Last 10 Games
The Lightning won seven of their last 10 games culminating in a 1-0 shootout victory over the Capitals and capping off a four-game winning streak to end the season. The Canadiens late season performance was eerily similar as they too went 7-3 down the stretch and also won their last game of the season in a 1-0 shootout thriller over the Rangers.
The Lightning won three of four over the Habs this season with their finale played on April 1st where the Bolts locked up a 3-1 victory and helped them to gain home ice advantage over their opponents in the first round of the playoffs. Both teams have virtually identical records with the Tampa Bay (#3 seed) registering a 46-27-9 mark while the Montreal (#4 seed) was hot on their heels with a 46-28-8 record.
At 6’7” tall Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop takes up a lot of room between the pipes and has sparkled this year as the starting netminder for Tampa Bay. However, he and his 37 wins and 2.23 GAA will be out of action at least for the earlier games in the series as Bishop is nursing a sore elbow. Therefore, Anders Lindback will get the nod to start the series and the way he has been playing there may not be much of a drop off. Lindback won all three of his games in relief of Bishop including shutting out both the Maple Leafs and Capitals. However it should be noted neither of those two squads will be appearing in the postseason.
In addition to the bad news for Tampa Bay it appears Ryan Malone will be sidelined due to off ice issues. The spare part on the Lightning roster was lugged to the pokey for a DUI charge as well as possession of cocaine. While his absence will hardly change the NHL odds in this one, it may serve as a minor distraction – but probably not.
Summary for the Series
The Lightning control the puck and attack relentlessly. Steve Stamkos heads the charge and can be a one man wrecking crew unto himself. However, veteran Tomas Vanek has given the Habs a boost since coming over from the Islanders and has garnered 15 points in 18 games with Montreal. In addition, Max Pacioretty lit the lamp 39 times for the Canadiens and P.K. Subban could be a game changer if he returns to his Norris Trophy form.
However, Subban’s perormances down the homestretch have been shaky. He was benched in the first period of Montreal’s 7-4 victory on April 4th over the Senators when he was on the ice for Ottawa’s first two goals. But it appears as though head coach Michel Therrien is willing to let bygones be bygones as his ice time has steadily increased in the subsequent three games.
Yet, the one man we have failed to mention is perhaps the key to a Montreal victory in the series and that would be Carey Price. The Canadiens netminder sealed the deal for the Canadian Olympic team when he led them to a gold medal and became the toast of Canada. He has continued his stellar play, capping the season off with a 1-0 shutout victory over the Rangers in the last game of the season. But unlike Tampa Bay, the Canadiens do not have an ace up their collective sleeves when it comes to a bona fide backup that can win a series as Peter Budaj is serviceable at best.Free Pick: Carey Price stonewalls the Lightning; the Canadiens win the series 4-3 and are the play for your NHL picks at Bet365.com.