The Tampa Bay Lightning getting through the playoff gauntlet to defend their crown and be the first back to back winner of the Stanley Cup since the Pittsburgh Penguins won in 2016 & 2017 is hardly a surprise. That they’re taking on the Montreal Canadiens? Yeah, there’s not a person in the world who predicted this.
Let’s be fair, though. Montreal is full value for this trip to the Cup. Could they have done this without Carey Price playing some of the best hockey of his career? Of course not. But the Habs have done an outstanding job of using their defence to shut down their opponents and make the most of their opportunities.
They’ve got a nice mix of youth and experience that’s getting it done, too. From the surprisingly mature Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, to battle worn vets like Corey Perry, Tyler Toffoli (both of whom have Stanley Cup rings) and Shea Weber. The Habs may be underdogs, but writing them off hasn’t worked well for the 3 teams they’ve already dispatched that were favoured to win.
Much like Montreal, Tampa owes a lot of their success to goaltending. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been outstanding again this year, and this year’s run has been led by Brayden Point, who along with Vasilevskiy and Price are the front runners for the Conn Smythe trophy this year.
There’s a lot of discussion about the whole Canada’s team thing. I know that’s a touchy subject in these parts, but there’s a lot of reasons to want a Canadiens win. First, and most importantly, Alex Burrows getting his name on the Cup would be amazing. Yes, it should have been as a Canuck, but AB14 will always get nothing but love from us. Seeing BC boys Weber and Price hoist Lord Stanley’s mug would be pretty great, too.
Game One is set to go shortly and if you’ve got a prediction for the game, the series, or whatever, just post it in the comments.