Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final played very different from Game 1. From the opening face off, the Montreal Canadiens were bent on evening the series, outshooting the Tampa Bay Lightning 43-23. But it was the defending champions who skated away with a 3-1 victory and a 2-0 lead in the series. Teams leading 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final have won the championship all but five times.
Montreal will look to be that sixth team, but the NHL odds are placing them as +900 underdogs to pull off the comeback. They can start by winning Game 3 this Friday at home as a +115 underdog per the online sportsbook. But Tampa Bay, the -135 favorites, has other plans.
Lightning: Odd or Even
The power play was a big factor for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s success, but they have rarely needed it in their two victories against the Canadiens. Tampa went 0-of-3 on the power play but still scored three goals in Game 2.
In their last seven games, only four of the Lightning’s 23 goals have come via an extra skater. Tampa Bay has outscored Montreal and the New York Islanders 19-8 on 5-on-5. Even if we remove the 8-0 drubbing against New York, that’s still a +3 goal differential and that’s despite only having a 48.1 corsi for percent (CF%).
Tampa Bay continues to be elite at finishing with a 17.4 shot percentage (SH%) on scoring chances and 28.7 percent on high-danger chances. This is why the Lightning have a 4-1 goal edge on Montreal in goals created by scoring chances and are +9 in the playoffs. And that other side of the equation: the impregnable Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Canadiens: On Both Ends
The Montreal Canadiens are getting outplayed at both ends of the ice. That’s rare to say, especially when it comes to their goaltender, Carey Price. Before the series against Tampa, Price had a 90 save percentage (SV%) on scoring chances and an 87.8% SV% on high danger chances on 5-on-5.
In the series against Tampa, his scoring chance SV% has dropped to 82.6% and 71.4%, respectively. Furthermore, Price allowed some questionable goals against Tampa Bay in both games and just hasn’t looked as dominant as he had been during the Canadiens’ playoff run.
Montreal skaters are simply getting stonewalled by Vasilevskiy. This was a unit that had a 13.5 SH% on scoring chances and a 15.4 percentage on high-danger chances on 5-on-5. That’s been minimized to just 3.7% and 0% as all 14 of their high-danger chances were stuffed by Vasilevskiy.
Pick: A for Effort
If the teams that tried harder won games, this series would be tied. Alas, that’s not how it works and Montreal must now pick itself up and put on another brave performance. The Canadiens attacked Tampa Bay throughout Game 2 but just couldn’t solve Vasilevskiy.
The Montreal Canadiens deserved to win this game.
— Blake Coleman Fan Account (@AdamWylde) July 1, 2021
On the other end, the Lightning got a few past Price. The Lightning didn’t do anything too spectacular. But as they’ve proven over and over in the playoffs, they only need a few opportunities to score. That’s why they’re the favorites to repeat as champions.
It’s unlikely that Vasilevskiy stopped over 40-plus shots again. But it’s also unlikely Montreal produces over 40 shots. Expect Tampa’s defense to be able to limit Montreal’s skaters as the Lightning once again keep the Canadiens on mute.
Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning – 135
Bonus Pick: No Chance
Only three of the Lightning’s last 10 games have gone over the totals and that’s only two for the Canadiens. These teams’ successes are predicated on strong defense and even better goaltending.
Montreal has only allowed three or more goals in the playoffs seven times out of 19. Expect a bounce-back performance from Price and the Habs while the Lightning stay solid.