Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens Prediction: Game 3 Picks
The Tampa Bay Lightning are two wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive season. Will the Montreal Canadiens be able to make this a series with the scene shifting to Quebec for Game Three? Read on to see my Lightning vs Canadiens prediction.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens Prediction
Tampa Bay Leads 2-0
When recapping game two of this series, hockey fans and casual observers might have two very different thoughts about what it means for the rest of this Stanley Cup Final and how your Lightning vs Canadiens prediction will go for game 3.
An optimistic person might think, “wow, Montreal really did outplay Tampa. They showed they can skate with them and that they aren’t overwhelmed by the more talented team. If they keep this up, they should be able to get better results at home.”
It’s a fair thought. On the other hand, a more pessimistic observer might think to themselves, “wow, Montreal played about as well as they possibly can. Tampa Bay played about as poorly as they have this whole postseason. Despite this, the Lightning still won relatively comfortably.”
Montreal outshot the Lightning by a final count of 43-23. The Canadiens had nearly a 61% expected goal rate. However, the Lightning defense bent, but didn’t break as they limited Montreal to just a 7-6 advantage in terms of high danger chances at 5-on-5. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 42 saves and the Lightning took a 2-0 series lead.
Heading into these playoffs, many expected the Lightning to make a serious push to repeat as champions and nobody at all expected Montreal to win a round, let alone make it to the Stanley Cup Final. From that perspective, the Lightning having a 2-0 lead in the series after two home games probably isn’t a huge shock to most.
Entering this series, the most hyped aspect was the goaltending battle. Vasilevskiy and Carey Price entered the Final as the two best goalies of the playoffs. Through two games, the Lightning netminder has gotten the better of his Canadian counterpart. Many expected Price to make life difficult on Tampa Bay, but Vasilevskiy is the story to this point. It’s no shock to see Tampa Bay’s netminder is currently a -225 favorite to win the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP.
In these playoffs, we’ve only seen one team come back from a 2-0 series deficit to win the series. That was the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round against the Colorado Avalanche. However, Montreal came back from being down three games to one in the opening round. They also survived falling behind in the series against Vegas last round. They’ve been a resilient team throughout these playoffs.
The Lightning are no strangers to taking 2-0 series leads. They got out to similar advantages against the Florida Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes in the first two rounds of these playoffs. Interestingly, in both of those series, the Lightning lost game three. Is it a sign of a team taking their foot off the gas a little? Is it a trend worth monitoring here against Montreal?
At this point, I’d feel fairly comfortable saying the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to win the Cup. Anything Montreal does well, Tampa Bay does better. Montreal is known for their goaltending, but the Lightning have the best goalie in the sport. Montreal is known for being deep, but Tampa Bay’s depth is a main reason why it looks like they’re about to win back-to-back championships. The Habs can defend, but the Lightning have proven they have no problem winning grinding, low-scoring affairs. Montreal’s penalty killing has been tremendous in these playoffs, but Tampa Bay’s powerplay is converting at an insane rate.
At this point, we need to handicap whether Montreal can make this a series. I personally don’t think the Lightning will sweep the Final. In game three, Montreal is taking their last stand. If they fall down three games to none, it’s all but over. Their season is on the line, and for that reason I lean towards taking them as a small home underdog.
Montreal will be getting their head coach, Dominique Ducharme, back after he missed the previous six games due to a positive Covid test. The coach’s presence could be important with the series shifting back to Montreal where he will control last change and matchups. Tampa Bay’s top line featuring Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov feasted in the first two games of the series when matched up against Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, two raw youngsters.
With Montreal getting their bench boss back, a limited but enthusiastic home crowd and the weight of their season on their shoulders, I expect Montreal’s best effort. Maybe the Lightning will lay off the gas a little with a 2-0 series lead, and if they do that, the Habs should be able to take advantage. That'd be my Lightning vs Canadiens prediction for game 3.