At some point, Rangers players will go up on the Chase Bridge and then tour the rest of the transformed Garden. For now, they are happy to report that the renovations did not rob the place of its personality. Their problem Monday night was the first rule of hockey real estate: an early lead trumps location, location, location.
The Ducks scored twice in the first 9 minutes, 9 seconds of the first period, dampening the usually crisp atmosphere. The visiting team went on to a 2-1 win in its first trip to a place that is eye-catching to everyone who plays or watches in it.
Monday night notwithstanding, the Rangers view the Garden as one of their greatest strengths. "I think any Original Six building is going to be different and this building is a little more so now because it's the original structure," Brad Richards said. "It's not like one of the newer buildings in the league that are sometimes built more for entertaining."
He was referring to the attractions that are not game-related additions that have made many modern arenas and stadiums very nice, but rather quiet and antiseptic. "This is still the same atmosphere inside, basically," Richards said. "And it is in the middle of New York City."
Michael Del Zotto, like all of his teammates, has yet to see as much of the makeover as many fans have. "Everyone I talked to who has been up in the stands says it's unbelievable," said Del Zotto, who scored at 18:36 of the second period.
When Alain Vigneault got behind the home bench for the first time last Monday against the Canadiens (whom he used to coach) he was struck by the tradition amid all the newness.
"The first thing for me that jumped out was the blue sweaters," the coach said. "It might sound ridiculous, but having coached the Habs before, I thought their original red ones were outstanding. Seeing the blue was fabulous. And just being behind the bench during the anthem, listening to the fans cheer, this is going to be a great place to be part of."
Vigneault has said he wants it to be a tough place to play for visitors. By the same token, he wants the Rangers to be as comfortable there as possible, so he holds the morning skate at the Garden, rather than at the practice facility in Westchester, as they have done for years.
Brian Boyle said, "It's the best. This is the Garden . . . It's huge, it's state of the art. You just know who has played and performed here, all the history and tradition that it has. We're very, very lucky to play here."
What they rediscovered Monday night, though, is that it has enough electricity to get the other side pumped up, too.