It is the opening contest of the Stanley Cup Finals as the Montréal Canadiens take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Montréal advanced to the finals after knocking off the Vegas Golden Knights in six games. It took a seventh game thriller for Tampa Bay to advance, knocking out the New York Islanders.
Here you can find the best picks, news, and stats for NHL playoff semifinal battle at Amalie Arena. Tampa Bay is the favorite at -200. This according to PointsBet Sportsbook, which puts New York at +170 as the underdog.
Montréal will be without Joel Armia, Jonathan Drouin, and Jake Evans. Tomas Tater is listed as questionable for the Canadiens. Anders Nilsson and Marian Gaborik are out for Tampa Bay.
Montréal Dispatches Favored Golden Knights
The Montréal Canadiens knocked off their second No. 1 seed when they were able to beat the Vegas Golden Knights in six games. This series was tied at two, but a 4-1 victory in Game 5 set up the dramatic overtime victory for Game 6 that enabled Montréal to advance.
Montréal is averaging 2.53 goals per game in the playoffs, 11th overall, and they are fifth in shooting percentage at 8.7%. The power-play has been outstanding at 20.9%, seventh overall in the postseason. Tyler Toffoli is the leading scorer for the Canadiens with nine assists and 14 points. He is tied with three other players for the team-leading goals with five. That includes Armia, who is out indefinitely.
The Canadiens are allowing 2.18 goals per game and have been brilliant killing off penalties, first overall at 93.5%. Carey Price is having an impressive playoff, going 12-5 with a 2.02 GAA and a .934 save percentage. After giving up four goals in the opening contest against Vegas, he allowed nine total over the last five games.
Vasilevskiy Leads Lightning to Finals
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 18 shots he faced as Tampa Bay shutout New York, 1-0 to advance to the finals. Yanni Gourde had the only goal of the game, a shorthanded tally 1:49 into the second period. That was the second time in the last three contests that Tampa Bay shutout New York.
Tampa Bay is second in the postseason in both goals per game (3.22) and shooting percentage (10.8%). They are also second on the power-play at 37.7%. Nikita Kucherov is having quite a postseason, leading the NHL with 22 assists and 27 points. Brayden Point is the playoff leader with 14 goals.
The Lightning are allowing 2.06 goals per game, 17th overall, and they are fourth in penalty killing at 83.0%. Vasilevskiy has been outstanding, going 12-6 with a 1.99 GAA and a .936 save percentage. He has held opponents to three goals or fewer in eight straight games, including holding opponents to one goal or fewer in four of the last eight games.
- 4-1 in their last five Stanley Cup Finals games.
- 9-4 in their last 13 games.
Montréal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Pick:
Each team has won two of the three Game 1s they have played this postseason. It just so happened it was the first two series for both teams. Each lost Game 1 in the last series. Both teams are getting exceptional goaltending, but Price has struggled most in the first game of each of the last two series, giving up three against Winnipeg and four against Vegas. This is the one area that Tampa Bay can exploit, and they will come away with a Game 1 victory.
Pick: Take Tampa Bay at -200.
Montréal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Total:
As mentioned, Price has not been as good in the first game of the last two series. He needs a little time to figure out an opponent before settling in, and that will give the Lightning a chance to put up some goals. I expect a lot of close, low-scoring contests in this series, but not in Game 1.
NHL Picks: Go over 5.0 at -116