Canadiens vs. Lightning Stanley Cup Final Odds, Preview & Pick: How to Bet Game 2 (Wednesday, June 30)
Mike Carlson/Getty Images. Pictured: Carey Price
- The Lightning dominated Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Canadiens, looking like a deserving favorite.
- Montreal, though, has shown throughout the playoffs its ability to battle back against the odds.
- Pete Truszkowski breaks down Game 2 of the series and analyzes whether the Canadiens are a good bet as an underdog once again.
Canadiens vs. Lightning Odds
|Over/Under||5.5 (+138/ -170)|
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Tuesday evening and via FanDuel.|
Most casual hockey fans are still trying to figure out how the Montreal Canadiens made it to the Stanley Cup Final. They were the worst team to qualify for the postseason in terms of regular-season point percentage. The Vegas Golden Knights were nearly -500 favorites to eliminate the Canadiens in the semifinal round. Montreal is scoring fewer than 2.5 goals per game during its playoff run, but it hasn’t impacted the Canadiens’ 12-6 postseason record.
In game one of the Cup Final, order was restored to the mind of most casual onlookers. The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning outclassed the Canadiens, winning by a final score of 5-1. The Lightning led almost all night and were clearly the better team en route to their convincing victory.
Does this mean Montreal’s Cinderella run is over? Or do the Habs have a fighting chance of continuing to shock the hockey world?
What We Learned In Game 1
It’s always important to remember not to overreact to what we see in Game 1 of a playoff series. In the previous round, we saw the New York Islanders and Vegas Golden Knights win their respective series openers, but both teams now find themselves on the golf course.
However, Game 1 did little to change the opinion that I had entering this series: This doesn’t seem like a good matchup for Montreal. The main reason for that? Tampa Bay is better in the facets of the game that Montreal would consider its team strengths.
The Canadiens are 11-0 in these playoffs in games where they’ve scored at least two goals. If their team can muster two goals in front of Carey Price, he’s made it clear that it’s enough for them to win the game. With Montreal not being the most-skilled team, it’s clear that its best strategy to win these games is to turn them into low-event coin flips. The Canadiens have done a masterful job employing this strategy through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Habs, Tampa Bay has no problem with this style of game. The Islanders are probably the league’s poster-child for slowing games down and turning them into coin flips. In the previous series, Tampa Bay beat the Isles 2-1 in Game 3 on the road, beating New York at its own game. In Game 7, it further clamped down its defensive play in a 1-0 win.
The Lightning often gets heralded for their elite talent offensively, but some people overlook just how rock-solid of a defensive team they are. Victor Hedman is arguably the best defenseman in the league. Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak, Mikhail Sergachev and David Savard are clear top-four defensemen to help in shouldering the load.
The Lightning also have the ace in the hole. A lot has been made about Price’s resurgence in these playoffs, and for good reason. He’s been tremendous, stopping 92.8% of the shots he’s faced while posting a +10.5 goals saved above expectation (GSAx) for Montreal. However, he’s still the second-best goalie in this series. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been nominated for the Vezina Trophy for four straight seasons. He led all goalies in GSAx during the regular season this year. In these playoffs, he ranks first with a 93.6% save percentage and +23.8 GSAx. Price could usually be the great equalizer for Montreal, but asking him to outplay Vasilevskiy is a tough ask.
Throughout the playoffs, a lot of praise has been directed toward the depth of Montreal’s forward group, and for good reason. The Canadiens have standout young players like Cole Caufield, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki. They have solid middle-six forwards like Tyler Toffoli, Brendan Gallagher and Josh Anderson. They have older depth players going through a mini-resurgence in Corey Perry and Eric Staal. They have some of the league’s best grinders with Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Joel Armia.
However, the Lightning are just as deep. Tyler Johnson plays on the fourth line in Tampa Bay. Their third line is arguably the best in the league, featuring Yanni Gourde, Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman. The main separator between the two forward groups is the elite talent. The Lightning have Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos, forwards who could all be considered No. 1 options on most teams in the league. The Canadiens don’t have a single player near their level, let alone three of them.
Canadiens vs. Lightning Best Bet
Despite the lopsided result in the series opener and the mismatch most see on paper, I don’t think it’s lights-out on Montreal just yet. The Canadiens will need better goaltending from Price than they received in Game 1, and I think it’s fair to assume they’ll get that based on his track record in these playoffs.
If you look at the metrics from Game 1, they paint the picture of a game closer than the final score would indicate. Montreal had almost a 47% expected goal share and generated just one fewer high danger chance than the Lightning at 5-on-5. One could say that these metrics are less meaningful for the Lightning, a team with a collection of elite talent and the league’s best goalie. However, Montreal did not get blown out of the building despite what the score line would indicate.
This probably won’t be a fun series to bet for most. I would agree that the Lightning likely win this series and that they’re probably a tier above the Canadiens in terms of quality of the two teams. However, just like much of the first three rounds of these playoffs, the value is clearly with Montreal here.
The Habs closed as near consensus +170 underdogs in Game 1 of this series, and it seems like the oddsmakers and betting public don’t like what they saw from Montreal. The Canadiens are up to +180 at most books, with FanDuel posting the Habs as +190 underdogs. I thought Montreal was undervalued heading into Game 1, and that feeling has increased now.
I expect Price to have a bounce-back game on Wednesday night. If Price performs like he has most of these playoffs, Montreal will always have a chance on any given night. At +190, it’s implied that the Canadiens win this game less than 35% of the time. I think that probability is much closer to 40% and potentially a little higher, so the value with Montreal is too much to ignore.
Pick: Montreal Canadiens +190