Home at last, Rangers settle in to new Garden digs
NEW YORK --Brandon Dubinsky finally had a chance Tuesday to wake up in his own bed, walk to his local grocery store, purchase whatever he wanted to eat, and go back to his apartment to cook it. He didn't have to wear a suit, and when he was finished with dinner he didn't have to lie back in his bed to watch television.
"That was refreshing," Dubinsky told NHL.com Wednesday from inside the Rangers' new dressing room at Madison Square Garden. "I could sit on the couch rather than lying in a bed. All those things made it feel better."
Dubinsky and the Rangers had a week at home between their five-city, four-country, 13-night European experience and nine-night trip through four Western Canadian cities. But half of that week was spent just getting acclimated after being overseas and the second half was spent thinking about the next extended trip.
"You can always look back at games and say there was an opportunity to win, but there were some games where we stole points as well. All in all, with the circumstances of everything, I think we're pretty happy where we are. We did a good job of fighting through the adversities of being away from home and the toll it takes mentally and physically." --Brandon Dubinsky on the Rangers seven-game road trip
Now that they'll be home for six straight games and have only one road trip until mid-November, the feeling around the dressing room Wednesday was a mixture of excitement and relief.
The Rangers open the partially renovated Madison Square Garden on Thursday night against Toronto knowing they did about as well as could have been asked of them in their first seven games across three countries and five time zones.
They came back from Europe with two points but no wins, and followed that up with a 4-2 loss on Long Island. However, the Rangers went 3-1 against Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg to finish their opening-month grind with eight out of a possible 14 points and a 3-2-2 record.
"You can always look back at games and say there was an opportunity to win, but there were some games where we stole points as well," Dubinsky said. "All in all, with the circumstances of everything, I think we're pretty happy where we are. We did a good job of fighting through the adversities of being away from home and the toll it takes mentally and physically."
Save for their goaltending, nothing about the Rangers this season has been pretty.
They picked up two points over two games in Stockholm despite being sloppy at times. They were beaten on Long Island, and then relied way too heavily on Henrik Lundqvist in Vancouver before the offense finally broke out with four goals in the third period. It took a Ryan McDonagh goal with two seconds left in overtime to ensure the two points in Calgary.
The Rangers' effort and intensity in a 2-0 loss in Edmonton was unacceptable, leading to coach John Tortorella's now infamous 16-second postgame press conference in which he said, "We (stunk) from head to toe and we didn't move past it."
However, despite being road-weary in Winnipeg on Monday night, the Rangers beat the Jets, 2-1, thanks to a late goal from Ryan Callahan from a pass that went off Zach Bogosian's skate. They had only 17 shots on goal, but they blocked eight and gave the Jets only one power-play opportunity.
"To pick up that win, and grind it out the way we did … it was a good character win for us," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "We feel we can be better and need to be better, but we're happy with the results we had."
Now they get to finally move forward, past the opening-season grind and into some sense of normalcy, both in their hockey lives and regular lives.
A taste of that came Wednesday when the Rangers got to experience their new digs at the Garden for the first time. The reviews were tremendous.
"It looks amazing," Marian Gaborik said of the new dressing room, which is now complete with a full workout room, something that did not exist in the old Garden.
"It's a little bit disorganized trying to figure out where we come in and where we go out, but they did a great job," Callahan said. "It's awesome in here. There is so much more space. It's high-tech and it's more fan-friendly now, with a little more access to us. We're excited to be back here, back at home, and start playing on home ice again."
Even Tortorella said the Rangers "love what we see here as far as what has gone on, the transformation of our locker room and the whole situation." Not surprisingly, the coach stopped getting all gushy about the Garden right there.
"But you need to win," he continued. "That's what makes a building good, winning in it."
The Rangers still have 41 chances to get that done this season, and they've already got eight points in the bank.
Their account is looking pretty good.
"We end up with eight points, and I'm not going to apologize to anybody how we got the eight points. That's the way this League is," Tortorella said. "Everybody goes through travel situations. This team did early on and we'll have some more. That's part of being a professional athlete. This is part and parcel of playing in the National Hockey League.