The Tampa Bay Lightning can end the NHL season tonight. They can repeat as champions, becoming just the third organization and fourth team to do that since 1990, joining the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings. If they play like they did in Game 4, then it will happen.
The Montreal Canadiens finally got a huge performance from Carey Price, but it came with a 3-0 deficit. Another big effort might be enough to send the series back to Montreal, but the biggest favorite role of the series for the Lightning suggests otherwise.
A Gentleman’s Sweep is the term for leading a series 3-0, losing Game 4, and then winning at home in five games. Almost as if you gave the opposition a nod and a congratulations for making it this far.
As much as we want to think about teams doing that, no team goes into a game actively trying to lose it. As much as Jane Castor, the mayor of Tampa, FL, suggested it prior to the game, it isn’t a thing. However, Canadian officials did not allow family to travel to Montreal for the potential celebration. If there is a celebration tonight, everybody will be there.
So, in a roundabout way, it could be a blessing in disguise for the Lightning that they lost Game 4.
The Price Was Right
Carey Price had his best game of the series in Game 4. When you look at the stat sheet, it is evident that the Lightning did not try to tank and throw Monday’s game in Montreal. Far from it.
Tampa Bay held a 14-4 edge in high-danger scoring chances at 5-v-5. The Lightning had a 20-15 edge in the game overall, but clearly had the better chances and had an Expected Goals For of 2.76 compared to just 1.14 for Montreal at 5-v-5. The Lightning even failed on a late power play with a chance for a walk-off goal.
It was exactly the game that the Canadiens needed from Price to extend the series. The question now is whether or not he can do it again.
The Lightning seem to have figured some things out in this series. After getting outshot 43-23 in Game 2 and outchanced 26-20 at 5-v-5 in that victory at home, Tampa Bay went north of the border and outchanced Montreal 49-32 at 5-v-5 and had a 24-9 edge in high-danger chances.
Jon Cooper and his coaching staff made adjustments. They were very evident in Game 3, as the Lightning scored six goals and had a quick 2-0 lead. They didn’t show up in terms of the goal scoring for Game 4, but the underlying stats and metrics show that Tampa Bay was far and away the better team.
Game 5 Preview
Here in Game 5, the Lightning will have a loud, sold out crowd at Amalie Arena. After a couple of uncertain days due to Tropical Storm Elsa, you can bet that folks are looking for a distraction. They’re also looking for a chance to celebrate. Tampa Bay will pull out all of the stops here in hopes of avoiding a return trip to Quebec.
The Canadiens played really well in the two games in Tampa. They were competitive in the Game 1 loss for the most part and then lost despite being the better team in Game 2. That was the Andrei Vasilevskiy Game of the series. The Habs just got the Carey Price Game. They’re going to need another one.
NHL Picks Game 5 – Canadiens vs. Lightning
This series should be over tonight. Tampa Bay is up in the -235 range, but should be able to take care of business on home ice. If the Lightning had not played well in Montreal, there could be some additional questions, but from the looks of it, the Lightning have cracked the code and the Habs may also be tiring a little bit after so many emotional games, along with the pressures of the restrictive regular season in Canada.