The first tipoff that things were different came as you went into Madison Square Garden. Rather than playoff towels, we got these silly phallus shaped "Ranger" balloons with little blue lights at the end. By the end of the evening, I saw several of them whiz across the Garden: very safe. We were assured by the people handing the balloons out that towels were returning Wednesday. Still, it marked the beginning of the recession as far as I was concerned (OK, maybe thats pushing it, but it did feel cheap). They still threw balloons from the sections above mine (I think its section 408. This year they also threw streamers.
After that the hockey began and everything went downhill. I await Wednesday.