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Penguins, Capitals adjust to life after HBO

by Dan Rosen
The cameras are now off, the mics quiet.

For the Penguins, Capitals and their HBO crews, it was a strange yet somewhat somber goodbye following the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

The teams, including the ones embedded in Pittsburgh and Washington, shook hands and bid adieu after a month of being closer to each other than their neighbors, best friends, and for some probably even girlfriends.

"We've joked with the HBO guys that we'll have to invite them back," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said following his team's 3-1 loss this past Saturday night. "We are going to miss them."

The fourth and final episode of HBO's critically acclaimed series "24/7 Penguins-Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic" goes to air Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET with an encore immediately following at 11. The show will highlight how Heinz Field turned into a hockey rink and document the Penguins and Capitals going through the entire showcase weekend.

It is the episode that HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg said he couldn't wait to show because of how special it will be with the imagery created at the Winter Classic -- which, maybe to the benefit of cinematographers, turned into a prime-time special.

And since it is the final one, it's also the episode that will leave lasting images for the viewers and participants.

"I feel a little letdown seeing these guys go," Bylsma said. "Our guys are shaking hands and saying goodbye to the HBO crew because we feel like we're sending a player down. But we'll have to do our best to get back to normalcy. We've got a lot of work to do. It was a great experience. I think there's a lot of awesome things about it."

"They were understanding that they are in every nook and cranny and bugging us when we didn't want to get bugged, but they were so professional about it and so polite that it made you want them to have all access," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said Monday on NHL Live! "If they had come in and were rude or pushy I'm sure the guys would have pushed back, but that wasn't the case."

The series showed the Capitals at their very worst, and then at what some could say is their very best. Audiences got to see them suffer through an eight-game losing streak and then watch them come out of it.

HBO was embedded with the Capitals for 12 games. They were 0-4-2 in the first six, and 5-0-1 in their last six.

"We kind of like them now," Boudreau said after the Winter Classic on Saturday night. "I mean, we didn't like them much at the beginning of the month, but I think everything's worked out."

Boudreau became a reality TV star through this HBO series.

"Barry Melrose once told me that being on ESPN, it's amazing how much he gets recognized," Boudreau said Monday on NHL Live! "That's what I keep thinking of because I never thought of this at all, but I guess a lot of people are watching the show."

Boudreau was at the center of the most comedic and cringe-worthy moments, such as his search for ice cream at 10:30 in the morning on Christmas Eve and his epic profanity-laced speech in between periods of a game against Florida on Dec. 9 that became fodder after episode one, which Boudreau insists he hasn't seen.

Of course, the topper to Boudreau's time on "24/7" might very well be the red stuff that was on his face during an interview shown in episode one.

"I had eczema, I didn't have any stuff on my face," Boudreau told NHL Live! hosts Don LaGreca and E.J. Hradek. "It was my skin, all red and fried. I went right up to the HBO people after that when I heard, and I said, 'How could you guys do that?' They said, 'No, it was dry skin.' They convinced me it was dry skin."

HBO followed the Penguins for 12 games and got lucky as they caught the team in the middle of a 12-game winning streak and Sidney Crosby embarking on history with a 25-game points streak.

The Penguins were 7-4-1 with HBO's cameras rolling.

"We'll have to do our best to get back to normalcy," Bylsma said. "We've got a lot of work to do. It was a great experience.  I think there's a lot of awesome things about it.

"I guess I'll be all right with not having a mic pasted right here (on his chest) all day every day."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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