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Lightning vs. Canadiens Odds & Pick: Bet Montreal to Avoid Sweep In Game 4 (July 5)

Lightning vs. Canadiens Odds & Pick: Bet Montreal to Avoid Sweep In Game 4 (July 5) article feature image

Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Carey Price.

  • The Lightning look to seal a second straight Stanley Cup and series sweep in Game 4 against the Canadiens on Monday night.
  • Tampa Bay has dominated this series, covering the puck line in each of the first three games.
  • Carol Schram breaks down the matchup and her best bet from the Bell Centre.

Lightning vs. Canadiens Odds

Lightning Odds -160
Canadiens Odds +140 (-140 / +120)
Over/Under 5
Time Monday, 8 p.m. ET
Odds as of Monday afternoon and via William Hill.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to become the first team in 23 years to pull off a Stanley Cup sweep when they take on the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Monday night.

After leaning on their defense and goaltending to build a 2-0 series lead on home ice, the Lightning simply overpowered Montreal when the action shifted north of the border in Game 3. The Canadiens scored just once in each of the first two games then found themselves in a 2-0 hole before Game 3 was three and a half minutes old, thanks to quick-strike goals from Jan Rutta and Victor Hedman.

Midway through the first, defensive stalwart Phillip Danault gave his team a glimmer of hope when he narrowed the margin to 2-1 with his first goal of the playoffs. But the Lightning came out aggressively again to start the middle frame. Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson did the damage this time, extending the lead to 4-1.

Late in the second, Nick Suzuki narrowed the score to 4-2. But the Canadiens couldn’t mount a meaningful push in the third. Johnson and Corey Perry exchanged goals late in the frame before Blake Coleman iced the win when he hit the empty net with 3:12 left to play.

On Monday, the Lightning will look to follow in the footsteps of the 1998 Detroit Red Wings, capturing a second-straight Stanley Cup via a series sweep. The Red Wings swept both the Philadelphia Flyers (1997) and the Washington Capitals (1998) to secure their titles. Last year in the Edmonton bubble, the Lightning needed six games to dispatch the Dallas Stars.

Teams that go up 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final are 26-1 all-time. But not many of those wins turn out to be sweeps. Since the Red Wings’ wins, the Los Angeles Kings are the only other team to build 3-0 wins in the Stanley Cup final, and they did it twice. They needed six games to dispatch the New Jersey Devils in 2012 and five games to take care of the New York Rangers in 2014.

Tampa Bay Poised for Another Championship

The old cliché says the fourth game is the hardest to win. And while the Lightning have gone an impressive 15-6 in these playoffs, with two of those losses coming when they could have ended previous series.

Up 3-1 over Florida in Round 1, Tampa Bay ran into red-hot rookie goaltender Spencer Knight in Game 5, losing 4-1 before rallying with a 4-0 win in Game 6. And leading the Islanders 3-2 in Round 3, the Lightning dropped a 3-2 overtime decision on the road in Game 6 before heading home for their clinical 1-0 win in Game 7.

Against Montreal, though, the Lightning have looked virtually unstoppable. Andrei Vasilevskiy has allowed just five goals on 97 shots, for a .948 save percentage. Meanwhile, the offense is averaging 4.67 goals per game. Despite concerns coming into the series that he is suffering from a rib injury, Kucherov is leading the way with five points. Ten different Lightning players have scored in the series. And after being elevated in the lineup following a Game 1 injury to Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson turned back the clock in Game 3 with his two-goal, first-star performance.

With such a commanding lead, will the Lightning ease up on the gas on Monday? And with family members not permitted to travel to Montreal to join the celebrations in the event of a win, could players have perhaps an unconscious desire to let the series go back to Amalie Arena, where they could hoist the trophy in front of their fans and sip from the Stanley Cup with their loved ones after they missed out on that experience in the bubble last year?

Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers and advanced stats cited from Evolving Hockey, MoneyPuck and Natural Stat Trick.

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Canadiens Hanging on by a Thread

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Canadiens have generated 19 high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5 in this series, including five in Game 3. But after finishing well for most of the playoffs despite facing Vezina-winning goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury with Vegas and Connor Hellebuyck with Winnipeg, Montreal hasn’t scored a single goal off a high-danger chance so far in this series.

By contrast, Tampa Bay has five goals off 24 high-danger chances, including three in Game 3. And Carey Price, a Vezina winner himself, has seen his save percentage plummet to .835 over the last three games. He has allowed 13 goals on 79 shots.

The Canadiens’ highly regarded penalty kill let them down in Game 3, also. They were shorthanded just once in the game, on an early puck-over-glass call against Eric Staal when they were already in a one-goal hole. Victor Hedman’s power-play marker was the dagger that, in many ways, put the game out of reach for the home team.

But Montreal can draw on experience from earlier in the playoffs when preparing mentally for Monday’s do-or-die game. They were all-but-counted-out in the first round, when they fell into a 3-1 hole against the Toronto Maple Leafs before rallying to win the series. And while no team has overcome a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final since 1942, even the Canadiens’ youngest players would remember the Los Angeles Kings’ four straight wins that eliminated the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the 2014 playoffs — a series win that they parlayed into another title.

Betting Analysis & Pick

At -160, the oddsmakers at William Hill are giving the Lightning a 61.5% chance of winning the game and hoisting the Cup on Monday night. If you think they’ll win by two goals or more, like they did in the first three games of the series, the puckline is calling your name at +175.

For Montreal, they’ve gone from +118 heading into Game 3 to +140 for Monday’s game, which offers a much more intriguing payout.

As methodical as the Lightning have been in dismantling the Canadiens so far, a series sweep still seems like an unlikely outcome. I’d roll the dice on Montreal defying expectations one more time and sending this series back to Tampa for Game 5.

Pick: Canadiens +140 (play down to +130)

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