Tonight is officially Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens. The Lightning are heavy favorites to win the series at (-200), while the Canadiens sit at (+170). Tampa Bay is looking for back-to-back Stanley Cups after winning in the bubble in last year’s playoffs. Montreal is looking to win their 25th Stanley Cup which would give them the most all time of any team in the NHL. People all around the hockey world have made the Canadiens out to be underdogs during this whole postseason, but assistant coach Luke Richardson says “We believe we aren’t the underdog…We don’t really use it as motivation to prove people wrong…you want to show people we belong more than they’re wrong.”
The Canadiens last won the title all the way back in 1993, which happens to be the last time a Canadian-based team won the Stanley Cup. Montreal has dealt with Covid and injuries all playoffs long (as other teams have as well), and forward Joel Armia was placed in Covid protocol for the start of the series against TB.
Regardless of the injuries and covid, Montreal feels they have a chance solely based off how goaltender Carey Price has played throughout the postseason. He’s 12-5 with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. If you don’t know much about hockey, just know that these numbers are spectacular. Tampa Bay’s goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy has been just as good as Price in the postseason. He’s 12-6 with a 1.99 GAA, .936 save %, and 4 shutouts this postseason.
It’s going to be a rowdy crowd tonight in Tampa Bay as everyone knows what is up for stake and hopefully we get a competitive series between the two talented teams. Personally, I think it comes down to who can take advantage of the power plays when they are given the opportunity. Scoring on the PP can propel teams in a series and give goaltenders on the scoring team a lot of confidence in the offense. TB has the advantage on the PP as their numbers are ridiculous on the man advantage. They have 20 PP goals thus far in the postseason, and are scoring on a wild 38% of their powerplays.