Playoff Team Stats
|G/PG||2.00 (t-14th)||2.43 (6th)|
|GA/PG||2.00 (t-2nd)||2.14 (t-4th)|
|PP%||5.0% (15th)||6.7% (14th)|
|PK%||75.0% (12th)||82.8% (8th)|
Playoff Point Leaders
|P.K Subban||1G / 3A = 4 Points||Tyler Johnson||6G / 1A = 7 Points|
|Tomas Plekanec||1G / 2A = 3 Points||Alex Killorn||2G / 2A = 4 Points|
|Brian Flynn||1G / 2A = 3 Points||Nikita Kucherov||0G / 4A = 4 Points|
Playoff Goalie Stats
|Carey Price||4W / 1.94 GAA / .939 SV%||Ben Bishop||4W / 1.87 GAA / .922 SV%|
Three days after the Canadiens dumped the Senators in Game 6, the Lightning moved past the Red Wings with a Game 7 victory on Wednesday.
Each team entered the playoffs as the higher seed, but were pushed to the limit by their first round opponents. This will be the third time that the Canadiens and Lightning have met in the playoffs since 2004. Tampa Bay swept Montreal in 2004, but the only player who played in that series that will play in this series is 36-year-old Andrei Markov. The most recent meeting was last year, when Montreal swept the Ben Bishop-less Lightning.
Speaking of sweeps, the Lightning won all five meetings between these two teams this season. In those contests Tampa Bay outscored Montreal 21-8. Does the regular season matter now? Nope. But, it is worth noting that the Lightning took care of the Habs pretty handily this year.
When looking at goaltending, the clear advantage goes to Montreal. Carey Price is the best goalie in the world. He led the NHL in Wins, GAA and SV% this season and had a great first round vs. Ottawa. He hasn’t had the greatest track record in the postseason, but Bishop did not exactly look sharp against the Red Wings. Bishop appeared to be fighting the puck at times and if the Lightning are going to win, he will have to play at Price’s level. Craig Anderson was outstanding in round 1 and it still wasn’t enough to get by the Habs.
Can Bishop play at that level? Definitely. He was 5-0-0 with a 1.59 GAA, .941 SV% and one shutout in five starts against Montreal, so he has certainly had their number this year. Price obviously didn’t get a win against Tampa, going 0-4-1 with a 3.47 GAA and .906 SV%.
With that said, the playoffs are so different from the regular season, but it is obvious that the Lightning are more explosive than the Canadiens, so this goaltending duel is intriguing.
If you would have told people that Steven Stamkos was not going to score a goal in seven games, how many people would think the Lightning would still win that series? Probably not many. So how did the Lightning get to this point with Stamkos struggling? Tyler Johnson. The 24-year-old was a beast in the first round, scoring six goals with one assist. His line mates Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov combined for one goal and six assists in the seven-game series.
The Lightning realized that Stammer was struggling and that led to him playing just 17:40 TOI , which was sixth highest among Tampa forwards. He will play with Alex Killorn and Ryan Callahan, who was also mostly ineffective in the first round. This has to be scary for Montreal, because Stamkos has to find his rhythm eventually.
Montreal’s offence has been lacking all season. They ranked 20th in the regular season in scoring and only averaged 2.00 goals per game against the Senators. Max Pacioretty is their best goal scorer, but he came into the playoffs injured. He scored twice in five games in the first round, but a lot of their scoring came from unexpected sources. Brian Flynn, Torrey Mitchell and Dale Weise combined for four goals and four assists, which no one saw coming heading into the first round.
Both teams possess offensive ability on the back-end. The Canadiens have Markov and P.K Subban. Markov has been a great offensive defeneman for years; he almost has 500 career regular season points. He only had one assist in the first round, but expect him to improve vs. Tampa Bay. Subban, already has one Norris Trophy (2013) to his name and he is a finalist again this year. He led the Canadiens with four points in the Conference Quarterfinals and will obviously play a huge role for Montreal in this series.
The Habs picked up Jeff Petry at the deadline and he really appeared to be settling in at the end of the year. He had a strong series vs. Ottawa, especially when Subban was ejected. However, despite his strong play defensively, he failed to record a point in six games—look for that to change if he keeps playing well.
For Tampa Bay, all their defensemen are capable of scoring. Their 22-year-old blue liner Nikita Nesterov had a fantastic series vs. Detroit. He was very dangerous all series and ended up tying Victor Hedman for the team lead with three points (1G / 2A) on the blue line. In addition to those two, Jason Garrison returned in Game 4 and had a goal and an assist and he possesses a massive shot from the point. And you can’t forget about Anton Stralman, who led all Tampa defensemen with 39 points (9G / 30A) this season.
Tampa Bay’s forwards clearly have the edge in this series, so if their D can out perform Montreal’s they just might be punching their ticket into the Eastern Conference Finals.
Series Prediction: Lightning win in 6.
Leading Scorer: Steven Stamkos
Series X-Factor: Carey Price