Playoff Open Thread: July 5th

Will this be the last game of the 2020-21 NHL season?

The Stanley Cup will be at the Bell Centre tonight - its first ever trip to the Bell Centre, and its first trip to Montreal’s arena since 1993, as you are sure to hear over and over and over again on the broadcast tonight. I thought I’d get that out of the way early.

That’s right: the Lightning have a chance to clinch the series and win the Stanley Cup on the road in Montreal tonight. If Tampa wins, they repeat as champions and become the first team to sweep the Stanley Cup Final since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings. If they don’t, then Montreal ties Ottawa in Stanley Cup Final games won since 1993.

Friday’s Game: Tampa Bay Lightning 6, Montreal Canadiens 3

Montreal had a chance to claw their way back into the series with a win on home ice in game 3, and they failed spectacularly. Tampa Bay took an early lead, with goals from Rutta and Hedman. Philip Danault answered for the Habs, but the goal did not spark a comeback. Instead, the Lightning continued to dominate in the second period, with goals from Kucherov and Johnson, matched only by a late goal from Suzuki. Johnson scored his second of the game in the third period, Corey Perry scored Montreal’s third goal, and then Blake Coleman put the nail in the coffin, with Tampa’s sixth and final goal of the game.

To be fair to Montreal, they did outshoot Tampa Bay, and Natural Stat Trick says they had the advantage in shot attempts as well. With a better performance from Carey Price and better puck luck, the Habs very well could have won this game.

Tonight’s Game

Things look very bleak for Montreal tonight, but (unfortunately), I wouldn’t totally count them out. This team has been facing long odds all throughout the playoffs this year, and they’ve always managed to win.

The big question going into the game is which version of Carey Price we’re going to see. If it’s the guy that’s been in net for the Habs these last three games, we might as well give the Cup to the Lightning now. If it’s the Carey Price that got them to the finals in the first place, the Habs have a chance.

If I may make a prediction, this is giving me 2015 Sens vs Habs in the first round vibes. Remember how we looked at a 3-0 series deficit, shrugged because the Sens had been pulling off ridiculous comebacks all year, won one game at home, deluded ourselves into believing a comeback was inevitable, and then ended up losing after all? That’s what’s going to happen if Montreal wins this game.

I hope Tampa sweeps.

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