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Lightning vs. Canadiens Stanley Cup Final Odds, Preview & Pick: How to Bet Game 3 in Montreal (Friday, July 2)

Lightning vs. Canadiens Stanley Cup Final Odds, Preview & Pick: How to Bet Game 3 in Montreal (Friday, July 2) article feature image

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Ondrej Palat (L) and Shea Weber (R).

  • Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Canadiens and Lightning moves north of the border on Friday.
  • Tampa Bay has built a 2-0 series lead, and the franchise is 8-0 in series when building such a lead.
  • Carol Schram, however, explains why she's not counting out the Canadiens yet.

Lightning vs. Canadiens Odds

Lightning Odds -138
Canadiens Odds +118
Over/Under 5 (-130/+106)
Time Friday, 8 p.m. ET
Odds as of Thursday and via FanDuel.

Dominique Ducharme is back — and just in time.

After a two-week absence following a positive test for COVID-19, the Montreal Canadiens’ interim head coach will step back behind the bench on Friday, as the Stanley Cup Final shifts to the Bell Centre.

The Canadiens have their backs against the wall, down 0-2 to a ruthless Tampa Bay Lightning team that looks hell-bent on becoming just the second NHL team in the salary-cap era to earn back-to-back titles.

How We Got Here

The Lightning built their 5-1 win in Game 1 by exploiting a matchup which saw the line of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat outscore the Canadiens’ Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli 3-0. According to Natural Stat Trick, the underlying numbers were much closer; the Tampa Bay trio had only a slight edge with 51.12% of expected goals, but the game went down in the books as a blowout. Steven Stamkos even snapped Montreal’s 13-game perfect penalty-killing streak with an otherwise-meaningless marker, just 1:10 before the final buzzer.

The Canadiens tightened things up in Game 2, outshooting the Lightning 43-23 and earning an expected goals share of 60.75% at 5-on-5. But the high-danger scoring chances were much more even — 7-6 for Montreal. With Andrei Vasilevskiy dialed in — and perhaps fired up after learning on Tuesday that he’d narrowly lost out to Marc-Andre Fleury in Vezina Trophy voting — the Habs weren’t able to convert any of those high-danger chances. They’ve now gotten just two pucks past Vasilevskiy in 62 attempts, for a team shooting percentage of 3.2%.

In a game where they were largely outplayed, the Lightning were rewarded for their ‘refuse to lose’ mentality when a diving Blake Coleman shoveled the puck past Carey Price as the clock wound down to end the second period — breaking a 1-1 tie and, perhaps, breaking the spirit of the Canadiens as well. The spectacular tally stood up as the game winner, reminding fans once again how important Coleman and Barclay Goodrow have been for Tampa Bay since their acquisition at the 2020 trade deadline.

After managing just 13 shots through the first two periods, the Lightning got 10 in the third as they protected their lead. Ondrej Palat potted an insurance marker — against the Suzuki line, again — with less than five minutes left to play.

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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.

Outlook For Game 3

Kudos to the Canadiens for surviving long enough to give Ducharme a chance to get back behind the bench. Under assistant coach Luke Richardson, Montreal went 3-3 and eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights in the semifinal.

They’re returning to the friendly confines of the Bell Centre, and Ducharme will better be able to dictate matchups thanks to having the last change. But there’s still a tough road ahead. The team was even denied its request for increased capacity by the provincial health authorities and will be hitting the ice for Games 3 and 4 in front of the same crowd of 3,500 that was allowed when hosting Vegas.

Teams that go up 2-0 are 46-5 all time in the Stanley Cup Final, and the Lightning are 8-0 in franchise history when they’ve taken a 2-0 lead in a playoff series. They’ve done it twice already this year — against the Florida Panthers- in Round 1 (six games) and in Round 2 against the Carolina Hurricanes (five games).

Lightning vs. Canadiens Best Bet

But just as the Canadiens lost a game that they probably deserved to win on Wednesday, even a team as strong as the Lightning will hit the occasional speedbump.

It’s interesting to note that even though they went up 2-0 on the road against both the Panthers and the Hurricanes, Tampa Bay lost Game 3 when returning home to Amalie Arena, before righting the ship and completing the task at hand.

The Lightning head into Game 4 riding their second three-game overall win streak of these playoffs. They haven’t won four in a row this year, or more than two in a row against a specific opponent. But in the bubble last year, they did put together a six-game winning streak against the Bruins and the Islanders, which included four-straight wins over Boston.

The Canadiens, of course, will simply go about their business, no matter how tough the task at hand might be. But the oddsmakers have caught up with the fact that maybe that “weak Canadian division” narrative was not as predictive as originally thought. After seeing massive longshot numbers against Vegas and even coming in at +190 in Game 2, you won’t find better odds on Thursday than a comparatively slim +118 from FanDuel, which projects out to nearly a 46% chance of winning.

I don’t think Montreal will go down without a fight, and they don’t have much time left to make that happen. And even as the home team, the offer is better than even money.

I don’t love the odds on the over/under, either. The line is set at a low 5 goals, and the best odds you’ll get for the under in what could be a serious goaltending duel between Vasilevskiy and Price is +106 — not much of a potential payout for a relatively limited set of outcomes.

If you think the Lightning will win by two goals or more for a third-straight game, you can get a hearty +210 from BetAmerica if you take the puckline.

But even with slimmer odds than we’re used to seeing, Montreal should be the smart bet for Game 3.

Pick: Canadiens (+118) | Play down to +110

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