MONTREAL (CityNews) – The series is set, and the 2021 Stanley Cup final will be decided by the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It will be an interesting series for many reasons, and CityNews will break down some things to note heading into the final round.
How they got here:
The Montreal Canadiens are entering the Stanley Cup final as the 18th seed in the NHL, with a regular season record of 24-21-11, making them the lowest-ranked team to ever make the final.
In the playoffs, the Habs have managed to win 12 out of 17 games, only dropping two since Game 4 of Round 1.
The Canadiens have also managed to outscore their opponents 65-37 throughout the first three rounds, while holding the best penalty kill in the league.
Montreal advanced by winning Round 1 against the Maple Leafs in seven games. Round 2 against the Jets in four games. And Round 3 against the Golden Knights in six games.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are entering Round 4 as the defending Stanley Cup champions, and the 8th seed in the NHL, with a regular season record of 36-17-3.
In the playoffs the Lightning have managed to win 12 out of 18 games, and they haven’t lost back-to-back playoff games since getting swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 playoffs.
Tampa Bay advanced by winning Round 1 against the Panthers in six games. Round 2 against the Hurricanes in five games. And Round 3 against the Islanders in seven games.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning did not meet in the shortened 2021 season.
They will be meeting for the first time since March 5, 2020 when the Lighting won 4-0 in Tampa.
This will be the fourth meeting between the Habs and Bolts in the playoffs.
The first time was in 2004, when the Lightning beat the Canadiens 4-0 in the conference semifinals before winning the Stanley Cup against the Calgary Flames.
The pair would meet again in Round 1 in 2014, when Montreal swept Tampa. Montreal would go on to make the conference final in that season.
The most recent playoff meeting was the following season, when the pair met in the 2015 conference semifinal. Tampa won that series in six games, and would go on to lose the Stanley Cup final to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Montreal is making their first visit to the final since last winning in 1993, when they became the last Canadian team to win the Cup.
Montreal is making their 35th Stanley Cup appearance – most in the league – and are looking to extend their lead with the most Cup wins by clinching their 25th title.
Tampa is making their fourth Stanley Cup final appearance and are looking to become the first team to win back-to-back since Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017.
This will also be the third time the Lightning have played part of or all of the final in Canada. Both previous series were in Alberta, even though the 2020 Stanley Cup final was played against the Dallas Stars.
CityNews’ players to watch in the Stanley Cup final:
Montreal’s Cole Caufield. The rookie from Stevens Point, Wis., has been one of the Canadiens’ best players in the playoffs. Despite only having four goals and one assist, Caufield has been able to make big plays for Montreal when they’ve needed them.
Montreal’s Carey Price. Price is still one of the best goalies in the league. He repeatedly comes up with highlight-reel saves in every game, allowing his team to win games. Price has managed one of the best records in the NHL this year. Through the playoffs he has put up a 2.02 goals-against-average (3rd), has a 0.934 Save Percentage (2nd), and one shutout, all while facing the second most shots so far in the playoffs.
Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. The main opponent to Carey Price will be Vasilevskiy. He stands tall in goal for the Lightning and hasn’t lost back-to-back playoff games in two years. Goaltending will be crucial in this series. Vasilevskiy enters the fourth round with a 1.99 goals-against-average (2nd), holds a 0.936 save percentage (1st), and has four playoff shutouts, all while facing the most shots so far in the playoffs.
Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov leads the league in points during the playoffs. Despite only playing 46 seconds of Game 6 against the Islanders after suffering a possible rib injury, Kucherov did return to the Lightning’s lineup for Game 7, where he had more than 16 minutes of ice time. If the Canadiens want to win the Cup, they will need to find a way to shut down Kucherov along with Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, and Victor Hedman.
Montreal’s Philip Danault. Who doesn’t love pizza and hockey? Over the course of the playoffs, the Victoriaville native has enjoyed some slices while doing post-game interviews. If Danault scores his first playoff goal, keep an eye out for a celebratory slice.
Philip Danault is one of four players from Quebec on the Canadiens roster. He is joined by Jonathan Drouin from Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts. The Canadians have been without Drouin since the end of April when he took a leave for personal reasons.
The Canadians also have Alex Belzile from Saint-Éloi, and Laurent Dauphin from Repentigny. Both players haven’t seen much action for Montreal, however both could be called up if injuries occur in the final round. Belzile played in two games for Montreal, Dauphin has yet to play.
Tampa has some Quebec players of their own. Yanni Gourde from Saint-Narcisse scored short-handed against the Islanders in Game 7, which would turn out to be the goal to clinch the series.
The Lightning added David Savard from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline. The Saint-Hyacinthe native has been key on the blue line for Tampa.
Mathieu Joseph from Laval did play 56 games during the regular season with the bolts, however he’s only featured in two playoff games.
The Lightning also have Alex Barre-Boulet from Montmagny, and Daniel Walcott from L’Île-Perrot. Walcott played in one game for the Lightning, Barre-Boulet played in 15 games where he scored three goals.
Round 4 schedule Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning:
Game 1: Mon., June 28 – Montreal @ Tampa Bay, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT
Game 2: Wed., June 30 – Montreal @ Tampa Bay, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT
Game 3: Fri., July 2 – Tampa Bay @ Montreal, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT
Game 4: Mon., July 5 – Tampa Bay @ Montreal, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT
*Game 5: Wed., July 7 – Montreal @ Tampa Bay, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT
*Game 6: Fri., July 9 – Tampa Bay @ Montreal, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT
*Game 7: Sun., July 11 – Montreal @ Tampa Bay, 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT
* If necessary