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There was supposed to be a ‘kaboom’

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The Canadiens quickly learned that they’re in a very different series versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.

2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

To quote Marvin the Martian, “I’m not angry, just terribly, terribly hurt.” As a matter of fact, the last time I was hurt this badly was Game 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights.

In that game, the Montreal Canadiens lost 4-1, compared to 5-1 last night. However, Montreal did have moments of greatness on Monday evening. The one that sticks out the most in my mind was the beginning of the second period when the Habs aggressively killed off a penalty and then started to dictate the game for a time.

Corsi was another bright spot when compared to Game 1 against the Golden Knights. In all situations back on June 14, the Habs controlled only 46% of the shot attempts. Last night, Montreal controlled 53%. Unfortunately that’s pretty much where the good numbers end and the ugly ones take over.

The Canadiens only had seven high-danger shot attempts compared to 13 last night, which led to just a 39% expected-goals-for percentage.

I think that I, like many Habs fans, expected Montreal to come out much stronger than that. We had got accustomed to quality play on the team’s hot streak, but we had forgotten one important fact: Montreal hasn’t played the Tampa Bay Lightning all year.

What we saw in both Game 1 of the Vegas series and in last night’s game was the team with better talent simply winning because of that. There’s only so much prep work a coach can do when they’ve never seen their team in action against another squad. So, in limiting the ability of each team’s coaching staff to game plan for the other, the advantage goes to the club featuring more skill. That’s not Montreal in either the Vegas or Tampa Bay series.

Montreal’s team strategy seems to be more focused on covering players’ weaknesses than it is showcasing strengths. That’s why, throughout this playoffs, we rarely see individual players getting exploited. Last night, we saw it a lot.

To me, that’s how Montreal is better than the sum of its parts and why the team should be a few coaching adjustments away from getting back in this series. Any large changes would be like Marvin the Martian solving the Earth’s fuel problem by blowing it up.