July 18, 2011
HBO has ruined a lot of things for us. Hour-long dramas on language-filtered network television. The ability to see Jeremy Piven as anyone but Ari Gold. Hippie nudist communes (thanks again for that last one, "Real Sex").
It's quite possible we can add NHL-produced Stanley Cup Champions DVDs to that list in a post-"HBO 24/7: The Road To The NHL Winter Classic" world.
These videos were quaint, well-produced but ultimately superficial keepsakes from a championship season. They always had a few euphoric moments that would make the die-hard fans' eyes well up but shied away from the warts-and-all approach of something like "24/7."
Essentially, it was like watching a wedding video that edited out the part where your drunk uncle staggered into the cake.
"NHL Stanley Cup Champions 2011: Boston Bruins" (90 min,) from Warner Home Video and the National Hockey League, which hits stores on July 19, is a solid chronicle of the team's championship journey that get progressively more enthralling but leaves you wanting more context, more controversy and more of the personalities that endeared this Bruins team to Boston fans.
Coming up, a full summary of the DVD that the spoiler-phobic among us can skip, plus the good, the bad, the three stars and the overall grade.
(Again, skip down to the end if you want to be unspoiled by the DVD.)
It's quickly established at the start of the film that while the other professional teams in Boston are collecting titles like Dale Tallon collects overcompensated free agents, the Bruins stunk.
This is reinforced by the showing of actual tombstones while the voiceover says the Bruins were "a team in transition," which seems a little morbid.
We travel in the DeLorean back to 2005 and the Joe Thornton(notes) trade, about which radio play-by-play man Dave Goucher says, "When you look back at it now, that trade was enormously controversial."
But the Thornton thing leads us to a shift in philosophy for the Bruins: Building from the blue-line out by signing Zdeno Chara(notes), bringing in Peter Chiarelli as GM, signing Claude Julien as coach and Sea Bass as president of the team.
Which, when you look back at it now, was all enormously smart.
Fast-forward past some terrible playoff defeats and we're in 2010, as the Bruins trade for "Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton(notes)" (must be alphabetical order … or an NHL edict) and add Tyler Seguin(notes) at the NHL Draft (no mention of how they acquired the pick; Brian Burke wipes brow, looks for another obscure U.S. college free agent to sign.)
Incredibly, the NHL Premiere series in Prague is credited as an important team-building exercise for the eventual champs rather than an early-season nuisance that ruins the first few months for any team due to incredible jet lag and various Eastern European STDs.
Marc Savard's(notes) comeback and concussion are used as a lowpoint in the regular season; the Bruins' fight-filled win over the Montreal Canadiens that included the Tim Thomas(notes) vs. Carey Price(notes) fight is seen as a rallying point, with Shawn Thornton(notes) saying he's never heard the Garden louder than when Thomas charged out to challenge the Habs keeper.
At this point, you'd naturally expect the DVD to cover the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty(notes) that occurred in the teams' next game, being that it was one of the most emotionally-charged moments of the Bruins' season and a vital storyline in the teams' eventual first-round playoff battle.
Not on this NHL-produced video!
That fact that the DVD fails to address the hit, the aftermath and the reaction in Montreal both during the regular season and the postseason is a gaping, almost unforgivable hole in the narrative.
Maybe the NHL can use the open police investigation as an excuse. Otherwise, this feels like a book with a missing chapter; remember how the Pacioretty thing was even relevant to the Nathan Horton injury/Aaron Rome(notes) suspension?
Once we get past the dramatics of the Montreal series in Round 1, and the Bruins' rally, it's on to Round 2 and redemption against the Flyers. Best segment: Tim Thomas talking about how he gave up two quick goals in Game 2, and then decided he was going to make Philly work for every shot. He pushed aside 46 straight Flyers chances, and the Bruins rallied to win.
The DVD does a nice job creating some drama around Game 4 and the very real fears that despite the 3-0 lead, one loss would send the dominoes falling toward another collapse. But the Bruins prevail, and talking head Mike Milbury gets a chance to talk about how terrible the Flyers' goaltending is, because if there's one thing Mike Milbury's great at it's managing goaltending talent.
Another odd editorial choice: Covering the Patrice Bergeron(notes) concussion without mentioning his concussion history, which made his return in Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning so remarkable. Little details missing here and there add up.
Bergeron's absence is used to spotlight Tyler Seguin's ridiculous effort in Game 2 of the conference finals, which is presented well. The Game 4 loss to the Lightning was called "catastrophic" by Jack Edwards, who likened it to a "pre-2004 Red Sox nightmare." Yes, Game 4 was the Bill Buckner of conference finals losses.
The best game coverage of the DVD through three rounds was reserved for Game 7 against the Bolts, with great scene-setting, highlights that established the "one bad bounce wins" tension in the penalty-less game and the eventually catharsis in the Bruins winning and going to the Cup Final.
