Ex-Ranger Graves knows short seasons
Adam Graves can't wait for hockey to return.
The former Rangers great, who helped the team win its first Stanley Cup in 54 years by defeating the Vancouver Canucks in 1994, has missed the "Garden energy" of hockey at "The World's Most Famous Arena." With the lockout over and the NHL set to begin its season on Saturday, the wait will officially come to an end.
Graves knows what Henrik Lundqvist, Brad Richards and the rest of the Rangers went through during the lockout and what they'll face during the abridged 48-game regular season. He experienced the NHL's first lockout-shortened season just a few months after bringing Lord Stanley's cup back to Manhattan.
"On one hand, you can look and say, 'Well, we got a little bit of extra reps,' " Graves said of starting the season in January instead of October, "And on the other hand you might say, 'Well, you might have been able to take more of that momentum into the season.' "
The 1994 Rangers played 23 postseason games en route to the 1994 championship, and the right winger spent the following summer rehabbing his back. In his case, the lockout allotted him time to have back surgery.
The current Rangers may similarly benefit from the extended break between seasons. In just three rounds, the Rangers played 20 games. Because the team plays with what Graves called a "black and blue mentality" of stopping shots by any means necessary, particularly using their bodies to deflect pucks, a little extra rest might do the players some good.
"This has given them an opportunity to fully recover and rest, and they're going to be going into Game 1 of the season healthy."
Though some may be concerned about the quality of the play, don't count Graves among them. He feels, performance typically improves as the season goes on.
"It builds from October, November, December, January all the way through into the playoffs," Graves said. "And even in the playoffs, from my experience, I can remember the speed picking up from the first round to the second round to being in the final."
Like the 1995 season, teams won't play interconference games during the regular season. Graves stressed how important each game becomes for the Rangers to keep the Devils, Penguins and the rest of the Eastern Conference at bay.
"Every game is a four-point game," Graves said. "You're either gaining ground or you're giving up ground. Therefore, the emphasis makes it more like a playoff-style of game."