Stanley Cup Final: Game 4 preview and best bets
Our NHL expert, Andrew Berkshire, previews Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Is there anyone left who doubts the championship quality of the Tampa Bay Lightning? Tactical adjustments from the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 made them look human for a game, a game they still managed to win through pure killer instinct and pouncing on every mistake, but in Game 3 the pedigree of a reigning champion was on full display.
Facing a goaltender who has been red hot since the playoffs began in May, the Lightning have pushed the Canadiens to the brink of elimination while pumping Carey Price for 13 goals in three games, with the former Vezina winner and Conn Smythe candidate coming into the Stanley Cup Final posting an abysmal 83.5 per cent save percentage.
While the lion’s share of the criticism for Montreal’s performance has seemed to fall on their embattled goalkeeper, with comparisons to Andrei Vasilevskiy’s sparkling 94.9 per cent save percentage serving to make Price look even worse, but the quality of chances has been so tilted towards Tampa Bay that it’s very difficult to look at simple save percentage and make sweeping judgements.
Through three games, the Canadiens have done some things well, but they’ve been mistake-prone to a ridiculous degree, giving the Lightning continual opportunities for back-breaking goals at the worst possible moments.
Ahead of Game 4, where the Lightning can complete the sweep and win the Stanley Cup, it doesn’t appear that the Canadiens are making any major adjustments to their lineup, leaving Tomas Tatar, the team’s leading scorer by 21 points over the last three seasons, on the sidelines.
The Canadiens are changing up their powerplay personnel, moving Jeff Petry back up to the top unit after a rough game of mistakes from Erik Gustafsson, who may sit out Game 4 in favour of Alexander Romanov or Brett Kulak, but head coach Dominique Ducharme was non-committal when asked about it. With Petry back on the top powerplay unit though, and considering how well he’s played in this series compared to his teammates, bet on Petry getting at least a point in Game 4.
Despite the Canadiens being up against it and playing with nothing to lose, they just haven’t had an answer for Tampa Bay’s ability to pressure the puck carrier with speed, especially in the defensive zone. With the lack of willingness to change things up and give the Lightning a different look to deal with, bet on the Lightning to score over 3.5 goals once again.
If the Lightning are going to score four or more goals in this game, you can probably guess what I think is going to happen in Game 4. For the very first time, the Stanley Cup will be awarded in the Bell Centre, but it won’t be to the team the 3,500 fans in attendance wish it was. Tampa Bay should complete their sweep against a team they have thoroughly beaten up though three games, and I’m betting that the Lightning will win by three or more goals (-2.5 puck line), putting an exclamation point on their second Stanley Cup in just over nine months. This would be perhaps the most impressive back-to-back Stanley Cups in the modern era, considering the mental and physical toll of a compressed schedule and playing most of this season and all of last year’s playoffs in a bubble-like isolation.
As impressive a team the Tampa Bay Lightning of 2020 were, having a healthy Steven Stamkos throughout the playoffs has been an additional threat that makes them nearly un-counterable. Even if the Canadiens manage to extend the series with their backs against the wall, the overall result feels inevitable.
Check out the latest NHL odds at Betway USA.