This year has been one crazy, unpredictable year and these Stanley Cup Playoffs have been no exception! In this year's Stanley Cup Finals, we have a bit of a David vs Goliath type matchup going on. On one hand, we have the Montreal Canadiens, the ultimate underdogs. Montreal was a team who wasn't even supposed to beat the Leafs, let alone Las Vegas! Yet here they are, and it sure does feel like '93! But, in order to reach the ultimate goal, these Canadiens must go through the Tampa Bay Lightning, the NHL's defending Stanley Cup Champions. Led by ultra-clutch centerman Brayden Point, the Lightning have dismantled the likes of the Panthers, Hurricanes and Islanders on their road back to the Cup Finals. They seem to be heavily-favoured in this matchup as well, and I guess that makes sense given the elite quality of their roster. However, if people still don't think Montreal can compete with the NHL's best after the Vegas series, they seriously don't know a thing about hockey. This Cup Finals series is so difficult to predict because of how differently these two teams play, but I know for a fact it'll go down to the wire. I hope this article can act as a solid preview and breakdown for the exciting Stanley Cup Finals series we have in store for us. So, without further ado... Let's get into it!
How Montreal Can Overcome Tampa And Win Lord Stanley
1. Be Disciplined and Stay Out of the Penalty Box!
The Montreal Canadiens have been one of the most well-disciplined teams in this entire post-season and if they want to beat the Bolts, that ought to continue! Tampa's powerplay was firing on all cylinders against New York, converting at a lethal 29% 🥵! And while the Habs' penalty kill hasn't been half bad either (94% kill rate), I wouldn't trust it to hold firm against Point, Kucherov and all the other Lightning gunners. Restez hors de la boîte, Montreal!
2. Contain Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov At Even Strength
Speaking of Pointer and Kuch, containing them during 5-on-5 play is an absolute MUST for the Habs. This series will be largely determined by whether or not the Danault-Gallagher-Lehkonen line can limit Point and Kucherov's offensive impact. Thankfully, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher have tons of experience being the Habs' shutdown line. They have already shut down three dynamic duos so far in these playoffs... what's one more?!
3. Goal Caufield
Is there any Hab hotter than Cole Caufield right now?! The twenty-year-old rookie sniper absolutely TORCHED the Golden Knights and has the potential to shoot the lights out on any given night. He's proven to be the full meal deal for Montreal already thus far, and his goal-scoring will be a crucial part of any success the team has in this Cup Finals series.
4. Josh Anderson and the Habs Bottom-Six
While the Lightning undoubtedly have a more star-studded top-six, Montreal's bottom-six (and Josh Anderson in particular) have the potential to really catch fire and set this series ablaze. The Habs third line (with Byron, KK and Anderson) has killer speed in transition, and their fourth line (consisting of Perry, Staal and Armia) plays a very strong, effective cycle game. Together, I believe these two lines will wreak havoc on Tampa's bottom-six and hopefully find the back of the net for Montreal!
How Tampa Can Overcome Montreal and Repeat As Stanley Cup Champions
1. Use Your Defencemen
If I'm Jon Cooper, the key thing I'm stressing to my guys is to get pucks back to the D in the offensive zone. Montreal does a great job of locking down the middle of the ice, but in doing so, they tend to collapse down to the net quite a bit. This gives the attacking defencemen more than enough room to unload a bomb from the point. Since the Lightning have some heavy shooters on their blueline, they might as well use 'em! With all the bodies in front, Price may not even see the shot until its too late. 43% of the goals scored on the Habs have been by defencemen... it isn't a fluke! SHOOT FROM THE POINT!!!
2. Hit #3 On the Umbrella Powerplay
Like most NHL teams, the Tampa Bay Lightning utilize the 1-3-1 or "Umbrella" powerplay system. This system uses quick puck movement to draw the play to one side of the ice in order to set up a high-quality shot from the other side. Obviously the Lightning have a plethora of options on each powerplay, but the option I think will be most effective against Montreal is hitting the number 3 spot from across the ice. Leaf fans... Remember T.J. Brodie's game-tying goal in Game 6?! He was WIDE open! The Left Side High penalty killer on the Habs is almost always a second late defending the D-to-D cross-ice seam! As a result, hitting the #3 spot on a powerplay as loaded as Tampa's should hypothetically lead to a boatload of powerplay goals.
My Final Prediction and Hot-Take
Prediction: Habs in 7
Hot-Take: Caufield Has His First NHL Multi-Goal Game
How do you think this Stanley Cup Finals series will play out?! Feel free to share your own Predictions and Hot-Takes in the Comment Box below!