Three Periods is a weekly column touching on hockey’s past, present and future.
Happy 45th Anniversary, MSG! On this date in 1968, the fourth iteration of Madison Square Garden opened above Penn Station. While Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were playing the new Garden, the Rangers were sixteen blocks north, closing out MSG III – The House That Tex Built – with a 3-3 tie against the Detroit Red Wings. In the final game at the old barn, Detroit jumped out to a 3-1 lead on goals from Norm Ullman (2) and Alex Delvecchio (1), but New York returned fire with two Jean Ratelle goals (including the tying marker) and one from Don Marshall. Rod Gilbert assisted on all three Rangers goals. The Blueshirts would play their first game in MSG IV one week later, downing the Flyers, 3-1 on goals from Bob Nevin, Marshall and Orland Kurtenbach. Eddie Giacomin had 17 saves for the win. There’s your trivia question and answer for the day: Don Marshall is the only player to score goals in the last game at MSG III and the first game at MSG IV.
Speaking of New York…In the early going this season, the Blueshirts seemed to hit every pothole on 8th Avenue; in other words, it’s been a bumpy ride. Over the last few games, however, it’s apparent the Rangers are starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together: passes are starting to run tape-to-tape, the plague of “Too Many Men” calls has subsided, and there are far fewer Blue-on-Blue collisions on the ice. Though areas of concern remain (the 29th ranked Power(less) Play, the healthy scratch-iness of Brian Boyle), the Rangers’ play since the calendar flipped to February has proven there was, indeed, no reason for the Blueshirt Faithful to panic. Compare and contrast the Rangers first four games vs. their last four: 1st Four: 1-3-0, 9 Goals For, 14 Goals Against vs. Last Four: 3-1-0, 13 GF, 7 GA. Yes, the Rangers are going to be just fine.
This season’s compressed schedule is forcing teams to get creative off the ice, it seems. According to Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News, the Stars have adjusted their travel schedule, and early returns are positive. Twice last week, the team opted to sleep over after a game and leave the next morning, rather than taking an overnight flight to the next stop on the schedule. Last Monday, the Stars spent the night in Denver after their win over the Avs, then practiced in the Mile High City Tuesday morning before flying to Edmonton. After Wednesday night’s victory over the Oilers, they again slept in and flew home Thursday. Displaying no jet lag whatsoever, they dominated the Ducks Friday night in Dallas. If the Stars keep winning, other clubs must take note. Is the expense of an extra night in a hotel worth it? If it translates to more wins (and playoff revenues down the road), it’s worth every penny.