I knew this would be a tough episode to watch. The production team had to cover a bunch of early-season losses, including that one painful 4-0 shutout to the Red Wings in game 2, and to the Phil Kessels of Pittsburgh twice. This episode did not shirk the hard work, however.
The episode starts on October 7, opening night. Disembodied Voice Guy (hi Kyle Dubas is that you) talks about Lou and his desire to make a "culture of winning," and how he taught a young Devils team (closeup of Shanahan's jersey) the hard work that is necessary for being a winning team. Lou says the word culture is "overused but underdeveloped," and culture is not only about what was on the ice, but off the ice. His voice plays over close-ups of all the shaved faces heading to work, and you know that things are gonna be different in Toronto.
Then comes opening night and all the fanfair -- and a swift cut to a close-up of post-game garbage and empty seats, symbolizing a Maple Leafs loss. The narrative does not shirk the first time Babcock faces the press as the coach of a losing team. He has no voice left, and he talks about the immaturity of a team that gets upset when they are down by a few goals.
All those losses. So many losses. The story arc makes a strangely large deal of meeting Phil again -- and losing to the Penguins over and over. The second loss to the Penguins at the ACC was a terrible game, and Babcock's words play over the close-up of his face: "We didn't look like anything we practiced or anything we were trying to do, so tonight was disappointing to me." And words follow from Matt Hunwick, who was built up to be a bit of a hero in this episode: "It was our worst game this season."
The losses are hard to re-watch, but after this very low point in the narrative arc, suddenly there is -- Nashville. The story arc doesn't admit anything like, "And then, because Bernier was sucking, Reimer was put into the net in Nashville and did fabulously," because of course it doesn't. Instead, to the sound of voices talking of accountability, structure, system, and -- HEY WAIT A MINUTE IS THIS WHAT "BLUEPRINT" MEANS -- learning to do all of this in an automatic way, the Leafs begin to win.
The episode ends in a montage of winning more and more things, goals scored and celebrations. It's a glorious way to end the episode, and Lou puts a bow on it by ascribing the winning to the players thriving in their new environment.
-- Then there is the tiniest, teasing snippet of Garret Sparks, and the promise of more in episode 3. Can't wait!
All in all, it was exactly what I expected, a well-produced episode that drove home this season's narratives of hard work and structure paying off eventually.
Here is the most important part of the episode according to me, Species (probably), and Gunnar:
The most important part of episode 2 of The Leaf pic.twitter.com/cdhATt2fA7— Gunnar Carlsson (@gunnrcarlsson) December 11, 2015