We are one game into the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, and the reigning champion Tampa Bay Lightning have come out of the gates red hot, establishing dominance over the upstart Montreal Canadiens with a 5-1 victory that could have been even more out of control if Carey Price hadn’t made a bevy of sensational saves.

It’s a strange situation to see a team allow five goals and the consensus be that their best player was their goaltender, but that’s how lopsided Game 1 was between the two finalists. The good news for the Canadiens is that they had a very similar opening match against the Vegas Golden Knights, where they looked alright to start the game, but allowed the first goal and watched their talented opponents pile on. The Canadiens adjusted, and won four of the following five games.

Through the first three rounds of the playoffs, the key for the Montreal Canadiens has been for the Phil Danault line to shut down the opponents’ top forwards, but Lightning head coach Jon Cooper was diligent in managing his home-ice advantage in line changes. He kept Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov away from Danault’s line for all but two minutes of Game 1, with Point and Kucherov doing the double duty of feasting on the Nick Suzuki, Tyler Toffoli, and Cole Caufield line offensively, and shutting them down at the same time.

The Suzuki line is the Canadiens’ most important offensive group, but has struggled at times against opposing top lines, which the Lightning exploited to the tune of 3-0 while they shared the ice at even strength.

Expect Canadiens interim head coach Luke Richardson to aggressively avoid that matchup with changes on the fly and forcing the Lightning to chase it in Game 2, and for the Canadiens to tighten up their many mistakes from Game 1. Each time the Canadiens have put forth an underwhelming defensive performance in these playoffs, their answer has been to tighten the belt and cut down on mistakes, so you would be wise to bet the under for Game 2.

While the key for the Canadiens in the playoffs has been the matchup game and taking advantage of their forward depth, the key for the Lightning has been their powerplay. Scoring at a rate of 37.5 per cent in the postseason, the biggest challenge the Lightning were going to face in this series was the Canadiens’ penalty kill, which had gone 13 games without allowing opponents to score, killing over 30 straight powerplays.

It may have been in garbage time when a Steven Stamkos powerplay one-timer snuck by Price to make it 5-1, but the Lightning powerplay exerted control for nearly every second they had the man advantage, tallying six scoring chances in just four and a half minutes at 5-vs-4. In these playoffs, the Canadiens have allowed scoring chances while down a man at a rate of 47.4 per 60 minutes, while in Game 1 the Lightning accumulated scoring chances at a rate of 77.7 per hour.

Based on how Game 1 was called, there won’t be many powerplays to go around, but the Lightning’s puck movement and varied attack between Point, Kucherov, Stamkos, and Victor Hedman appeared to simply be too much to handle for the Canadiens, so back the Lightning to continue that trend and score on the powerplay in Game 2.

While the Canadiens looked outclassed in Game 1 and didn’t manage to get the matchups they wanted, they have excelled in these playoffs when given time to adjust between games. The best news for Montreal is that away from the Suzuki vs Point matchup the game was relatively even, so managing to get Danault back into the matchup you want most could flip the script for the second game of the series.

The tight checking of the Point line led to Cole Caufield’s second-worst offensive performance since the Toronto series, with just 0.17 expected goals in all situations, but he has bounced back tremendously each game he’s struggled in the playoffs.

The Canadiens will be eager to show they aren’t passengers in this series and, with some tactical adjustments to rein in the mistakes and get at least some of the matchups they want, I expect the Canadiens to even the series in Game 2 in Tampa Bay.

Check out the latest NHL odds at Betway USA.