NHL picks: 4 best bets for Canadiens v Lightning Game 1
Our NHL expert has picked out his four best bets for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.
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Tampa Bay Lightning to win
As expected, the Lightning are heavily favored to win Game 1.
They won Game 1 in two of the first three series they played, and have a depth advantage on the Montreal Canadiens. Tampa has five of the top six scorers in the postseason, each with 16 or more points scored. Montreal has two players with 13 points or more.
While the Habs found their scoring touch a bit more against the Vegas Golden Knights, they don’t have quite as many offensive weapons at their disposal. Especially since the playoffs’ leading scorer, Nikita Kucherov, is claiming he is not injured and should be fine to play despite some injury concerns after Game 6 of the Islanders series.
What makes this matchup especially fun, though, is how big of a factor both goalies could be. Andrei Vasilevskiy has a .936 save percentage, while Carey Price has a .934 mark this postseason. They’ve been dominant. Both will be tested in ways they hadn’t in previous series, especially with an unfamiliar opponent on the other end of the ice, but this should be a very fun goaltender’s series.
With the Lightning at home, their team largely at full strength and their recent Stanley Cup experience, I expect them to get off to the better start in the series.
Under 5.5 total goals
I think all of the games in this series could be low-scoring. What’s amazing about the Lightning and their number of top scorers is that over the last two series they’ve been held to two or fewer goals in nine of 12 games. Aside from an 8-0 blow out of New York in the last series, they’ve played a lot of tight games.
That’s where Montreal wants to live anyway. Only four of their games this postseason have included more than five total goals. They are a defensively responsible team with an elite goalie who gives up very little. On top of that, I don’t expect Tampa to get a ton of power plays and, even if they did, Montreal has been squashing 93 per cent of their penalties against.
With Price vs. Vasilevskiy in net, I just can’t see this one getting out of hand.
Brayden Point to score anytime
In each of the three previous series openers this postseason, Point has scored a goal. In fact, he has scored a goal in all but five of the 18 games he’s appeared in for his playoffs-leading tally of 14. He has a chance to catch up to Reggie Leach and Jari Kurri, who each had a record 19 goals in a single postseason.
Point has been one of the best players game-in, game-out for the Lightning. Of those five games he did not score a goal in, only two were on home ice. With the Lightning in a rocking Amalie Arena and Point being one of the team’s most impressive players when it comes to getting inside and behind defenses, he’ll be a tone-setter for the Lightning in Game 1.
Under 6.5 2-minute penalties
The referees continue to be under pressure in these playoffs, but they’re not blowing the whistle a whole lot. Neither of these teams is brutally physical, while both are especially disciplined.
Montreal has averaged 2 minor penalties per game throughout this postseason, an incredibly low number even amid this loosely-called postseason. The Lightning have been a little more penalty prone, averaging 4.1 minor penalties per game.
With this being the Stanley Cup Final, the whistles will probably be few. Tampa’s skill may make them a bit more capable of drawing calls, but I still think the referees are going to keep it pretty light.
BETWAY BOOST: Tampa Bay to win & Brayden Point to score anytime
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