We begin with a sweeping shot of snow-covered mountains that were eventually burned and looted after Game 7. That transitions into the Canucks' dressing room, where we see the lockers for players like Alex Burrows, whose bag of dismembered fingers is left out of sight.
Also, the Canucks sticks are apparently protected like the gold in Fort Knox:
"I know what you're all about. You're not that tough. You're not kidding anybody."
We also get a bit on the Burrows bite, including Milbury saying, "I don't care how hungry you are for a championship, you can't bite [another player]."
Kudos to the producers for including how terrible the Bruins' power play was during the playoffs, which prefaced their scoring a power-play goal in Game 2, which ended with that stunning overtime loss.
The Horton hit in Game 3 was handled particularly well: Seeing it in real time, then near-silence on the soundtrack after the check; the ref telling Henrik Sedin(notes) that the hit was "really late, I gotta give him five and a game"; and the Bruins getting distracted and then emotional after Horton was stretchered off.
(It was important to note that the Bruins' rallying around the hit didn't happen immediately; that the Andrew Ference goal in the second period was, perhaps the biggest of the series for the Bruins until Game 7. The DVD stresses this, too.)
The Horton storyline carried over to the Aaron Rome suspension and Bobby Orr's waving the Horton Flag before Game 4. Good stuff.
Game 4 sees the narrative shift to Thomas playing lights-out and Luongo looking like a slice of thinly cut Swiss. Thomas on the DVD, seeing Luongo getting pulled in Game 4:
"At the time in Game 4 when you see him getting pulled, you're happy about it. You're happy because you think you have a better chance to win next game."
Which the Bruins didn't, as painstakingly reviewed on what felt like a shot-by-shot basis on the DVD. But you needed that to establish that Luongo was back in it and feeling all swaggery, because then the DVD covered his "it's a save I would have made" criticism of Thomas in the postgame and his "pumping his tires" line at the airport.
Thomas, in retrospect, on the tire-pumping:
"I understand what it's like to say something to the media and have it kind of blown out of proportion from the way you thought it was going to come out. But at the same time I couldn't figure out if he was trying to play head games with me. I didn't know if it was just part of the tactics trying to win. Either way, I just wanted to make sure I responded on the ice right away and show them nothing bothers me."
The Game 6 recap gives us Horton on the big screen, the Bruins physically destroying the Canucks and Luongo getting chased. Pretty straightforward.
More impressive: The Nathan Horton "dirty water" stunt in Vancouver before Game 7, as we learn his teammates had no clue it was going to happen, outside of Ference seeing a bottle labeled "Boston ice"; and that Horton didn't come up with the idea, but came back to the room and said "it's our ice now."
The Game 7 coverage was almost anti-climatic: We all know how it ended, and the coverage sort of reflected that. It was more about the little moments in the 4-0 win than any kind of manufactured drama. Where the coverage soars is in the postgame, from the handshake to the Cup raise to the champagne soaked locker room to the boys on the plane, with Milan Lucic(notes) evidently having eaten the logo off his hat, thinking it was some sort of small cookie:
Of course, no riot footage or any mention of it.
We end with a very nice montage of the Duck Boat parade, with panoramic views of the crowd. Sadly, the DVD ends before the $156,000 bar tab at the casino.
The coolest extra is an "Extended Locker Room Celebration" bit that runs around four minutes and includes some raw footage from the Bruins' room. Candid, fun … and the kind of thing you wish ran another hour.
There's also an extended look at the parade (about 3 minutes), a mini-doc about the Stanley Cup's journey to Game 7, the History Will Be Made clips from NHL.com and a collection of Top 10 goals/saves/etc. videos cribbed from NHL.com and/or The NHL Network.
The Good Stuff
Covers most of the big storylines of the Bruins' Cup run, with special attention given to the Nathan Horton and Luongo vs. Thomas storylines. The attention to the action on the ice in the last eight games of the playoff run was the right focus. Using Thomas, Ference, Shawn Thornton, Michael Ryder(notes) and Chris Kelly as the most frequent Bruins voices was the right decision, too.
The Bad Stuff
It's an NHL-produced championship DVD, so you know you're not going to get the editorial honesty and depth you're looking for — no Pacioretty, no Game 7 riots. Some storylines were buried: Marchand, for example, was THE STORY in Game 7 and didn't get half the spotlight Seguin did in the conference finals on the DVD. And why have a Boston Globe columnist tell us how long-suffering Bruins fans were when any Bruins fan would have been a better source?
1. Tim Thomas. Candid, personable and the embodiment of this team. His stuff at Lake Placid offered some depth of character.
2. Andrew Ference. Gave a smart take on several subjects and some veteran insight on the Cup Final.
3. Peter Chiarelli. Surprisingly good voice of authority on the Bruins' roster and other subjects. Also, used the phrase "greasy grimy" at one point.
Overall Grade: B
Really great work on the Final, but just didn't seem to crack the surface of a team bubbling with character.
But then again, like we said, maybe "24/7" have ruined championship DVDs for us.