Last night was Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, ending in a 5-1 Tampa Bay Lightning win over the Montreal Canadiens. Now up by one game heading into the rest of the series, the Canadiens will get another chance against the defending Stanley Cup champions in Game 2 on Wednesday night. Although our New York Rangers are not making a run for the cup, we at Blueshirt Banter had to throw out our predictions for the series.
All predictions were made prior to Game 1.
Who Will Win?
All six of the staff members that gave their predictions stated Tampa Bay, or as Jack referred them, “Champa Bay,” will win the Stanley Cup for a second year in a row. We were split when it came to how many games the Canadiens and Lightning will play. Tom, Jack, and myself all agreed that Tampa Bay could win this series in 5 games. Whereas, Kevin, Mike, and Bryan believe it will go to 6 games.
Who Receives the Conn Smythe Trophy?
Kevin, Mike, and Tom, all predicted that 25 year-old Brayden Point would be the Conn Smythe Trophy recipient. Point was an intricate part of last year’s playoff success for the Lightning, scoring 14 goals and adding 19 assists in 23 games. The center has continued to be a top contributor this year, and he leads the field in playoff goals with 14.
Bryan, Jack, and myself, predict that goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy will receive the trophy. If Tampa Bay does win the Stanley Cup, he would become one of the few players who has won both the Stanley Cup twice and the Vezina Trophy, all before the age of 27.
During this year, he set career bests in goals against average with 2.21 and a save percentage of .925. In Game 1, Vasilevskiy outplayed Montreal’s Carey Price with 18 saves. Thus far in the playoffs, Vasilevskiy has a Goals Saved Above Average of 8.74, and a Goals Saved Above Expected of 15.58 according to Evolving-Hockey. Price has a 4.72 and 7.20 in those categories respectively.
X-Factors to Lookout For
Kevin: Cole Caufield
Mike: Cole Caufield for the Habs and Tampa Bay’s power play. Also, is it cheating to say goaltending? This run by Carey Price has been really special but he’s not the best goaltender in this series. With that said, Price has the ability to take over this series. I just don’t think it’s very likely. I also don’t think there’s much the Habs can do to contain Tampa Bay’s offensive depth.
Mike and Kevin selecting Caufield makes a lot of sense, and it is a good pick given how he’s changed the look of the Montreal Canadiens.
Caufield was selected 15th overall in the 2019 draft, and appeared in 10 regular season games for Montreal this season. He tallied four goals and added a lone assist for five points. In the playoffs he’s tallied four goals and added five assists for nine points in 16 games. He has been one of their most dangerous players this postseason, and his ability to generate offense and draw attention stands out.
Tom: The health of Nikita Kucherov. He’s been an amazing contributor this post season, and makes the Lightning power play lethal. Montreal has been a strong defensive team shutting down key offensive players, and if Kucherov isn’t playing at full speed it will allow them to focus their energy on others like Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos. Tampa Bay has enough talent to win, but the series could go differently if Kucherov isn’t at full strength.
Bryan: Carey Price. He’s been leading the charge in goal for Montreal the entire postseason and was the backbone against more favorable and offensively gifted opponents in Winnipeg and Vegas throughout the last two rounds. There’s obviously no signs of him slowing down heading into the Final, so the Canadiens will need his strong play to carry over if they want any sort of shot at winning it all.
Jack: The Lightning’s health. Whether it was via injury or suspension, each of Montreal’s opponents were missing a top center (John Tavares for TOR, Mark Schiefele for WPG, Chandler Stephenson for VGK) for a majority of their matchups. Two of those three teams were better than Montreal when fully healthy, and the Lightning are a much better team than Montreal as well. If Nikita Kucherov is close to 100% after taking a vicious cross check against the Islanders, and the Lightning don’t suffer any major injuries during the series, they should win their second consecutive Stanley Cup with ease.
Brianna: Tampa Bay’s offense led by Nikita Kucherov. Many were concerned about his health following Game 6 of the semifinals against the New York Islanders but he said it wasn’t an injury. It seemed like maybe he was just amped up because this is playoff hockey but after watching Monday night’s game, that “injury” seems to be a non-issue. As Steven Stamkos stated to ESPN, “He’s playing like a beast right now. He’s so, so good.”
Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final will air on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Let us know in the comments what your predictions are for the rest of the series.
Who wins the Stanley Cup?
This poll is closed
Tampa in 4
Montreal in 5
Tampa in 5
Montreal in 6
Tampa in 6
Montreal in 7
Tampa in 7