Ever been to Madison Square Garden’s? For all the talk of it being sport’s most hallowed grounds, the "World’s Greatest Arena", etc…. boy is it ever a giant pit. It’s easily the worst NHL arena I’ve ever been to, and I’ve seen games at Joe Louis and the Nassau Coliseum. The entrances and exits are too few, too confusing, and painted in 1990’s "cool" green and pink which matches the horrific seat colors of purple and turquoise blue. It makes me want to barf. The concourses are barely wide enough for 6 people to walk shoulder to shoulder. The food stations are too few and crowded. And good luck trying to find a bathroom. I’m convinced they don’t exist. The only thing present at 7th and 32nd that sucks more than the arena, is the on-ice product delivered by the resident team.
December 29th, 2010. That’s the last time the Rangers scored more than 2 goals in a game. It was against the worst team in hockey, the New Jersey Devils, and the Rangers only managed to put 3 onto the board. That was 10 games ago. Miraculously, or perhaps because they employ one of the best goaltenders in the league, the Rangers won 5 of those games and added a loser point against Tampa Bay to emerge from that span with nearly as many points, 11, as goals scored, 12. That’s impressively atrocious and proof to the fact that the New York Rangers are incapable of playing exciting hockey. At the beginning of the 2008-09 season, I saw the Leafs play the Rangers at MSG and it was hands down the worst godawful hockey game I’ve ever watched live. It was a game that ended 0-0 after regulation and OT and saw Freddy Sjostrom of all people mercifully score the only goal in the shootout to lift the Rangers to a 1-0 win. I wanted to hang myself out of boredom.
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It’s not yet been set in stone, but all fingers point to Henrik Lundqvist getting the start tonight with backup (looks up who the hell that is on NHL.com) Martin Biron getting the 2nd game of their back to back against Carolina tomorrow night. Ryan Callahan remains out for the Rangers, which is good news for the Buds because he’s their best two-way forward and would have had the task of shadowing fellow American Phil Kessel all game long. Freddy Sjostrom stayed home in Toronto because of a charley horse (the hell?) and Mike Brown sits for his second of a 4 game suspension. Thankfully, Kris Versteeg returns to the lineup after missing a game relegating Brett Lebda to the MSG press box. While not currently injured, 7 million doller man Marian Gaborik is not having a good season and is only on pace for a 50 point, 22 goal season. Scott Gomez 2.0 anyone?
King Henrik is a tough nut to crack, he’s second in the league with 6 shutouts, so getting traffic in front of the crease has got to be priority #1 for the Leafs. Shots from the outside aren’t going to beat him, so it’s time for the Buds to go to the dirty areas of the ice. I think it’s time for Wilson to go back to his pre-season playbook and run the powerplay with big man Dion Phaneuf screening the goalie in front of the net. Lord knows he’s not getting it done from the point with the man advantage. So a 1st PP unit of Grabbo-MacArthur-Phaneuf-Versteeg-Kaberle is what I’m lobbying for. Heed my call Ron Wilson! With a team that plays for the tie like the Rangers, special teams are more important than usual and will be the key tonight. Expect PP goals to be the decider for which ever team can score them.
Jonas Gustavsson goes tonight so Giguere can face his former team back in Toronto tomorrow night. The Monster’s had 13 days of since his last start, a 6-5 shootout win against St. Louis that saw him post another sub .900 game. If he does the same tonight against a team in New York not known for lighting the lamp, then conversation about his future in Toronto need to get even more serious. For Jonas’ sake, I hope that isn’t the case. Let’s win one for the Monster!
GO LEAFS GO!