Well, if you’re a Canadiens fan or player, that was rough. Especially if you’re that Habs fan who might be in trouble with their spouse. The Lightning took an early 2-0 lead in Game 3, and the Canadiens only sort of recovered. Ultimately, the Lightning are on the verge of a Stanley Cup repeat after a 6-3 win against the Canadiens in Game 3.
PHT will follow up with stories and more from the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. But if you’re itching for more, check out these three takeaways from Game 3.
Just don’t expect these takeaways to, say, get you out of the doghouse …
1. The Lightning are “getting to” Carey Price during the 2021 Stanley Cup Final
It seems silly to argue that the Lightning “solved” Carey Price. Especially since the goals have been fairly funky.
But, either way, Price certainly hasn’t been able to impose his will on the Lightning like he did other teams during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Instead, the Lightning are mixing funky goals (often from defensemen), precise finishes from top players like Nikita Kucherov, and lethal efficiency in exploiting Canadiens’ mistakes.
Overall, it’s translated to a very tough 2021 Stanley Cup Final for Carey Price, at least through Game 3.
Carey Price goals allowed by series:
Maple Leafs: 16 goals allowed in seven games
Jets: six goals allowed in four games
Golden Knights: 13 goals allowed in six games
Lightning: 13 goals allowed through Game 3 (three GP).
Heading into Game 3, Price generated an .840 save percentage vs. the Lightning (eight goals on 50 shots on goal). Price gave up four goals on 21 shots on goal in Game 3, and his fourth allowed happened just 3:33 into the second period.
While we’ve seen shades of the goalie battle we were expecting in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, Game 3 provided glimpses of both Price and Andrei Vasilevskiy looking human. Price probably wanted both of those first period goals back (screens or no screens), while Vasilevskiy just doesn’t allow many like the 4-2 goal by Nick Suzuki:
📺: NBC pic.twitter.com/vfcwj7WR5Z
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) July 3, 2021
Late in Game 3, Corey Perry beat Vasilevskiy on another shaky goal.
The difference is that Vasilevskiy is making fewer mistakes than Price, and the Lightning aren’t shooting themselves in the foot like the Canadiens have been.
(But, there’s at least modest hope that Montreal’s been able to score a bit after Vasilevskiy only allowed a goal apiece in the past two games.)
2. A lack of Montreal adjustments, whether you blame Ducharme or Richardson
To be fair, there’s a danger to making changes for the sake of changes. That’s where “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” comes from.
But, when you’re down 2-0 in your franchise’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1993, shouldn’t you do a bit more? Whether it’s Dominique Ducharme or Luke Richardson or Marc Bergevin playing puppeteer, it feels like the Canadiens only have one dance move.
Why not give Tomas Tatar a try? Honestly, that’s a question that’s been floating around even before the Canadiens found themselves in an escalating crisis vs. the Lightning. It seems especially egregious that the Canadiens didn’t give Tatar a try in Game 3.
Coming back with the same lineup in this game was catastrophic idiocy.
— Andrew Berkshire (@AndrewBerkshire) July 3, 2021
Tatar is the big flashing light of an omission. But there are other areas of gripes.
- Why not give Carey Price a breather after the second period of Game 3? He’s struggling, and likely fatigued. If nothing else, maybe it would give his Montreal teammates some energy by way of shame? They entered the third period with a mere two-goal deficit, after all. (And they expended serious assets to get Jake Allen.)
- Could the Canadiens have taken more chances, more often? Yes, they got burned on the Nikita Kucherov goal, in particular. But it didn’t feel like a particularly desperate push.
- Did we mention that Tomas Tatar should be in the lineup? Hmm …
3. It’s too early to debate the Conn Smythe, but …
Yes, it’s too early to get too deep into the weeds about who should win the 2021 Conn Smythe Trophy. Don’t forget that the Canadiens fought back from a 3-1 deficit against the Maple Leafs. And we’re in an era where teams like the Kings and Flyers even managed reverse sweeps.
But, don’t beat up on people too much for having a little fun. Especially since the gap between games is larger than usual, as Game 4 takes place on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC / Peacock).
So, who should it be? Victor Hedman bounced back from under-the-radar struggles from the regular season, but it doesn’t seem like he’s going to repeat as Conn Smythe winner if the Lightning lock this series down.
Will it be Nikita Kucherov, who’s scoring almost as much as people are complaining about Lightning salary cap circumvention? Should Brayden Point gain the edge after his historic goal-scoring streak? After losing out to Marc-Andre Fleury in the 2021 Vezina Trophy voting, should Andrei Vasilevskiy gain different individual hardware? Perhaps Blake Coleman can score 15 diving goals by the end of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final?
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) July 3, 2021
Hey, the Canadiens could absolutely defy the odds and make people pay for talking about previous playoff sweeps, and debate Conn Smythe winners. For all we know, Carey Price could turn these doubts into fuel for another staggering stretch.
What if things don’t change a whole lot between Game 3 and Game 4/the rest of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, though? Who would get your Conn Smythe vote?
2021 NHL playoff schedule: Stanley Cup Final – (TB leads 3-0)
Game 1: Lightning 5, Canadiens 1
Game 2: Lightning 3, Canadiens 1
Game 3: Lightning 6, Canadiens 3
Game 4: Mon. July 5: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock) – livestream
*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)