We have finally reached the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. The matchup is set as it will be the Montreal Canadiens vs Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Canadiens are back in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993. Funny enough that was the last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup. The Canadiens Cinderella run continues after they defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in one of the Stanley Cup Semifinals. Montreal defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games and the Winnipeg Jets in four games to get to the semifinals. Now Montreal is four wins away from a Stanley Cup victory.
While the defending Stanley Cup Champions are returning back to the Stanely Cup Final after defeating the New York Islanders in seven games. The Lightning are returning to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time since 2015. The Lightning defeated the Florida Panthers in six games in round one and the Carolina Hurricanes in five games in round two to get to the semifinals. Now Tampa Bay is looking to become the first team since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017 to win back-to-back Stanley Cups.
Stanley Cup Final Preview: Montreal Canadiens vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final gets underway Monday night with the Montreal Canadiens vs Tampa Bay Lightning. Both teams are similarly built for this time of year. The Lightning are heavy favorites entering the series. As the Canadiens will play the role of underdogs again. And that is just fine by them. These two teams have not faced each other all season, but when they do match up against each other especially in the playoffs it is fun to watch. The last time these two met in the playoffs was 2015. Neither team is the same and both have gone through growing pains since then. Something has to give. Let’s take a dive into the series preview.
Balance Attacked Featuring Game Breakers on Both Teams
As previously mentioned the Canadiens and Lightning are built very similarly. Both teams have a future Hall of Fame goalie between the pipes. Four lines that are evenly balanced between skill and physicality. Plus three pairs are solid defenders. Now the Lightning might get the edge on the backend, but it is not by very much. Because the Canadiens defence has stepped up this postseason going up against three difficult teams to get the Stanley Cup Final. Not to mention both teams have game breakers on their team.
For the Canadiens, it is players like Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Tyler Toffoli, and Josh Anderson. Ever since Caufield was inserted into the lineup back in the first round, he has changed the pace of play from the Canadiens. Caufield can break open any game with his speed not to mention his skill with the puck. Him and Suzuki have made a great duo this postseason. But with the skill the Canadiens have workhorses. There was a reason Marc Bergevin went out and got guys like Corey Perry, Eric Staal, and Joel Edmundson. It was for the moments right now. These guys know what it takes to win. And it is spreading to the Canadiens. Each player is buying into their role and executing it to perfection.
Sound familiar because it is exactly how the Lightning are built. Tampa Bay has the skill with Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, but they also have guys willing to get dirty and muck it up a little. The Lightning have brought back the same team that won the Stanley Cup last season because they know their window is closing. Point had a nine-game playoff goal streak. Kucherov leads the playoffs in points. And Stamkos is healthy. But if you stop those guys then there is the line of Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow. Those guys can grind it out and score timely goals. And then there is their fourth line who can set the tone of any game. Plus those guys can score too. It really is two teams mirroring each other.
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It is a battle of future Hall of Fame goaltenders as Carey Price take on Andrei Vasilevskiy. Price is playing at a Conn Smythe Trophy level. This postseason Price has a record of 12-5 with a 2.02 goals-against average and , a .934 save percentage and one shutout in 17 games. Over the past two postseason runs, Price has a record of 17-10 with a 1.93 goals-against average with a .934 save percentage and three shutouts. He is playing at his Vezina Trophy levels of years ago. As the saying goes for Montreal as Price goes so does the Canadiens. And Price is on a mission to win. When Price is healthy he is the best goalie in the world especially when he is rested.
However, those in Tampa would disagree because they believe Andrei Vasilevskiy is the best goalie in the world. Vasilevskiy has a record of 12-6 with a 1.99 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and four shutouts allowing two goals or fewer in 11 of his 18 starts. Not to mention in the past four closeout games going back to last postseason, Vasilevskiy has four shutouts. He takes his level to another level when the Lightning are looking to close out a series. Vasilevskiy is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and he is showing why in the playoffs.
Having the two best goalies meet in the playoffs is what everyone wanted to see.
Special Teams Battle
One of the keys to this series is the special teams battle. The Lightning have the best power play in the league converting at 40 percent rate. While the Canadiens have the best penalty kill in the playoffs killing off penalties at a 93.5 percent. The Canadiens have killed off 42 of 45 penalties including the last 30 in a row. Something has to give in the Stanley Cup Final right? Regardless of how good the Canadiens penalty kill, they still need to stay out of the box against this dangerous Tampa Bay power play. But do not sleep the Canadiens power play either. The Canadiens power play is getting better and starting to convert especially when Montreal needs a goal. So the Tampa Bay Lightning penalty kill better watch out.
Lightning Hoist Cup If
they continued to play their fast-paced style against a stingy defence. Not to mention remain patient and play solid defense especially in those one-goal games.
Canadien Hoist Cup If
the penalty kill remains red hot along with getting goal scoring up and down their lineup. Price has to continue his MVP pace matching Vasilevskiy at every turn.