So far anyway, the Chicago Blackhawks' 2010-11 season appears to be picking up where their 2009-10 one left off. Which is perfectly acceptable for their fans, as their Stanley Cup-winning year following more than 40 years of disappointment and futility was the sweetest of all rewards, and both the fans and the players they support are determined to prove that it was no fluke.
With the talent that comprised their 2009 roster, it sure didn't look like a fluke. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, you've got two guys picked in the Top 3 of their respective draft classes, and both players showed many more people how capable they were during the 2010 Winter Olympics with Team USA and Team Canada (respectively). Brent Seabrook and Dustin Byfuglien were also Hawks picks that had emerged as key contributors for the team, and the addition of players like Marian Hossa at the beginning of the season gave the team an injection of world-class offensive prowess. Additionally, John Madden (not the coach) and Tomas Kopecky provided valuable veteran depth.
The team had little to worry about in the regular season, winning 52 of 82 games en route to their second straight Division Championship, and finishing one point out of first in the Western Conference. Their 52 wins (23 on the road) and 112 points were all new franchise records. In the playoffs, the team played the Nashville Predators in the first round, winning the best of seven series four games to two, winning the final three games in the process. Then they met the Vancouver Canucks and eliminated them four games to two for the second consecutive playoff year. Then they swept the San Jose Sharks in four straight, particularly sweet as the Sharks had the regular season's best record in the West. Then it was on to meet the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals, themselves appearing in their first Final in more than a decade, but on an improbable playoff run after virtually sneaking into the playoffs on the season's last day. After the teams won each of the first four games on their home ice for a two-game tie, the 'Hawks won in Chicago and a Kane goal in overtime on Philadelphia's ice sealed the win. Hawks fans got used to seeing the team win on the road in the playoffs, as their seven road playoff wins tied an NHL record.
This five-disc collection (housed in one regular DVD case) includes each of the four wins during the playoffs, with the fifth disc being the team's Game 5 win over Nashville in the first round. Hossa had been sent to the penalty box for five minutes for boarding an opponent, but Kane scored a goal with less than 15 seconds left in the game (with the team being a man down) to tie the game, and Hossa returned from the box and scored the winning goal in overtime. It was a memorable moment for sure, but I'm surprised they didn't include all of the games from the Cup Final win or lose. For that matter, the Western Conference clinching final game, on home ice, would have been a pretty good one to include too.
But I think goes to the nature of these multi-disc collections. Honestly, this package from Warner and the NHL feels like nothing more than an attempt to squeeze more money out of the Blackhawk fans. Consider that in six months, there has been a Greatest Games collection, a Year in Review which served as the film chronicling the season and Cup run, and now this. One can commend Warner for being so enthusiastic about releasing so many hockey titles, but you could make the argument that less is more, and think about including a disc that covers the year along with the team's playoff success, similar to what Major League Baseball does with their World Series box sets.
Despite some of the holes within the set, Hawks fans are pleasantly reminded about the successes of last year within this set, and if some sort of event happens to change the karmic order, or their massive retooling of their roster in the offseason doesn't pan out, they're going to have this Stanley Cup edition to look back on. But something tells me the team won't have to wait another 41 years to experience this kind of joy again.
All five games are presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen and they look fine. But this is coming from a guy who watches a good deal of hockey in person or in high-definition, so I'm being diplomatic in using "fine" here. For standard definition stuff there's not been any enhancement and the source material is pristine.
Two-channel Dolby stereo. There is little to be heard in the rear channels, and what there is just weakly mimics the front channels without a lot of effort. The front channel sound is decent and even pans once or twice, but the soundtrack doesn't do auditory cartwheels.
If your memories of the win count as an extra, fine. Otherwise, no supplements to speak of.
Fans of the Chicago Blackhawks who desire to snap up every piece of merchandise will have their appetites sated with this release. A word of warning though; it's missing the whole Finals and there aren't any extras on the set, so it's kind of myopic in focus and takes the meaning o of the win for granted a little if you ask me. If you've got a Blu-ray burner you're probably better off getting them off your DVR but if you don't, this might suit the Hawks fan you know.