, played for the Blues from 1993-95 before retiring and becoming a scout with the team.
"The city kind of always embraces the sports teams, and I think it's gotten even a little more special this year now that the [St. Louis] Rams [of the National Football League, who moved to Los Angeles] are gone," Stastny says. "A lot of the city is kind of a little [upset] about that and they've kind of shown their support to us."
St. Louis takes an early 1-0 lead before San Jose comes back to tie the game. Coach Ken Hitchcock gives a fiery speech after the first period calling out his team.
"If this is the level of hockey that's going to get played until the end of the whistle, it's going to be a tough battle for both teams," Hitchcock says. "Real tough battle."
Bishop is seen in the trainer's room rehabbing his injury, hoping to return to the series. When asked the next day about the injury, Bishop says he's surprised it wasn't worse than it seemed.
"It was a scary experience for myself," he says. "Your mind just starts racing and you start thinking the worst thing. I'm thinking my leg is broken and the X-ray was negative and the MRI was OK, so [I'm] just thankful that it's not anything serious. As far as what it is, I guess we'll just have to leave it as lower leg."
Bishop is seen taking the ice for the first time since the injury along with captain Steven Stamkos, who hasn't played in the playoffs because of a blood clot. Bishop barely steps on the ice before coming off, saying he is in too much pain.
"That's it?! He put his pads on for that?" says Stamkos as Bishop heads back to the locker room.
Penguins, Sharks bounce back
Bishop is unable to play in Game 2, so Vasilevskiy gets the start. Pittsburgh comes out firing, scoring two quick goals, but Tampa Bay scores twice before the end of the first period to tie the game 2-2. The second and third periods are scoreless, so the game goes to overtime.
But the extra period doesn't last long. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scores the first playoff overtime goal of his career 40 seconds in and the Penguins tie the series 1-1.
"Great win. You guys deserved that win," Sullivan says. "You were the better team all night long. We just stayed with it. That's really good stuff. We didn't get rattled. We just kept playing the game."
San Jose forward Joe Thornton, an 18-year veteran who was the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NHL Draft by the Boston Bruins, has been with the Sharks since 2005. He's trying to win the Stanley Cup for the first time.
"Doesn't matter if you are young or you are my age," the 36-year-old says before Game 2. "It's a special feeling. There's only four teams left in the NHL and two in the West and we are one of those teams. Hopefully we take advantage of it and do something special here"
The Sharks get two power-play goals and tie the series with a 4-0 victory.
"We lose that first game and you really want to get that split," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski says. "Guys came out with a good sense of urgency and got after it and it was a great job by everyone."
Pittsburgh, San Jose each win again
Pittsburgh picks up where it left off in Game 2. Forward Carl Hagelin scores with 10 seconds remaining in the second period for a 1-0 lead, which expands to 2-0 early in the third period. Two more goals make it 4-1; the Penguins finish with a 4-2 win and 2-1 series lead.
Forward Patric Hornqvist, who didn't have a point, is awarded the warrior helmet from Crosby.
The Sharks take a 2-1 lead in their series with a 3-0 win in Game 3 at SAP Center in San Jose.
The episode ends with narrator Camp saying, "All four teams have reason to believe this year is their year. That all the accomplishments, triumphs and adversity have simply been part of the perfect narrative that will end with the Cup raised high above their heads and no one else's. ... The truth, however, is that three of these stories will end short of that."
Consumers who do not subscribe to Showtime will be able to sample the episode beginning Friday after 9:30 p.m. ET for free on the Showtime Sports YouTube channel, Facebook page and website, SHO.com. The episode will also be available across multiple television and streaming providers' devices, websites, applications, Facebook pages, and free On Demand channels. An encore presentation of the premiere episode will air Friday at 12:00 a.m. ET on NHL Network in the U.S. and on Sportsnet in Canada, and will be available at NHL.com on Saturday, May 21 at 10 a.m. ET.