2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals Game 1
How to watch
Start time: 9:00 PM EDT / 6:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the U.S.: NBCSN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
It was probably a single-digit percentage of general hockey fans who thought the Canadiens had a chance of winning their first-round series versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, but seven games later the Canadiens moved on. The number was higher, but still probably less than 50% when they took on the Winnipeg Jets. They claimed both games on the road to start that series, and took two more once they got back home to the Bell Centre to move on again.
Now that the North Division title is in hand, they’re off to Las Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. Vegas took on the team a lot of people expected to coast to a Stanley Cup championship, and the Colorado Avalanche winning the first two games of the second-round series seemed to pave the way toward that destiny. But the Golden Knights began to take control of the series once they returned to their home crowd, winning the next four games.
If Montreal’s odds of winning their opening-round series were low, faith in their ability to get past one of the tems that finished tied atop the league standings is almost nonexistent. It’s a team that put up 82 points in the regular season versus a club that won 24 of 56 games. The Golden Knights are now the heavy favourites to make it to the Stanley Cup Final, and hoist the trophy when the playoffs are done.
Tale of the Tape
|2-0||19-20 season record||0-2|
|49.6% (9th)||Corsi-for pct.||54.3% (5th)|
|2.55 (11th)||Goals per game||3.08 (4th)|
|2.18 (2nd)||Goals against per game||2.38 (4th)|
|18.8% (8th)||PP%||14.3% (14th)|
|90.3% (1st)||PK%||71.4% (12th)|
The newest NHL franchise is no stranger to such lofty heights. In just their fourth year, they’ve reached the third round for the third time and have designs on going the distance. Some good trades and targetted additions in the expansion draft, then some major transactions to bring in some top-level additions, like signing Alex Pietrangelo last off-season, trading for Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators, and landing Max Pacioretty from the Canadiens in the summer of 2018, have made them a perennial contender.
One of the organization’s best moves was claiming Marc-Andre Fleury from Pittsburgh as the Penguins put therir faith in Matt Murray instead. The Pens have seen little consistency in net since that move was made, with Murray now in Ottawa and Tristan Jarry having a negative impact in the Penguins’ first-round exit. Fleury, meanwhile, has only added to his post-season legacy with quality play again this year.
As good as the Golden Knights have been in their brief history, the Canadiens haven’t been intimidated. The teams have played six times, and Montreal has a 5-1 record, averaging more than four goals per game. Three of those wins were decided in overtime, but the Habs are proving to be much more adept in that situation following their 0-9 start in the regular season, thanks in no small part to the arrival of the clutch Cole Caufield. The rookie was last seen stalking a puck, then sending it to Tyler Toffoli to secure his team’s berth in the Stanley Cup Semifinal.
There is a lot of focus on the storyline of Max Pacioretty versus Nick Suzuki in this series, but neither team is constructed in a way that the performance of one skater will determine the series. Despite making it to the final four, neither team has a player among the top 10 playoff scorers, but both have at least 19 players with a point. They rely on a four-line rotation for the full 60 minutes, and play a tight defensive game when opponents come knocking. It’s going to be a hard-fought series, forced to the boards for many of the possessions, with the team able to take advantage of the opportunities the one to advance when it’s all said on done. With that style of play in store, the series should be far from as lopsided as many expect.