The Tampa Bay Lightning are going to win the Stanley Cup. The only question that remains is how long it will take for the series to end. The Bolts will have their first chance at it on Monday night against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4. Tampa Bay is favored in the -130 range to do it, but we could see that line go up with extra time to wager on the game with two days off between contests.
The total is 5 for Game 4, even though we saw a 6-3 explosion in Game 3. Is it too low? Is the line too high? Not high enough? Let’s take a look and see.
Bolts Bounce Back
The Montreal Canadiens have been a great story in the playoffs, but it felt like Tampa Bay was going to overwhelm the Habs in Game 3. That is precisely what happened. The Lightning did not play well in Game 2. They won the game, but got outshot 43-23 and could not have been happy with how things transpired in that one. Had it not been for Blake Coleman’s goal with two seconds left in the second period, we could have been talking about a much different outcome.
With their first trip to Canada of the season, Tampa Bay was all business. They didn’t even let the Canadiens hang around, jumping out to a 2-0 lead less than 210 seconds into the game. After Montreal scored to make it 2-1, deja vu happened in the second period, as the Lightning opened up a 4-1 lead with two quick tallies.
Tampa Bay held a 29-17 scoring chance edge at 5-v-5 and had 10 high-danger chances to five for Montreal.
First (Period) Impressions
During the run that Montreal had, going 14-2 against the Maple Leafs, Jets, and Golden Knights to get to this series, Montreal was the better team in the first period in nearly all of those games. That has not really been the case in this series. The first period has either been neutral or been slanted to the Tampa Bay side. Game 3 was a prime example of what happens when Montreal has to play from behind.
The whole series has played out that way. Montreal has not led in the series. By not being able to get off to a good start in the first period, the uphill climb in the last two periods has been too much to overcome.
With one last stand to make at home in all likelihood, the first period will be big once again for Montreal.
The Price is Wrong; The Vasilevskiy is Right
Tampa Bay is clearly the better team in this series. The Bolts are deeper and have a lot more scoring threats. The one thing that could have given Montreal a chance was for Carey Price to outshine Andrei Vasilevskiy. The opposite has happened.
Price has allowed 13 goals on 79 shots. Vasilevskiy has allowed five goals on 97 shots. The goaltender can be a great equalizer, but Price has not performed well in this series. He had allowed 35 goals over the previous three series combined in 17 games. This looks more like the Carey Price we saw in the regular season and that is not at all what the Canadiens needed.
Last year’s Stanley Cup was won by the Lightning in the playoff bubble of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. A highly-scrutinized boat parade and celebration followed in Tampa while COVID was still very much a thing, but the Lightning won their second Cup in franchise history in an empty building with nobody to celebrate with but themselves.
A team like Tampa Bay seems capable of flipping the switch whenever necessary. Could we see a flat effort in Game 4 just to win it in Game 5 at home? To win it in front of a full audience at Amalie Arena?
It is hard to purposely give a team life in a series, but don’t count out the possibility that the Lightning simply want to take care of business at home.
NHL Picks – Lightning vs. Canadiens Game 4
I really do believe that the Gentlemen’s Sweep is a possibility here. I don’t know if Tampa Bay will outright tank the game, but it wouldn’t be a big stunner to see a flat effort. The Lightning won Game 1 in lopsided fashion and then nearly tripped up in Game 2. Could we see them actually trip and fall in Game 4 after a huge Game 3 performance?
Taking the Canadiens based on that unquantifiable narrative alone seems short-sighted, so the pick will officially be Tampa Bay, but it is something on my mind.