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The Stanley Cup Finals are here and the stage is set. The defending champion Lightning look to run it back with the same team as the dark horse Montreal Canadiens look to continue surprising the hockey world. The ranks during the preseason had the Lightning highly favored to repeat as champs while the Canadiens were in there middle of the bunch, at 13th to make it to the final.
Montreal has won 24 Stanley Cups, the most in NHL history. The last time the team hoisted the Stanley Cup was in 1992-93, after defeating the Los Angeles Kings in five games with the all-time great goaltender Patrick Roy in net. During this year’s Cup run the Canadiens have been resilient and getting production from all four lines.
Sort of like the 92-93′ Canadiens team with Roy, this 2020-21 team is anchored by Carey Price. Price has literally been worth the price of admission throughout the playoffs. He is 12-5 in the playoffs so far with a .934 save percentage and 2.02 goals-against average, which is third behind the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Jack Campbell (1.81) and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (1.99).
“Obviously, ‘Pricey’ was the whole measure of our series,” Canadiens forward Phillip Danault said. Price’s teammates have absolutely raved about his dominance in net and the league has taken notice. Out of 78 MVP ballots cast pre-puck drop for the Stanley Cup, Price received 37 votes.
Look for veterans like Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Tyler Toffoli and Brenden Gallagher to make their presence known in the final. Perry, 36, was in the Stanley Cup final last season with the Dallas Stars and most likely wants to finish this season better than last. But the biggest surprise has been the role players like Jasperi Kotkaniemi and Cole Caufield, who have been nothing short of spectacular.
Ironically, the Tampa Bay Lightning came into existence the same year Montreal won their last championship in 1993. Since entering the NHL, the Lightning have been successful, winning their first Stanley Cup Final in 2003-04 and second in 2020.
For the past couple of years, the Lightning have been the team to beat. Even with their Captain Steven Stamkos injured throughout the 2019-20 playoffs, the team prevailed due to great coaching and loaded talent. Head Coach Jon Cooper can throw out different lines every game if he wants to because of how much depth Tampa Bay has.
Not to mention they have probably the best goaltender in the NHL, Andrei Vasilevskiy. Look for Brayden Point or Nikita Kucherov to be the stars they are. However, the thing that makes the Lightning so great is their defensive core.
In front of Vasilevskiy, Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev add offensive support as defensemen. Victor Hedman won the Conn Smythe last year for the tournament. Don’t be surprised if he makes his run again as he backs the Lightning Power Play and conducts it.
This Stanley Cup Final starts tonight at 8pm, ET. Fans should look for some high shot attempt games with stellar goaltending on both ends.