Montreal Canadiens (35-25-12) at Tampa Bay Lightning (48–20–6)
The Stanley Cup kicks off in the Sunshine State with the heavily favored Lightning hosting the Canadians in Game 1. This game can be seen on NBCSN.
Oddsmakers are backing the Lightning, big time, in Game 1, as they are posted at -200 with a total of 5 goals. However, the public has been backing Montreal, as they opened as a -215 underdog and as of Monday morning are at -200.
The Canadiens are the most storied franchise in the league and look to win their 25th Stanley Cup, which is a record. However, they are big underdogs in this series and have not won it all since 1993.
Montreal has issues coming into this series, as head coach Dominique Ducharme is in the league’s COVID-19 protocol and will not be on the bench until Game 3 at the earliest. Also, the team put forward Joel Armia on the protocol as well, so he is out for this game.
The Lightning dispatched of the New York Islanders in seven games in their last series and the Canadiens won their last series in six games over a Vegas team that was tied for the most points in the league this season.
Defense Has Killed It
Montreal has made it to the finals playing great defense. In the last series facing the Golden Knights, who ranked third in the regular season averaging 3.39 goals, they did not allow more than two goals in the last five games after losing the first game 4-1.
Montreal needs to play great D, as they are not a high scoring team and in the last series only scored more than three goals in one game.
Carey Price (12-7-5 2.64 GAA) is one of the main reasons the Canadians are in the finals, as he has started every game in the playoffs and is 12-5 with a GAA of only 2.02 and a save percentage of .934. He has only allowed three goals in the last two games.
Four players lead the team with five goals apiece in the playoffs and Armia is one of them and out for this game. Tyler Toffoli is one of those players and leads the club with 14 points, but does not have a goal in the last four games and while he had two assists in that span, they both came in one game.
The Canadiens have won six of their last seven road games.
Tampa Has Played Great D as Well
The Lighting have also played great defense in the playoffs as well and in the Game 7 win over New York in the last series they scored a shutout. Their offense has been up and down in the playoffs and while they scored eight goals in one game in the last series they have only scored three goals in the last two games.
Andrei Vasilevskiy (31-10-1 2.21 GAA) is a Vezina Trophy finalist and in the playoffs he has been more than solid going 12-6 with a 1.99 GAA and a .934 save percentage. He has four shutouts in the playoffs and has two of them in his last three starts.
Braydon Point leads all players in the post-season with 14 goals and he had scored a goal in nine straight games before failing to do so in the last one.
Nikita Kucherov leads all players with 27 points and while banged up he did suit up for Game 7 of the last series and will play in Game 1 in this series.
Tampa Bay has eight players that have scored at least four goals in the playoffs.
The Lightning are the defending Stanley Cup champions and have won four of their last five finals games.
The Lighting are the defending champions, are at home, and Vasilevskiy has two shutouts in his last three starts. I would still like to take the Canadiens being the Cinderella team of the playoffs but can’t do it, as I do not think they will have much offense in this game. They will play good D but they will not be able to keep up in terms of the attack. Look for a low scoring defensive battle in Game 1 where the Lighting will win on home ice and take a 1-0 series lead.
PICK: Lightning -200