Canadiens’ young players need to overcome Game 1 jitters

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final continues with Wednesday’s Game 2 between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. Canadiens-Lightning stream coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and Peacock. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Canadiens have surged to the Stanley Cup Final on the back of Carey Price, but also standout performances from their young players.

In Game 1 with the Lightning, they struggled. Perhaps that’s fair; Montreal has gone much further than anyone expected, and it’s the first go around for the young players.

Still, poor puck management plagued the Habs in Game 1, much of it coming at their offensive end, and some of those mistakes came from the young talent.

“The younger guys on the team have gone through some experiences over last year’s playoff and this year’s playoff,” assistant coach Luke Richardson told reporters after the game. “I think they’re growing every day. So today’s another day to grow and tomorrow’s another day to show that growth in your game. You have to implement things that you learn every day and put it into your game and grow and get better and it has to happen fast, especially in the final.

The Habs line of youngsters Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, who work alongside veteran Tyler Toffoli, was on the ice for three of the Lightning goals in Game 1.

It was a tough matchup for any line, dealing with Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat and playoff-leading point-getter Nikita Kucherov. The Lightning have the last change on home ice, and in Game 1 they forced that matchup as much as possilble.

It paid off.

“I don’t think it was their best night, for sure,” Richardson said. “But as a team I think we were all off of our best game and we’ll be back on our best game tomorrow. There’s not much you can do on the road. You can try and flip things around a little bit but, obviously, the home team’s last match.”

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Suzuki committed two turnovers, and after Game 1 cited that line matchup as something they had to handle better.

“It looks like (the Kucherov line) want to play against us the whole time, so we have to do a better job,” Suzuki said. “You just have to do a better job of cleaning up turnovers, limit their time and space and try our best to keep them off the scoresheet.”

The Canadiens, of course, have the ability to bounce back. They did it against Toronto, trailing 3-1 in the First Round series, and now infamously knocking the Maple Leafs out. So down 1-0 to the Lightning doesn’t mean it’s over by any stretch.

The Game 1 loser has won the last three Stanley Cup Finals. That’s obviously just a random stat. If the Canadiens want to be a part of that trend, though, they need the boost they’ve gotten from their young talent all postseason.

That’s one of the reasons they’re here; if they rebound and win, that will be one of the reasons why.

“We’ll respond well,” Suzuki said. “I think we just got a taste of what (the Lightning) bring to the table and we just have to match that intensity, match their compete.

“I think we can definitely play with these guys.”

2021 NHL playoff schedule: Stanley Cup Final – (TB leads 1-0) series livestream link

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

*if necessary

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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