Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens Prediction: Game 4 Picks
For the first time since September of 2020, the Stanley Cup will be in the building for an NHL game on Monday night. Just like in September, the Tampa Bay Lightning will look to be the team skating around with the illustrious trophy at the end of the night. Will the Lightning be able to complete the sweep to secure their second straight championship, or will Montreal live to die another day? Read on to see my Lightning v Canadiens prediction for game 4.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens Prediction
Tampa Bay Leads 3-0
If you include the incoming Seattle Kraken, there are 30 fan bases across the NHL without a dog in the fight when it comes to the Stanley Cup Final. While some rivalries and sour grapes might impact the opinion of some certain groups of fans, for the most part, these 30 fanbases just want a fun, compelling series to award a champion and send us into the summer offseason.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case in this Stanley Cup Final. Through three games, the Lightning have outscored Montreal by a score of 14 to 5. Tampa Bay has won each of the first three games by at least two goals with none of the contests being in much doubt as the games reached their final minutes.
This has not resulted in good things for Montreal in terms of the narratives in the mainstream hockey media. Many people have taken to calling the semi-final series between the Lightning and the Islanders as the “true finals.” Additionally, people now feel they can cast doubt on Montreal’s complete run to the finals, chalking it up to luck.
While this isn’t particularly fair to Montreal, there’s no denying that Tampa Bay is the better team on paper and in this series, they’ve clearly been the better team on the ice. At this point, there’s little doubt as to who will win the Stanley Cup. The more appropriate question seems like “when?”
It goes without saying that it’s going to be an uphill climb for the Canadiens for many reasons. Only four teams in history have come back from being down three games to none to win an NHL playoff series. Only one of those instances was in the Final, and that was the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942. If we’re talking about the Leafs winning a Cup, you know it was a very long time ago.
Even if you ignore the current score of the series, it’s still looking bleak for Montreal.
Montreal has just five goals in three games in this series. Andrei Vasilevskiy had a rare pedestrian night for Tampa Bay between the pipes in game three, but the Habs had just one goal each in the first two games of the series. Montreal was never a team built to outscore other teams, so it’s not a surprise to see them struggling to score against the league’s best goalie.
While offense was always going to be hard to come by for Montreal, it had realistic hopes that their defensive stinginess and the play of goaltender Carey Price could keep them in the series. Unfortunately for Montreal, they’ve gotten the version of Price from the regular season rather than the Price who stole the show in the first three rounds of these playoffs. Montreal’s netminder has not come close to stealing a game. In fact, he’s given up some game-changing soft goals through the first three games of this series.
When all is said and done, there’s probably not a single aspect of the game where you can say that Montreal is better than Tampa Bay. The Lightning have the better goalie, more elite talent, a deeper team, a better defensive core, and a tremendous powerplay. Without Price standing on his head, it’s hard to see Montreal winning a game, let alone making this a series.
As with any sport during the playoffs, there’s plenty of narratives making the rounds that might be slightly impacting public perception.
There’s the narrative that Montreal doesn’t want Tampa Bay to win the Stanley Cup in Montreal. Montreal will feel the need to protect their house and home ice advantage. While the narrative is probably factual, it’s nothing that isn’t already accounted for. If Montreal loses one more game, their season is over. They’ll be desperate to avoid that whether the game was being played in Montreal, Tampa or on the moon.
On the flipside, some are also floating the narrative that Tampa Bay doesn’t want to win the Stanley Cup in Montreal. There’s a narrative that this series is such a mismatch that the Lightning can decide when they want to win the Cup as if they can just flip a switch. Even saying it out loud sounds ridiculous.
It’s true that the Canadian government will not allow the family and friends of the Lightning players to cross the border into Canada. Therefore, if they win the Cup on Monday, they won’t have their closest friends and family there to celebrate with them. With Tampa Bay winning the Cup in the bubble last season, they were also robbed of this same opportunity last year.
While I’m sure the Lightning would love to share this moment with their family and friends, they’d love to wrap this series up as soon as possible. They’ll simply take the Cup on their chartered flight back to Tampa Bay where they’ll be able to celebrate with the people closest to them. They’ll be able to have a parade with their fans as restrictions are all but gone in Florida.
The games in this series haven’t been particularly close. For my Lightning v Canadiens prediction, I see the Lightning stepping on the throat of the Canadiens in game four and winning the Cup with a sweep. The first three games were all decided by multiple goals, and I think that’ll be the case again in Game Four. I’ll back the Lightning on the puck-line at a great plus-money price.