Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final is on tap tonight between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Let's get to it.
Well, that was humbling.
I was very happy to pour some of that good old Canadiens juice in my Game 1 betting cup, only for the Lightning to send the cup splattering into the abyss, en route to a 5-1 shellacking, a statement victory for the defending champions.
And a sobering reminder for Montreal (and everyone who had the cojones to bet against the Lightning at home in Game 1) of just how freaking good this team is.
Good luck finding a weakness on the Tampa Bay offense. Good luck getting through their defense. Good luck getting anything past Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is playing like what he is: the best goaltender in the NHL.
It was a bad loss for Montreal, one in which Tampa Bay's top line of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Ondrej Palat just totally outplayed the Canadiens' line of Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, and Tyler Toffoli. That line will have to play better if Montreal has any chance of winning Game 2, much less the series. Tampa Bay also made Carey Price look human again; it's the first time he allowed more than two goals in five straight starts.
Yet, as humbling as that loss must have been, the Canadiens have been here before. Recall, they were down 3-1 to Toronto only to come storming back. This loss was also eerily similar to Game 1 of Montreal's semifinal series against Vegas when the Golden Knights stifled the Habs, 4-1.
We know what happened afterward, too.
Of course, the Lightning represent an entirely different beast than the two teams Montreal came back against. One cannot compare those series to this one, but one can infer that if there was ever a team that could take a rough loss and bounce back, it's the Habs. They've been doing it all playoffs, after all.
Montreal is just 1-8-1 in their last 10 meetings against the Lightning. It's not hyperbole to say that Tampa Bay has owned this team of late. With all that said, however, even with my mind screaming, "Don't do it!" I'm going back to the well here with Montreal.
Montreal has proven itself capable of making the adjustments necessary to overcome a loss against a (supposed) superior opponent time and time again these playoffs. It hasn't lost back-to-back games since their series against Toronto — not unlike Tampa Bay, which hasn't lost consecutive games since Socrates was out arguing with people in the street (slight exaggeration).
The Lightning are as potent a foe as can be while skating at the Amalie Arena, but I'm counting on Montreal fixing its mistakes, tightening up their defense, and getting their forwards going earlier. Carey Price isn't going to get hammered for five goals again (*gulp*), and with the Habs averaging nearly three goals their last 10 games, I don't think they get silenced two games in a row.
If I'm being honest, that 5-1 Game 1 loss just made this +180 juice more appealing — even though it'll be an undoubtedly bitter swallow.
Full disclosure: I do believe the Lightning will win this series and become repeat champions, but I think they do it in six games. I'm giving the Canadiens Game 2, and another victory in Montreal.
I just have to hope the Canadiens show up to the storm the Lightning will bring with sturdy umbrellas this time around.
Pick: Montreal Canadiens ML (+180)