After another unique NHL season, we’ve finally arrived at the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. Last season we played it in September. This year, late-June/early July. We’re slowing getting back to a normal hockey season schedule.
It’s been quite a run for both of these teams. The Lightning were pushed around by the Panthers in the First Round before dismissing the Central Division champions in the Hurricanes. Their toughest test to date came in the Stanley Cup Semifinal where they needed a Yanni Gourde shorthanded goal to out last the Islanders in a Game 7. The Canadiens have been on a dream six-week journey to get here. They upset the highly-favored Maple Leafs; swept the Jets; and then shocked everyone by dismissing the Golden Knights, who tied for the most points during the regular season, in six games.
Will the Lightning go back-to-back? Or will the Canadiens finish their dream run by winning another Cup 38 years after they were the last Canadian team to do so?
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Lightning in 6. (Conn Smythe: Andrei Vasilevskiy). The Canadiens are for real, and in some ways, they represent the sort of challenge Vegas would have: a strong five-on-five team. They’re deep, Price is on fire, and Suzuki – Caufield gives them some of the finish they’ve lacked. But the Lightning are a versatile team with incredible elite talent, and (whispers) Vasilevskiy’s probably the one goalie who’s been better than Price during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Don’t be shocked if the underdogs upset the defending champs, though.
[NHL ON NBC STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Lightning in 6. (Conn Smythe: Brayden Point). Once again I am terrified to bet against the Canadiens and this time I know better so it’s really my fault, and yet. I still don’t see the Canadiens being able to solve Andrei Vasilevskiy as easily and I think Tampa is even more of a challenge offensively than the other teams Montreal has faced.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Lightning in 6. (Conn Smythe: Brayden Point). Is this the series where Montreal’s penalty kill turns back into a pumpkin? Is this the series where opposing stars cannot be contained by Phillip Danault and his pals? Is this the series where Brayden Point further cements his case for the Conn Smythe? Is this the series when Carey Price can’t keep up the .930 save percentage routine? Yes, this is the one.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Lightning in 7 (Conn Smythe: Andrei Vasilevskiy). I really want to pick Montreal here just because they keep proving me wrong. I thought they would lose to Toronto. They did not. I thought they would lose to Winnipeg. They swept them. I thought they would lose to Vegas and probably get swept. Then they won four games. They just keep figuring out ways to win and Carey Price keeps stopping a ton of shots.
But Tampa Bay is a different beast than the other teams they have played so far in these playoffs. The Lightning have a goalie that can match Price save for save. If Montreal finds a way to stop Nikita Kucherov or Brayden Point, the Lightning still have Steven Stamkos, Anthony Cirelli, Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman, Alex Killorn, and Ondrej Palat. This series goes seven games, Montreal makes it close and interesting, but the Lightning repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]
Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Lightning in 7. (Conn Smythe: Carey Price). The Canadiens have shown that the North was not as weak as many said it was. Playing against Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Mark Scheifele and the rest, toughened the Canadiens. That being said, Tampa Bay has been the best team in the NHL over the last few seasons and this year will be no different.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Lightning in 6. (Conn Smythe: Andrei Vasilevskiy). I just can’t see this Lightning team losing right now. They have a significant edge on paper at forward and defense, and even though Carey Price could steal multiple games, it’s arguable whether he even has the edge over Andrei Vasilevskiy. Montreal beating Vegas is proof that this will be a good series, but I’m not going to bet against the Lightning as currently constructed.
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)