Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Prediction: Game 5 Picks
The Tampa Bay Lightning are 0-for-1 in their attempts to win the Stanley Cup this postseason. That’s about the worst thing you can say about what is likely to soon be the back-to-back champions. Will the Lightning end the hockey season on Wednesday night at home in Game Five? Here are my Canadiens vs Lightning predictions.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Prediction
Tampa Bay Leads 3-1
Hockey is a fun and ridiculous sport. With the relatively low-scoring nature of the games and the resulting variance, oftentimes we’re left scratching our heads after a game based on what we saw happen on the ice and what the final score ended up being.
The Lightning won the first three games of this series with little trouble. They outscored Montreal by a score of 14-5 through three games. The Lightning played well, but outside of the scores being lopsided, you could make the argument that the on-ice territorial and possession battle was relatively even. The underlying metrics would support that, as Tampa Bay had just a 5.51 to 5.26 advantage in expected goals, a slight advantage resulting in a 51.2% share.
What if I told you the Lightning played their best game of the series in game four? They won the first three games of the series so handily while not even being on top of their game. If they play their best game, they’ll roll right over Montreal in a laugher, right?
Well, the Lightning played their best game on Monday night and despite that, hockey season still isn’t over yet. The Lightning held a 4.4 to 1.9 advantage in terms of expected goals at all strengths. At even strength, the Lightning had nearly a 71% share of the expected goals. They limited Montreal to just four high danger chances while generating 14 of their own at 5-on-5.
Oh, and with the game tied, the Lightning had a four minute powerplay that bridged regulation time and overtime. Surely, the league’s most dangerous powerplay had to take advantage?
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Montreal ended up killing the penalty in overtime and then took advantage of a rush opportunity where they got a fortunate bounce. The Canadiens got their Stanley Cup memory for themselves and their fans as an overtime winning goal at home in the Finals is surely a memory that will induce happy flashbacks years down the line.
Unfortunately for Montreal and their fans, I think it’ll be the only positive moment for them in this series.
I expected the Lightning to close this series out on Monday and sweep the Stanley Cup final. However, I guess they want to do it on home-ice this time in front of their fans. At least that’s what the Mayor of Tampa Bay says.
At this point in the series, you’ve heard all of the main talking points, whether it’s from me or from your other sources across the internet or television. The Lightning were huge favorites entering the series and ever since the puck dropped between these teams, they’ve shown why that was the case.
The Lightning are simply better than Montreal at every facet of the game. They have more elite talent, both up front and on defense. Their depth is arguably the best depth of any team in the league. The Lightning fourth line featuring Tyler Johnson and company has made a noticeable impact in this series. The Lightning feel confident playing any style of game, whether they need to grind and defend or whether you want to engage them in a back-and-forth shootout style affair. When things break down for Tampa Bay, they’re backstopped by the league’s best goaltender in Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Can Montreal win this game? Of course they can. However, they’ll need Carey Price to stop 95% of the shots he faces again like he did in game four. In addition, they’ll need to somehow slow down the Lightning powerplay, which they also did in the previous game.
Finally, they’ll need some fortunate puck bounces and luck. Nikita Kucherov was inches away from ending the game late in regulation for the Lightning. Alexander Romanov flung a shot through eight bodies that eluded Vasilevskiy in the third period. In overtime, a centering pass bounced around and fluttered right over to Josh Anderson who scored from his buttocks as Vasilevskiy was trying to locate the puck. Montreal had all the puck-luck in game four, and that’s why they extended the series.
At +180, I see the thought process in taking a shot with the underdog. Price is one of the league’s better goalies and there’s a world in which he steals a game and sends the series back to Montreal.
However, I expect the Lightning’s best game again in Game Five. In the most obvious statement of the day, they want to win the Stanley Cup. Doing so on home ice in front of their crowd, fans, friends and family would be the cherry on top after what they’ve had to endure since the NHL Bubble opened last August.
At -220, the price is prohibitive on the Lightning. If push came to shove, I’d be willing to lay it in this spot as a one-off. However, I can see the Lightning blowing this game open and leaving no doubt early. For that reason, I’d look towards Tampa Bay covering the puck-line at plus-money as my primary Canadiens vs Lightning prediction for game 5.