4. Montreal Canadiens vs. 3. Tampa Bay Lightning
They got past the Toronto Maple Leafs being down 3-1 in the series. They easily swept the Winnipeg Jets. Then when it seemed they were outmatched, they took care of the Vegas Golden Knights in 6 games. The Montreal Canadiens won’t go away. Goaltender Carey Price is following some large footsteps in Habs history. Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy. All were dominant goalies in their time in Montreal. Price will look to add the Stanley Cup to his resume. Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi are part of a young core of forwards that have played huge roles in this playoff run. Tyler Toffoli, Corey Perry and Eric Staal have played their part as veterans who contribute nightly and have previously won a Stanley Cup. Captain Shea Weber and Jeff Petry have anchored this defense for many years now, but Joel Edmundson who won the Cup with St. Louis in 2019, has led their defensemen with 6 points (all by way of an assist). If they want to win their first title since 1993 (also the last time any Canadian team has won), they need to play damn near perfect for every single game against the defending champions in Tampa Bay.
The defending champions Tampa Bay Lightning are proving why they are the team to beat in the playoffs. They easily took care of business in the first two rounds against Florida and Carolina. The New York Islanders took them to the brink in 7 games, but Tampa Bay beat the Islanders at their own game in the finale with a 1-0 victory. If they didn’t have a healthy Nikita Kucherov I’d be willing to bet they would still be here, but it would have been tougher I admit. With him this team is down right scary good. Their captain Steven Stamkos is healthy as well and just as productive as Kucherov. Brayden Point looks to be the favorite to win the Conn Smythe going into the Finals. Victor Hedman will probably win another Norris trophy as the best defensemen in the game. Andrei Vasilevskiy will probably win the Vezina as the best goalie and could be a Conn Smythe contender depending on how this Final plays out. There is just so much talent here that it is pretty much unfair. However, we’ve seen many times before that the best team falls flat at this point in the playoffs.
Players to Watch: G Carey Price and G Andrei Vasilevskiy
Who Wins: Lightning in 6 games