The National Hockey League's (NHL) Stanley Cup Playoffs are well-known for turning ordinary players into legends based on a remarkable play or an effort through the postseason that helps the team realize its dream of lifting the Stanley Cup. While the city itself has virtually hoarded professional sports titles over the last decade, the Boston Bruins had not won the Cup since Bobby Orr's goal helped clinch the title for the B's in 1972. The Vancouver Canucks had not even won the title, so to see either team end their drought would be welcome either way. The Bruins eventually won the title in Game 7 on Vancouver's ice, and this disc helps chronicle their chase.
Surprisingly, the film does not start with the playoff chase. Rather it discusses the Bruins' moves made post-NHL lockout, notably the trading of young potential franchise player Joe Thornton in 2005, and the hiring of Coach Claude Julien in 2007. Even the recent Bruins collapses, specifically blowing a three games to zero lead in the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals to lose 4-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers. It would not be Boston sports without a playoff collapse I guess. When discussing the 2010-11 Bruins' regular season, the addition of players during the year (and in the offseason) is covered, featuring interviews with those players and reporters/announcers that cover the team. Goaltender Tim Thomas' return to form from a subpar 2009-10 year is talked about as well, featuring insight from the player nicknamed "The Tank."
When discussing the season, the Bruins seem to view a February 2011 game with Montreal as the kick-start for them. The Bruins and Canadiens have been foes for as long as both teams have existed (and both are part of the NHL's 'Original Six' franchises that were founded almost a century ago). When the game's score was no in doubt, and the teams' bad blood bubbled over in a series of fights near the end of the game, including one with Thomas and his goaltending counterpart Carey Price. The two teams would meet again in the first round of the playoffs, with Boston coming back from a two-game deficit to win the series in the decisive Game 7. They dispatched their next opponent and vanquished the 2010 demons rather easily, disposing of the Flyers in four straight games. And after six hard-fought games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Nathan Horton's overtime goal put the Bruins into the Cup against Vancouver.
The film shows us some of what occurred to make the Final (and postseason) memorable for the Bruins. Whether it was the bad, like when Horton was knocked unconscious by a hit in Game 3 of the series, or the emotional, like Horton returning with the team to Vancouver and squeezing some "Boston Ice" onto the Vancouver playing surface, the film does try to maintain the suspense as much as it can, along with the aforementioned interviews. It also includes microphones on selected players and officials, so you can hear a little bit of what was said on the ice. This seemed to be an extension of the strategy that was employed in the HBO 24/7 series, when the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins allowed cameras and microphones in for a four-episode run leading up to the NHL Winter Classic held on New Year's Day. While it is understandable that the same type of exposure could not be allowed based on the type of stage, hopefully the NHL has a good jumping off point that they can use in the future.
All in all, while the 2011 Stanley Cup film isn't the best sports feature in the world compared to others, it's worth noting that the NHL is still trying to find their footing with their video productions on-ice. At least as far as hockey goes, this is one of the better ones in terms of approach and candor, and here's hoping both improve.
The film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and contains interviews, game footage from television and other game footage shot by the NHL cameras. Most of the footage is barely two months old, and the image is replicated accurately and naturally without edge enhancement or image haloing. The interview segments even possess a wee bit of detail to boot. It's not reference material by any means but it's nice to see.
A two-channel Dolby stereo mix for the feature is adequate. All of the action (game, interview or otherwise) occurs in the front of the soundstage and the rear channels/subwoofer are left out of all the fun. The sound in the front speakers sounds clean and clear, without hissing or mosquito noise or any other general complaints on quality.
Additional footage appears to rule the day here, whether it is extended footage of the Cup parade (2:44) or of a Hall of Fame member who is prepping the Cup for celebration (3:37). The locker room celebration was nice (4:32), in that when Bruins captain Zdeno Chara brought the trophy in, he was told the family would be on the ice, there was a sigh noting inconvenience that was funny. A special on the Top 10 hits, shots, goals and saves completes the disc (31:44).
The Bruins' 2011 Cup film (titled Back to Boston) is an entertaining and somewhat surprisingly frank look at the Bruins in the years leading up to the Cup and winning it as well. Technically it's not going to win anything at the prom and it's virtually empty on the supplemental chart, but Bruins fans can buy without hesitation and fans of the sport should be encouraged that the NHL continues to improve their production values.