For many of you (myself included) this is probably exactly what you wished for when you sat down last night to watch the Bruins and Canadiens play an emotional Game 7 to see who would advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. The thought process was obvious: Avoid the big, bad Bruins at all costs.
Sometimes, though, you need to be careful what you wish for.
Yes, we're all well versed in what the Bruins did to the Rangers last year in the Second Round of the playoffs. The domination was so thorough that it forced the Rangers' brass to make serious changes to the team. The Rangers completely revamped and upgraded their entire bottom six, including what has become a critical-to-the-Rangers'-success fourth line.
But here's the thing: The Canadiens are a hell of a hockey team, too. Sure, you no longer have to play against Zdeno Chara ... but you trade him for P.K. Subban. You no longer have to worry about guys like Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla, Patrice Bergeron or David Krejic ... but now you need to worry about Max Pacioretty, Thomas Vanek, Tomas Plekanec and P.K. Subban again just to be safe. Yes, you've avoided Tuukka Rask ... and replacing him with Carey Price. Sure you no longer need to worry about playing on the road at TD Bank ... but welcome to Montreal's House of Horrors otherwise known as the Bell Centre.
I'm not saying this to scare you. What I'm saying is, the Rangers' road to the Stanley Cup didn't get any easier by replacing the Bruins with Montreal. I've said this before and I'll say it again: Once you get this deep in the playoffs every team brings something dangerous. You don't get through the first two round by accident. These are all good teams, these are all dangerous teams and you can just as easily lose to anyone.
Here's the good news: The Rangers look so much different today than they did after Game 4 in the Second Round (after a crushing, 4-2 defeat against the Penguins) that it's almost shocking we're talking about the same playoffs. They're more motivated, more driven. They look dangerous again, and believe me when I tell you they feel it, too.
Henrik Lundqvist turned on "God mode" against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and now many people are speculating that's going to come to an end due to his previous issues in Montreal. I'll disagree. There is so little correlation between the regular season and the playoffs it's almost not worth talking about. Lundqvist has been about as good as I've ever seen him, which is really saying something. I don't care who or where, I take Lundqvist as my goalie in any situation. He's the best goalie in the NHL, and that's not a shot at anyone else. Hell, Price just won a gold medal (against Lundqvist) and powered the Canadiens past a lethal Bruins squad. But you have to believe in the troops you're going to war with, and I certainly believe in Henrik Lundqvist.
The other thing? This team believes they can win. Don't understate that, either. I'm not sure the Rangers believed they could beat the Penguins after Game 4. Then a few things happened, they got their mojo back and now they have a swagger that screams a "we can beat anyone" vibe. That's a good thing, too. You just have to make sure that swagger doesn't turn into overconfidence.
Hell, the Rangers won two playoff series against divisional opponents without a single goal from Rick Nash. That's not to beat up on him, either, just a point. I have a feeling he'll break out this round. Just a gut feeling.
This is going to be an awesome series, and one way or another the NHL is going to have an Original Six team playing for the Stanley Cup.
Let's just hope it's the team from the good ol' USA ...