GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Being the team with the best record in the NHL entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs is new for the New York Rangers. It's not for coach Alain Vigneault, who doesn't think the Rangers have any reason to feel differently than they did in the regular season.
"I believe that we've been hunted since Day One," Vigneault said. "Any time you've got the Stanley Cup champions or the Stanley Cup finalists, any team playing against them, and I used to do the same thing, you're telling your team, 'We've gotta use them as a benchmark.' I'm sure that's what the other 28 teams were doing when they were playing against us."
Vigneault speaks from experience. Twice he took the Vancouver Canucks into the playoffs after they won the Presidents' Trophy; the second time he did it the season after they reached the Stanley Cup Final.
The Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Final last season after finishing second in the Metropolitan Division with 96 points. This season, New York won the Presidents' Trophy for the first time since 1993-94, when it last won the Cup, and set Rangers records for wins (53) and points (113).
What did 53 wins and 113 points get the Rangers? The opportunity to face Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins in a best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series that starts Thursday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, ROOT, MSG).