NHL Stanley Cup Finals: Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Game 1 Preview and Odds

by Big Al Staff

The Stanley Cup finals begin on Monday, with the Tampa Bay Lightning hosting the Montreal Canadiens on the NBC Sports Network at 8:08 PM ET. 

Tampa Bay reached the finals with their 1-0 victory against the New York Islanders in Game 7 of that semifinal series on Friday. Yanni Gourde scored the lone goal in the game shorthanded at the 1:49 minute mark of the second period. The Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 18 of the shots he faced. Tampa Bay placed 31 shots on Islanders’ goaltender Semyon Varlamov. 

The Lightning aspires to become the eighth team in NHL history to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Tampa Bay won their first Stanley Cup in the 2003-04 season before winning the title again last season. The Pittsburgh Penguins are the most recent franchise to repeat as champions in 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. 

Tampa Bay opened their postseason campaign by defeating the Florida Panthers in six games. They followed that by beating the Carolina Hurricanes in five games in the East Division finals. 

Andrei Vasilevskiy has a 12-6 record in the playoffs, with a 1.99 goals-against-average, a .936 save percentage, and four shutouts. He had a 31-10-1 record in the regular season with a 2.21 goals-against-average and a .925 save percentage. He is one of three Vezina Trophy finalists awarded to the top goaltender of the season. He previously won that award in 2019.

Brayden Point leads the league with 14 goals in the postseason. His nine-game playoff streak with at least one point ended in Game 7 on Friday. Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL with 27 points in the playoffs. He has scored five goals and added 22 assists. He has registered 17 of his points on the power play. Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos tie for third on the team with 17 points. 

Montreal defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in six games to reach the Stanley Cup finals with a 3-2 victory in overtime last Thursday. Shea Weber opened the scoring with a power-play goal at the 14:06 minute mark of the first period. The Knights evened the score less than a minute later with Reilly Smith’s goal. Cole Caufield gave the Canadiens the lead again with his gaol at 9:36 of the second period. Alex Martinez evened the score for Vegas early in the third period. Arturri Lehkonen scored the game-winner for Montreal just 99 seconds into overtime. 

Carey Price stopped 37 of the 39 shots he faced in the win. The 2015 Vezina Trophy winner has a 12-5 record in the playoffs this season, with a 2.02 goals-against-average and a .934 save percentage. In the last two postseasons, Price has a 17-10 record, a 1.93 goals-against-average, a .934 save percentage, and three shutouts. 

The Canadiens opened their postseason run by defeating the heavily-favored Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games. Montreal then swept Winnipeg in four games in the North Division finals before upsetting Vegas in six games. The Canadiens have won 11 of their last 13 games since trailing the Maple Leafs, 3-1, in that first-round series. They have won the Stanley Cup championship 22 times. They last won the Cup in 1993 in their most recent appearance in the finals.

Tyler Toffoli leads the team with 14 points coming from five goals and nine assists. Nick Suzuki has 13 points from five goals and eight assists. His five points last round tied for the most on the team. Cole Caufield led Montreal with four goals in the Vegas series. His nine points in the playoffs tie with Corey Perry for the third-most on the team. 

The Canadiens have not allowed a power-play goal in 13 straight games. They have successfully thwarted the last 30 power plays from their opponents in this postseason. Tampa Bay has scored 20 power plays in the playoffs, a 37.7% success rate on their 53 opportunities with the man advantage. 

Montreal will be without Joel Armia indefinitely after he entered the COVID quarantine protocol. It is unclear how long he will be out. He did not travel with the team to Florida. The Canadiens expect head coach Dominique Ducharme back for Game 3 when he completes the COVID quarantine protocol. Assistant head coach Luke Richardson will retain head coaching bench duties until then. The team has a 3-1 record under Richardson since Ducharme began quarantine. Tomas Tatar and Jake Evans remain questionable with the injuries that kept them out last round. 

Tampa Bay is healthy. Kucherov is probable after returning to the ice to play 16:29 minutes on Game 7 on Friday after being knocked out early in the first period in the sixth game of the Islanders series. 

BetAnySports lists the Lightning as a -190 money line favorite for Game 1, with the total set at 5.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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