If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times about how much visiting athletes love competing at the Garden, how the bright lights of Broadway make a trip to the World’s Most Something Arena the truck stop the most anticipated of the season.
(Disclaimer: This doesn’t necessarily apply in the dead of winter, when California, Arizona, and Florida become favored destinations. Even the most New Yorker would second this sentiment.)
The fact is that hockey players can’t wait to come to the Garden. That’s great. Except that from the point of view of the Rangers and their fans, the Garden should be the last place an opponent would want to play.
You want the garden to look like the Spectrum in Philadelphia back in the day. You want the garden to look like Fort Neverlose on the island during the dynasty era.
You want opponents to be intimidated from the moment they step on the ice to the moment post-game when they walk through the Zamboni entrance to return to the visitors’ lounge after a loss.
You want the Rangers to make it a priority to protect their home and dominate the Garden. You wish head coach Peter Laviolette’s team would turn the building into its own fortress of solitude.
“I think the goal is just to try to be dominant every day,” Laviolette said hours before Monday’s 2-1 home win over the younger and improved Coyotes. “Oftentimes teams have a better record at home than on the road and so the focus can be on road and playoff teams and doing well if you win on the road.
“I would just rather go slower than that. The game in Buffalo was pretty important. It was the first match. It’s the first home game, and it’s just as important. I think it’s important that we continue to progress in our game and build on that foundation.
The Blueshirts have generally been a decent team at home, but won just 23 of 41 games at the Garden last year, losing 13 in regulation and five more in overtime or shootouts. Not great. They were better away, winning 24 points and amassing 56 points to 51 at home.
As Laviolette implied, you like teams that can win on the road. Teams that win on the road are usually tough to eliminate in the playoffs. You know the saying: “There is no way or way home, there is a right way.” »
Get this: The Blueshirts have had better road records in five of the last 10 years.
The 2011-2012 Black and Blueshirts were 27-12-2 at the Garden. The 2014-2015 Presidents’ Trophy winners earned a record of 25-11-5. There were a pair of 27-10-4s two years ago and in 2015-16.
This team would probably take between 54 and 58 points at home, but that does not indicate dominance. This does not indicate bullying in an era when last year’s mighty Bruins were 34-4-3 in Boston – during the regular season before going 2-2 in the playoffs – and the Avalanche were 32-5-4 two years ago. to win the Cup.
The Rangers, winners of the 1993-94 Cup, were 28-8-6 at home. Pretty good, but not overwhelming like the 30-2-7 record the 1970-71 Blueshirts posted behind the Vezina-winning performance of Ed Giacomin and Gilles Villemure; the dogged defense of a blue line corps that included Tim Horton all season; and the familiar combinations up front that featured Vic Hadfield-Jean Ratelle-Rod Gilbert; Dave Balon-Walt Tkaczuk-Bill Fairbairn and Ted Irvine-Pete Stemkowski-Bruce McGregor.
It was a year when the Garden was intimidating. Perhaps this was partly due to the relentless vulgarity that was a characteristic – not a fault – of the Blue Seats. Those days are over. There is a more polite environment in the building. Karaoke has replaced obscenity.
That 1970-71 season was the only one in which the Blueshirts lost fewer than six games in any incarnation of the Garden in a home schedule of 35 games or more. It was the team’s one and only truly dominant season at home.
Would this team take the 27-10-4 record posted during Gérard Gallant’s first year behind the bench? The answer would be yes. But could it be better? Yes, it’s possible, and certainly better than last season’s 23-13-5.
Laviolette played four of his 12 career games with the Rangers (and in the NHL) at the Garden, making his debut on November 9, 1988 in a 5-3 victory over the Flyers in which he was fined. a minor obstruction in third. period.
“We talk about it sometimes,” he said. “There’s a flash when you talk about New York, the New York Rangers and Madison Square Garden. These three things, there is a flash of luminosity.
Which we would like to see become blinding for the opponents.