2021 Stanley Cup Final Game 2
TBL leads 1-0
How to watch
Start time: 8:00 PM EDT / 5:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the U.S.: NBCSN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
The Montreal Canadiens were feeling confident heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. They had won consecutive games over the Vegas Golden Knights to advance from the third round, getting to the final series before the Tampa Bay Lightning had made it past the New York Islanders.
They couldn’t translate that into a win in Game 1 however, looking surprised by how close the checking was in open ice. They managed a few good chances in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy but surrendered more to their opponent, and with little argument that the Lightning have the more skill available, that isn’t a recipe for success, and clearly wasn’t in a 5-1 loss on Monday.
Fortunately, the Final is a race to four wins and not just one. A single game has never been enough to determine the championship in the NHL’s history, and that hasn’t changed for 2021. The Canadiens can forget all about the score in the first game if they can earn a split ahead of their trip back to Montreal.
Tale of the Tape
|48.2% (10th)||Corsi-for pct.||48.1% (11th)|
|2.44 (12th)||Goals per game||3.32 (2nd)|
|2.33 (3rd)||Goals against per game||2.00 (2nd)|
|20.0% (8th)||PP%||37.5% (2nd)|
|91.8% (1st)||PK%||83.6% (4th)|
The first adjustment is simply to be better prepared for the style the Lightning play. They devoted about 70% of their effort to attacking the puck at both blue lines, whether that was to keep it in Montreal’s zone or out of their own. On a number of occasions a Habs forward was nonchalantly carrying the puck expecting to rush through the neutral zone, only to be swarmed by two or three opponents and forced to spend several more seconds defending. Montreal hadn’t seen that type of resistance really since the first round versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, and they will need to commit to more forceful exits for the remainder of the series.
The same loose play was also seen at the offensive blue line, and Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield were probably the worst culprits, again two players who had gained the zone with ease in the previous two rounds. But if there are two players on the team who can rapidly change their play to a different style of checking, it would be the two most dynamic forwards on the roster. The flicks across the top of the blue line won’t get it done against a team ready to pounce on them, so they will need to force their way through the line of the defence instead before they can start distributing to one another.
That’s a lot of defensive-zone time and chances against the Canadiens can avoid, and more time and resulting shots in the Lightning’s end if they can change their approach. They will likely have the big puck-protecting frame of Joel Armia back in the lineup to help them in both situations.
Spending less time in their own end should also result in a lower number of penalties. We got a look at just how dangerous Tampa Bay’s setup is against even the team with a historically strong penalty kill. The Lightning snapped a kill streak of 32 minors in the dying minutes of the game, though they probably should have done that on their first chance earlier in the game when Brayden Point snapped a shot just wide of the far post from point-blank range. There’s simply too much space to defend against so many skilled forwards on the power play, and the situation has to be avoided.
Montreal has bounced back from deficits before. They did fall behind 0-1 in the last series — by a similar score that had a lot of people writing them off — and faced elimiination three times in the first round. In all of those cases they found a more competitive form to claw their way back to even then leave their foe behind. It’s not going to be easy (nor should it be with a chance at the championsip on the line), but the Canadiens can play a lot closer to Tampa Bay’s level than they did in Game 1.