So today really does feel like the last day of the lockout. I know, I know, the lockout has been over for a week, but even so there were some irrational fears that the owners wouldn't ratify the new CBA (you know you thought about this at least once) and all the practices and skates have been informal.
That all changes Saturday, however, since teams have permission from the NHL to preform physicals on all their players.
Oh yeah, the schedule is also being released as well, which is a massive part of post-lockout, shortened season. It seems all but confirmed that the New York Rangers will be taking on the Boston Bruins January 19th in Boston. There are unconfirmed rumors that the Rangers will have their home opener the next night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Which brings me to my next point: The schedule is going to be a massive part of team's preparation and fan's expectations. The Rangers happen to be opening the season (if both games are correct) with a stern back-to-back test to open the year. Win both games and the team will probably feel as though they're walking on air. Lose both games and the team will probably feel as though they're about to miss the playoffs. Split the games? Eh, it could be worse.
But the difference about this schedule is the focus. It's not on who the Rangers are playing, it's when they're playing them. Since the schedule is condensed the expectation is that there will be a plethora of back to back games. Suddenly the Martin Biron signing looks like a golden move. Especially since John Tortorella has adopted the ideology that Henrik Lundqvist needs his rest and has to be fresh for the playoffs -- the correct approach to the situation.
So remember, the importance here isn't where, it's when. The Rangers have a very high-octane team, that plays a rugged style and have a system that demands the most from its players. That's not going to change -- nor should it -- but this schedule will let us know if it needs to be adapted.