The Montreal Canadiens had to go through the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins to get to the Eastern Conference finals. Despite Boston’s regular-season prowess, Montreal head coach Michel Therrien says the New York Rangers are the best team the Habs have played in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Therrien’s Canadiens find themselves trailing the Rangers 2-0 heading into Game 3 of the conference finals on Thursday night in New York. The Rangers have taken it to the Habs through two games in Montreal, and Therrien is clearly impressed with what he sees from the opposition — even more than what he saw in the two previous rounds.
“Right now, they’re playing with a lot of confidence. Honestly, this is the best team that we’ve played in the playoffs so far,” Therrien told reporters following Montreal’s morning skate Thursday. “So we all understand the challenge we’re facing (in Game 3).”
The key phrase there might be “in the playoffs.” The Bruins were arguably the NHL’s best regular-season teams in 2013-14, as evidenced by their league-high 117 points. They were among the league leaders in virtually every offensive and defensive category. Their special teams were near the top of the league, too. However, the Bruins didn’t play their best hockey in a seven-game, second-round series with Montreal.
The Rangers, on the other hand, have played their best hockey at the right time of the season. The Blueshirts erased a 3-1 series deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round and have hit the ground running in the Eastern Conference finals. Now, Alain Vigneault’s club is just two wins from advancing to its first Stanley Cup Final since 1994.
Then again, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Therrien was trying to twist the knife just a little bit with a shot at the Canadiens’ biggest rivals in Boston.