NHL Playoffs 2017: Bonjour Montreal

With Montreal’s win over Florida Monday night the New York Rangers finally have their playoff matchup set in stone. The Rangers will be the visiting team in the first round against the Canadiens.

This was looked at as something of a dream matchup back in January, although now I’d be far more concerned about the Rangers overall chances than I was back then.

Let’s get something out of the way now, however; this is far preferable to being pitted in the bloodbath that is the Metro playoff bracket. Avoiding Pittsburgh, Washington and (to a lesser degree) Columbus in the first two rounds should be celebrated. And if the Rangers can work their way past Montreal, you’d have to like their chances at getting beyond Toronto or Ottawa (assuming they don’t get bumped out by Tampa).

In many ways, Montreal reminds me of the Rangers: A flawed team with enough firepower to kill you and a top-tier goaltender.

We’ll have a far more in-depth review of the matchup as we move forward, but this doesn’t feel like an easy out for the Rangers. Especially not after the coaching change that’s solidified some of Montreal’s bigger flaws.

There’s stats there that should scare you. They’re even more scary when you realize Tanner Glass is most likely going to be a pillar on a fourth line expected to stop that from happening.

The good news is Montreal seems locked in their own “physicality over skill” battle, but they’ve found a way to work through it. Also, their physical players are a little bit more skilled than what the Rangers are working with.

Still, the Rangers found their way into the weaker link of the NHL’s horrific playoff matchup system. Sure, Montreal is going to be a challenge, but getting out of the first round should give the Rangers hope to make it to the Eastern Conference Final. And if they can get there then who is to say Washington, Pittsburgh and Columbus don’t kill each other enough to be a wounded tiger?

There’s a lot of ifs there, but it’s a far better outlook on this side of the bracket than on the other side.

The Rangers are slowly working themselves back into health. Rick Nash is playing really well. Brady Skjei has been a revelation. Ryan McDonagh should be well rested and the Rangers have four more games to make sure other big names are as well. There are worse positions to be in here. By far.

The special teams is still a major concern, and I’m not sure we’re going to see much fixed the next week or so but the playoffs is always fluky. With the Rangers talent up front, is it so preposterous to assume they can click at a high enough level with the man advantage to get them through Montreal?

Price, of course, provides a big hurdle to clear, but so is Henrik Lundqvist. And the Rangers killed their demons in Montreal back in 2014.

There’s plenty of reasons to both be excited and nervous. Regardless, the Rangers are playing with house money here (longer story alert).

And there’s worse places for them to be.