After the Montreal Canadiens’ 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Canadiens assistant coach Luke Richardson mentioned that the good news was that the team did not play their best game.
On Tuesday, Canadiens forward Phillip Danault said that they were “pretty far” from it.
The fact is, Monday’s loss was just one game. The series isn’t won or lost on aggregate, and there are no style points awarded. The Canadiens were in a similar spot after Game 1 in Vegas, where they responded to win Game 2 after a big loss. They only have to look towards the New York Islanders in the last series. After losing 8-0 to the Lightning, they bounced back to force a Game 7.
The last three Stanley Cup champions lost Game 1, and it was their fourth straight Stanley Cup Final that the Canadiens lost the first game.
When Josh Anderson was asked whether they put the game tape away, or whether they can learn from it, he pointed out that they should do both, and he’s spot on. Series are won on adjustments. It’s possible that the team that wins Game 1 continues to excel as they make their own adjustments, after all. It doesn’t all fall to the losing team to make the changes. That’s part of the whole series aspect of the playoffs that makes them so engaging.
What adjustments can Montreal make? Well, as Danault said on Tuesday, they were too busy watching the Lightning as opposed to defending and attacking them. The Canadiens’ style is one that reacts to their opponent and it was hard to do that in Game 1 against a team they had yet to see.
Despite all of this, there are a lot of people already counting the Canadiens out. They should do so at their own peril. The odds at Wynnbet have moved significantly away from Montreal. Those odds moved from +210 to +425 while Tampa’s moved from -275 to -600. It’s not imperative that Montreal wins Game 2, but heading home with another split would definitely make things easier. They have won already this post-season when everyone left them for dead.
The score made them look overmatched in Game 1, but it was a one-goal game headed into the third period. There are adjustments to make, much like the Lightning have adjustments to make to Montreal. How the Canadiens’ coaching staff and the players accept them will decide where the series goes from here.