After a resounding Game 1 home victory in the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning (No. 3 seed in Central Division) took a 1-0 series lead against the underdog Montreal Canadiens (No. 4 seed in North Division) and will look to extend that lead to 2-0 on their own ice Wednesday night in Tampa.
Unfortunately for Montreal, they couldn’t match the supreme offensive power of the Lightning Monday night, falling behind early and eventually getting thumped 5-1. Tampa Bay was already a massive favorite in the series, and after winning Game 1, they are now -550 favorites to win the Stanley Cup. As for Game 2, the Lightning remain large favorites, sitting at -215 as of this writing. If you want to back the ‘dog, you’ll be getting a nice +180 line. The total is currently set at over/under 5.5 (+138/-170).
The Canadiens were taken down for just the third time in their past 14 games after losing in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Final series against the defending Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Getting trounced 5-1 is certainly new for the Canadiens, as they have been a defensive force in these 2021 playoffs. Playing in their first Cup Final since 1993, when the team last lifted its most recent trophy, the Habs had hoped to get off to a better start. They managed to kill two of their three penalties, which is actually a downgrade from what they were pacing throughout these playoffs. They forced the Lightning to block 15 shots, but they were outshot 27-19 and couldn’t get it done on the power play, going 0-2, and only scoring a single goal in the game.
After Tampa got out to a 2-0 lead, Ben Chiarot cut the lead in half at the end of the second period before Tampa put the game out of reach in the third period. Goalie Carey Price stopped 22 shots, and is now 12-6 with a 2.18 GAA and .928 SV% in the playoffs. His career record against the Lightning is telling and indicative of Game 1, as he is 14-19-6 against the Bolts. He will need to do much better if the Canadiens want any chance of winning their first Stanley Cup in 27 years.
The Lightning took one more step towards repeating as Stanley Cup Champions with their decisive Game 1 victory over the Canadiens at Amalie Arena Monday night. The offensive firepower of Tampa Bay was on full display once again, with star Nikita Kucherov netting a pair of goals in the third period before assisting on a power play tally by Steven Stamkos to make it 5-1 with only a minute left in the game. This type of performance is nothing new for Kucherov, who now has made it back-to-back playoffs with 30+ points, and became only the fifth player in NHL history to record multiple 30-point playoff campaigns. He joins Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, and Mario Lemieux.
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy blocked 18 shots on Monday and continued his incredible playoff run, now with a 13-6 record and a shining 1.94 GAA and .936 SV%. He is 46-28 in the postseason for his career, showing how clutch his abilities are when his team needs him to perform most.
It would be extremely easy to just tell you to back the Lightning -1.5 on the puck line at plus money because of how dominant they have been in these playoffs, and because they have owned the Canadiens, going 7-0 in their last seven contests against them.
However, I have another stat for you. Over the last 15 years, huge postseason road underdogs of at least +165 or more have a very high 14.5% return on investment. Carey Price himself is also one of the most profitable road underdog goalies over that span, so pick Tampa Bay at your own caution. They could definitely win by 2+ goals again at home, but at +180, there is just too much value there for me to pass up.
Pick: Canadiens +180