November 07 2011 07:36PM
In the previous installment, the Jets had won the first of their three in four nights' run out on the Island. Today, the trip to Jersey and the World's Most Famous Arena.
Last Exit to Newark:
Saturday afternoon meant a trip to the Garden State, as the Jets prepared to face the Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark. This was the only time other than the trip to Uniondale that I spent away from Manhattan, and as with my journey Thursday night, I had every intention of keeping it to the minimum. Seriously, Newark or Midtown? Not much of a choice, is it?
It's actually pretty easy to get to the Devils' new home from Manhattan, just get on a commuter train at Penn Station and you're on your way. The 20 minute trip isn't especially scenic, of course, unless industrial decay and toxic swamps are your fetish, but at least it's brief, and the area about the train station and the arena are clean enough.
The rink is only about three blocks from Newark Penn Station, and in my admittedly short time walking in the area before heading inside, I didn't really notice an unusually dense buildup of bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity. That did strike me as a bit odd, since those sorts of businesses are generally the types that prosper in arena districts.
The facility itself has the look of most modern rinks. Most new arenas have a lower and upper seating area bisected by a ring or two of luxury and club sections, and Prudential Center fits the pattern. It reminded me quite directly of Jobing.com arena in Glendale in that way. As a result, those of us in the upper level were a good bit up from the ice, but the viewing angles anywhere in the building are reasonable, and sitting in the first row of Section 109 did afford quite a nice view of the proceedings.
One other clear difference between the Island and Jersey beyond the age and design of the rinks was the size and enthusiasm of the gathering on hand. Saturday night versus Thursday night certainly played a part in that difference, and having an extra 5,000 patrons in the building did give the game a bit more of a big league feel.
I should note, however, that most of that enthusiasm was confined to the upper reaches of The Rock. Something I've noticed in more than a few buildings in the U.S. as of late is that the arenas often have huge swaths of empty seats in the lower levels, while the upper decks are fairly well filled up with the hoi polloi.
That was absolutely the case Saturday night. My sense of things was that at least a third of the lower level was unoccupied, and from what I could see, several of the luxury boxes were dark. The Jets are no draw at all, of course, so maybe that should be no surprise, but as I've mentioned in the past with regard to the Coyotes, if you can't fill your premium seats every night without fail, that's pretty tough for the bottom line.
As for events on the ice, the game itself wasn't the most exciting affair, but to be fair to Winnipeg, they put forth a reasonable effort on the night, and the acquisition of a point was a decent outcome for the club. The Devils never really established any sort of sustained offensive attack against a team with three of their top six D on the shelf, relying on transition attacks to win the game. Sadly, as we've seen a few times too often thus far, the Jets are a bit too accomodating in that regard.
I'd also say that the book teams have on Ondrej Pavelec is to go top glove every chance they get. All three of the Devils' goals were high glove, and the game the Jets lost in the shootout in Toronto featured Lupul and Kessel targeting that spot as well. Pavelec has been terrific on everything low since the circus in Philadelphia, but he's got a soft spot teams are going after. A team that didn't allow the opposition to waltz down the center of the ice unimpeded three or four times a night might mitigate that problem, so it's not all on him, obviously, but it does seem an area that might need to be addressed by coaching.
Gardening at Night:
Last night's affair at MSG was a walker, since I'm staying about six blocks away from the building. Sitting in Midtown Manhattan and sharing a common infrastructure with Penn Station, it's as accessible an arena as there might be on earth. It's also one in the midst of a lengthy renovation at a cost of 850-ish million, give or take. This first summer's work included significant improvements to the player's areas, some of the old seats getting replaced, as well as a new set of luxury suites at the top of the building.
Since they aren't starting completely over, the main arena bowl's general layout will remain, so there won't be the modern ring of suites splitting the patrons. It should be noted that MSG's bowl does have a much more gentle slope to it than many arenas, so you aren't as high in the third level as you might be in most new barns, but you are farther back from the ice surface itself. Still, the view from section 329 was perfectly acceptable.
In contrast to the solo missions to Uniondale and Newark, I had company for this affair, as I met up at a pub on 33rd Street called Stout with the charming and talented walkinvisible of Hit the Post. She followed the Flames through Detroit and Buffalo before hitting the Apple, and we had the chance to finally meet and hoist a couple of pints. We were joined by her cousin Jeremy, a convivial fellow in his own right, and we were off for a very nice evening of banter, albeit mixed in with some pretty sad hockey.
As Scott noted earlier today, Claude Noel has been fairly sanguine regarding his team's overall play defensively, and he's not out of line to feel that way. The team might make a few more glaring errors than he might like in the neutral zone, but they quelled the panicky aspects of their defensive zone coverage to a significant degree over the last week.
They still can't get it going on the PP, though, and last night's was a game where they just never quite looked like they could score. A lot of what we're seeing is percentage driven, since I'm fairly sure Wheeler and Little won't shoot zero for the season, but they aren't generating enough chances to consistently win, either.
I think everyone knew coming in that the Jets' forward corps was a bit on the shallow side, and the injury to Antropov has just reinforced that notion. Presuming his injury isn't too grievous, his return and the debut of Eric Fehr sometime this month should help. A team with eight forwards fit for a top nine role is still short, but the current iteration really only has six guys for those roles, and two or three of those gents couldn't hit a cow in the ass with a handful of wheat at the moment.
The Jets still have one more game on their trek, but my time on the road ends tomorrow. It's been a good trip, and although NYC hardly needs my recommendation to make it a popular spot, I'm still quite happy to give it. To be blunt, if you can't find something compelling to amuse yourself with here, that's on you, not the city, and to my mind, that's the highest praise one could give to any place.