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Lightning Round: Here we go, boys!

An unnecessary deep look into Alex Killorn’s directorial debut

Tampa Bay Lightning v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Alex Killorn’s directorial debut is a short look into the lives of a group of seven friends, wealthy athletes from different backgrounds, attempting to reconnect to their former lives amid a pandemic wreaking havoc on life in America. From Rocco, the hard-working youngster forced to return to waiting tables after tasting the life of a professional hockey player to Stammer, the local legend, Killorn weaves the lives of these athletes together as they streak across the crystal blue water chasing one more shot at glory.

Despite it’s absurdly short 2:12 running time, the first-time director and self-labeled “influencer” weaves in a spurned lover, a hipster bladesman wielding an axe, and the most sun-dappled water scenes since “Blue Crush.” It’s a quest movie in the vein of Lord of the Rings or The Jewel of the Nile, taking characters, joined only by geographic circumstance, from self-isolated loneliness to the gates of the Ozian glass palace of the Amalie Arena, in search of a holy grail, if you will, Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Killorn began his career in reality programming as host of the interview series “Dock Talk.” While he doesn’t venture far from his aquatic comfort zone, that experience pays off in a firm grasp of the peculiar vernacular inherent in young athletes, peppering his terse dialogue with plenty of “boys” (it’s no surprise that Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town” scores the entire movie).

Rather than shy away from the cliche of Florida as the land of sun and relaxation, Killorn leans into the scenery, making it almost a central character. He highlights the incongruity of hockey in the Sunshine State by inserting quick edits of the absurd - a cat on a leash, Kobayashi in flannel, Rocco in jeans on a jet ski.

Steven Stamkos, is the most accomplished actor of the bunch, portrays Stammer, the leader of this band of wave-skimming comrades. The movie opens with a vertical shot of him, alone by the pool. The framing evokes the post war suburban art of Eliza Grosse. Alone, surrounded by the trappings of wealth, Stammer is seemingly contemplating another lost stretch of his career. He almost leaps out of his chair when Killer calls out to him. No one is more ready to resume the pursuit than the leader.

Stamkos may be the seasoned pro, but it’s Andrei Vasilevskiy as Big Cat, the near-shirtless workout-obsessed Russian who steals the show. Pumping himself up (both physically and verbally) he radiates pure joy when he hears his colleagues call his name. Goaltenders, the loneliest players on the ice, want nothing more than to be included. In just a few lines Vasilevskiy shows how happy he is to be part of something larger. Look for him to become a star down the road.

The lack of character development is the main casualty of the movie’s length (what sparked Drago’s attempted murder against the innocent Ontarioan walking along the dock?) but there is enough there to spark a desire for a sequel, perhaps even an entire multiverse.

“Ready to play some hockey?” Killorn, as Killer, bellows out at the beginning. Maybe not yet, but we are definitely interested in finding out more about the lives of these seven hockey players.

Getting the Band Back Together (3.5 out of 4 stars)

Director: Alex Killorn

Starring: Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Braydon Cobourn, Anthony Cirelli, and Erik Cernak

Filmed on location in Tampa, Florida

News and Notes:

With Phase II (small workouts) of the NHL’s Return to Play plan just around the corner (early June), the league announced that Phase III (organized training camp) will occur no earlier than July 10th. If you figure the league gives teams two-three weeks to get back into game shape then that sets the table for early August for a resumption of competitive hockey. All of this is contingent on the league receiving approval from the power to be to resume play.

If all goes according to plan it will be interesting to cover actual hockey in August as opposed to posting things such as “If Lightning players were breeds of puppies, which ones would they be?” There are still way too many things at play to get super excited about the return of hockey, but cautious optimism is slowly taking root.

Jon Cooper talked with Mike Tirico about playoffs, no fans, and other various hockey-related topics. He doesn’t seem to be too worried about the lack of intensity without people in the stands.

With some semblance of a plan to move forward, the hollow carcass of the once great Sports Illustrated ranked the opening round match-ups. Personally I’d switch the Hurricanes/Rangers match-up with the Penguins/Canadiens one, but that’s just me and my need for chaos.

Elliotte Friedman is back with another 31 Thoughts and while the Lightning get a brief mention there are some good tidbits about former Lightning forward Sam Gagner getting an early start on his post-NHL life. Friedman closes with some thoughts from Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill who gave a video commencement speech to the students at De La Salle Collegiate:

“Turbulent times are also great opportunities to learn and to grow, to strengthen your faith, and to gain perspective on what’s truly important in life. I am sure you have done all three. Don’t waste one day to be the best version of yourself. Never compare yourself to others. Be the best you. Chase your passion, whatever that may be.”

While there may not be a grand Las Vegas awards show this year, that doesn’t mean the league isn’t going to forget that there are regular season award winners. Alex Ovechkin wins another Rocket Richard (although he shares this one with David Pastrnak) while Leon Draisaitl nabbed the Art Ross by posting 110 points. Despite only playing 71 games that total eclipsed every previous winner since 2009-10 except for Nikita Kucherov last season.

Speaking of awards, the Syracuse Crunch named Ross Colton as their Eastern Shore Associates Most Improved Player of the Year. I can’t disagree with that decision as the second year center vastly surpassed his level of play from the previous season.

Who knew that Edge (the wrestler not the musician) was a big Chico Resch fan?