Stanley Cup Final Roundtable: Series difference; why Canadiens, Lightning will win

What will be the biggest difference in the Stanley Cup Final?

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: The question right now isn’t whether Montreal can slow the Lightning’s offensive depth. It’s whether Tampa Bay’s weapons can breakthrough against the Canadiens. What the Habs have done to opposing stars is no fluke. We have three rounds worth of evidence. It was the William Nylander and Jason Spezza show for the Maple Leafs in the First Round because Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner could not lead the way. Pierre-Luc Dubois, Blake Wheeler, and Kyle Connor couldn’t do much with Mark Scheifele already out in the Second Round. Mark Stone, “The Misfit Line,” and Max Pacioretty were kept pretty quiet with a trip to the Cup Final on the line.

So, good luck to the Lightning against Phillip Danault and co.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Montreal has done a number on every star play it has faced in the playoffs, but Tampa Bay is going to present an entirely new challenge due to its depth. Against Toronto, they didn’t have to worry about John Tavares. Against Winnipeg, they didn’t have to worry about Mark Scheifele. While Vegas is a great team, the lack of center depth was a big Achilles heel. In all of those matchups if the Canadiens were able to shut down the star (which they did every time) there was not really anybody else that was going to make a difference. Tampa Bay has an entire team of difference makers, and even if you by some chance limit Nikita Kucherov or Brayden Point, there is a Yanni Gourde, an Anthony Cirelli, a Blake Coleman, or that Steven Stamkos guy (who is still pretty good!) that are waiting for the opportunity. Tampa Bay’s depth will be the difference in this series.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Special teams. The way the Canadiens shut down the Vegas power play was huge. The Golden Knights already had some man advantage issues with Colorado but Montreal fully exposed them. Meanwhile, the Lightning power play has been vital to their run. The winner of the series might come down to that specific matchup.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Tampa Bay’s championship pedigree. Effectively the entire roster is back from last year’s Cup winning squad. Montreal has been playing great team hockey but the Lightning have proven they have a unique combination of skill, grit, and experience.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: The Lightning’s high-end talent should get them over the hump — assuming they can play. In other words, the alternate answer could be “health.”

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: The biggest difference will be the depth of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The series will be close as the Canadiens are a similar team to the New York Islanders who pushed the Lightning to seven games, but unless Carey Price is able to stand on his head, the Lightning should prevail. There is too much scoring on all four Tampa Bay lines at this time. It will be interesting to see if Mikhail Sergachev is a difference maker, as Tampa Bay acquired him from Montreal for Jonathan Drouin, who is out for the remainder of the season. The Lightning are strong up and down their lineup, and while Vegas was as well, and Montreal still beat them in six games, Tampa Bay is just a bit stronger.

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Stanley Cup Final
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2. Finish these sentences:

The Canadiens will win the series if…

The Lightning will win the series if…

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Everybody is going to say something relating to Carey Price and, quite honestly, it is not wrong. But really it is just about goaltending in general. Montreal will win if Price plays out of his mind, or if Andrei Vasilevskiy shows any kind of a crack, which does not happen often. While the Lightning are back in the Stanley Cup Final again this year’s run does not seem quite as dominant as a year ago. They have needed Vasilevskiy to win some games for them a little more frequently than they have before. As long as he plays the way he has, that is fine. But if he has a couple of off days, maybe that swings things.

The Lightning path to winning is a little more straight forward: Stay healthy, play their game, get good goaltending. On paper this is one of the most talented teams in the league, and on the ice they go deep into the playoffs every year. It is the most successful team in the league over the past seven years and they have everything you want to see a Stanley Cup winner have.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: The Canadiens will win the series if Carey Price goes off. It’s the boring answer but it’s the right answer. He’s why they’re here in the first place and he’s won them so many games. If he stands on his head this team might actually pull it off, and, well, he’s been standing on his head all playoffs.

The Lightning will win the series if their best players aren’t shut down. Montreal has done a solid job shutting down elite forwards. The Lightning have a lot of them. One of the reasons they’ve done so well is on nights Stamkos isn’t on Kucherov is, or Point in every game, apparently. As long as the offense doesn’t go dark like Vegas, the Lightning have a good shot.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: The Canadiens will win the series if Carey Price plays the series of his life. The Lightning will win the series if they stay healthy.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: The Canadiens will win the series if Price outplays Vasilevskiy, and the deep Habs grind the Lightning into mush. The Lightning will win the series if the goalie duel is more or less a wash, and their power play dents the astonishingly efficient Canadiens PK.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Montreal will win if Carey Price can continue to be a plus-.930 goaltender for another round and if their ability to quiet opposing stars continues. Tampa Bay will win if the Canadiens can keep them off the power play on a regular basis. Montreal was able to shut down the Golden Knights, but the Lightning man advantage unit is something special, especially now that Nikita Kucherov appears to be fine.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Montreal will win the series if Carey Price is sensational and Cole Caufield is a star. Tampa Bay will win the series if they play as well as they are capable of playing.

CANADIENS VS. LIGHTNING – series livestream link

Game 1: Mon. June 28: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 2: Wed. June 30: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 3: Fri. July 2: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 4: Mon. July 5: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 5: Wed. July 7: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 6: Fri. July 9: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 7: Sun. July 11: Canadiens at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (NBC)

*if necessary

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.