Lifeless Night at Garden Ends With Rangers Loss

On eve of HBO debut, Rangers play their least entertaining game of the year

Let's hope the Rangers were saving all their entertaining qualities for Wednesday's debut of the series following the team on the way to the Winter Classic on HBO.

There wasn't a whole lot of energy in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. Not on the benches, not in the stands and not on the ice as the Rangers skated their way to a 1-0 loss to the Stars.

John Tortorella put it best in his comments after the game, saying that there wasn't a lot of hate out there between two teams that don't see each other all that often and didn't really seem to care all that much about risking anything to pick up two points.

About the only time anyone got riled up was when Tortorella yelled at the officials for calling an awful penalty on Carl Hagelin in the first period when he collided with Stars goalie Richard Bachman on a play that looked neither nefarious nor the least bit intentional.

It says something about how boring a game was when the most memorable moment was a bad call by a ref that had absolutely no bearing on the outcome. The Hagelin call was awful, but the Rangers killed the penalty and the game remained scoreless well into the third when the Stars finally chipped one past Henrik Lundqvist.

Other than that, though, it was two teams playing one of the mildest hockey games that you'll ever see on a night when their rare decent scoring chances were easily snuffed out by the two goaltenders.

We're used to it from Lundqvist, but Bachman, starting just his second NHL game, was something of a revelation.

The worst thing about the game is that it is just a preview of things to come. With the NHL realigning to a four conference system that balances out the schedule so that there are more games against Dallas, Calgary and Columbus and fewer against Montreal and Boston, you can bet that there will be more lifeless nights in the Garden in the years to come.

Why the NHL thinks that is a plus is a mystery even greater than what Brandon Prust accomplishes by fighting by appointment every single night instead of saving his fists (and brain) for when the team actually needs them.

Non-conference games have few playoff implications and rare matchups generate none of the hate that Tortorella mentioned, two things which make for passionless hockey and forgettable Tuesday nights.

Hopefully Wednesday's premiere makes up for the waste of time that was Tuesday's game. Judging from HBO's history with these kinds of shows, it will do that and more.

With any luck, it will be the best show the network ever produced with high ratings that make everyone clamor for more of the same next season. And, in this dreamworld, the network would make another season contingent on the NHL putting the kibosh on realignment so that we never see another night like Tuesday.

Either that or threaten to bring Entourage back if the NHL goes through with their plans. That should chill Gary Bettman to the core and keep hockey interesting.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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