Once again, the NHL has failed to comprehend the finer points of marketing and promoting itself, but no matter - the Rangers will be ready. 

A ready, fire, aim disciplinary system.  A television policy that leaves entire regions without their favorite team’s games.  A willingness to embrace the thuggary that turns so many away from the game.  If such words were spoken by Alex Trebek, a sports-savvy Jeopardy competitor would answer “What is, ‘ways in which the NHL has separated itself as the worst run professional sports entity this side of boxing?”

And they’d be right.

But after Saturday’s Eastern Conference Final game three between the Rangers and Devils, the formerly mustachioed game show host could add another answer to his question: “A strong and driving desire to do whatever they can to keep great games off of the television screens of as many casual fans as possible.”

The always-important swing game – a game that will likely showcase the best of the sport with two bitter rivals, two great goaltenders, and two teams desperate for the win – will be played not when the eyes of the country can focus in on it, but at 1 pm.  That’s 10 am on the West Coast.  And once again, I find myself utterly miffed.

How is it possible that in a room full of directors and vice presidents, no one raised the revolutionary thought that a game likely to set the momentum of the league’s semi-final should be played at any time other than a Saturday afternoon…in May…when people do things outside…away from their television?

Just as the NHL had crawled out from behind a television deal that positioned too many of their games on a channel that too few could find, they’ve gone and invented a new strategy for this ever so depressing game of hide and seek – a game the NHL always seems to win.  You can’t tell me that this match up isn’t perfectly suited for prime time – a slot currently scheduled to be filled by an America’s Got Talent rerun.  Once again, the NHL has done a horrible disservice to its product and its fans.  At this point, why do I let myself be surprised?

Either way, when the puck is dropped, the Rangers and Devils will be battling to take control of the series, because the Rangers failed at such a task on Friday. But really, like the NHL’s disappointment, Ranger fans should have just seen that coming, right?  A win in game two and a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals would have been too easy, too simple.  I mean come on, what would the NHL Playoffs be without some hair-pulling tension? Answer?  The NBA playoffs.

And though I count myself among the legions of fans who have watched their team play two seven game series in these playoffs – and while I could do without any more of the hair-pulling tension – I confess that I rest easy on this game-three-eve.  Not because I know my team will win, but because I’m confident in the way they’ll play.  This Ranger squad has never been one to back down in the big situations, and I don’t expect them to Saturday.  Put another way?  I believe.