It’s the end of the line, folks! We’ve finally arrived at the Cup Final! We expected that these playoffs were going to be weird, and boy did they ever deliver. Three rounds later and we’re staring down a matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning... and the Montreal Canadiens. Sure, why not.
And how’s this one going to shake out? Can Tampa win back to back cups? Or will Montreal continue their run through some of the league’s most stacked teams? Our staff’s back to weigh in.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens
Maddie: I don’t really know which outcome I’m rooting for here, but I think Tampa’s going to come out with the win here. Montreal’s run has been pretty remarkable, and I do think they’re going to make things tough on Tampa, but my gut says that Tampa’s star power is going to win out. Lightning in 7.
Drew: Lightning in six games. They have shown they are able to beat teams with their skill and grit, a deadly combination come playoff time. Though the Canadiens have the “Cinderella story” aspect to their run, and possibly the luck that comes with that, I don’t think they’ll be able to make it past Tampa. They’re simply too good.
Kelly: It’s easy to look at this series and think that Tampa has back-to-backs in the bag, but I dunno, fam. Montreal has looked in the face of every single “much better team” they’ve faced and Caufield’d and Price’d their way to victory every time. Sometimes the gods just put their hands on the backs of a particular team and send them. I’ve decided that’s happening. Habs in 7. LFG.
Mike: Tampa is the better team but they don’t have the advantage in goal that they had last round and the margin for error is way smaller. Montreal is frustrating the living hell out of their opponents but the Lightning are familiar with that style having experienced the Islanders in back-to-back postseasons. Tampa has generally owned the Habs in recent years, but hockey is dumb — Montreal in 7.
Thomas: Every ounce of logic is pulling me towards crowning the Lightning as the back-to-back champions, but that is just so damn boring. As fun as Tampa is to watch and how badly I want to celebrate teams being able to pile together the closest thing we’re going to have to a super team under a hard salary cap, it just sucks. The players are fun to watch — Brayden Point turns into prime Mario Lemieux during the postseason apparently — but just the vibes are off. I can’t explain it, so please don’t ask me to.
On the other poutine-soaked hand, the Montreal Canadiens are essentially a Pure Vibes team and has been through this whole postseason. Coming back against Toronto, sweeping Winnipeg, making Vegas look more ridiculous than they already do in those jerseys — Montreal is just so damn fun. Whether it’s the young trio of forwards, or Carey Price sipping on the Fountain of Youth this spring, the Canadiens are it and I just want them to win, but I don’t think they are going to. Because of this, I’m making two predictions and it’s my blurb so I can do what I want. My desire is Montreal in 6, causing the Bell Centre to be burned to the ground, but I think it’s going to instead be Tampa in 5.
Kurt: Hm. Well. You see. With the way these playoffs have gone, my gut is telling me to expect the unexpected, which is to say that I should be picking Montreal to win it. But. BUT! Hasn’t the unexpected more or less become the expected and as such isn’t picking Montreal the thing we should expect to do? I mean, crap, nearly half the picks in this post as of my writing this paragraph have picked Montreal. After one of the weirdest postseasons any of us can remember, maybe the weirdest thing of all would just be the favorite winning in a romp. Tampa in a sweep.
Eamon: The Canadiens will go as far as Carey Price takes them, but the Habs have impressed me with their fluid shift to a “quality over quantity” approach to rush attempts. The amount of pre-shot movement occurring with every 2-on-1 is outstanding, and I think they have what it takes to get past Vasilevsky. That said, the Lightning showed everybody that they can play a shutdown game with their most recent victory, and I like their defensive acumen enough to believe that they’ll limit Montreal’s breakout. I’ll take Tampa Bay in six games here, but I won’t be shocked if Les Habitants and Flyers legend Shea Weber win Canada’s first Stanley Cup since 1993.
Steve: Go Habs go? It feels weird to say. I’d like to see our neighbors to the north reclaim the Cup for the first time since I was just a little, awkward Steve, but I’m just not seeing it. I’ve slept on the Canadiens this entire playoffs. I mean, everyone outside of Montreal has, right? I would be truly shocked if they pulled out the win in this series. The Islanders gave Tampa a hell of a run for their $90 million or so, but the Lightning pulled it out. I think Tampa is ultimately too talented and too well put together to lose this one. That said, I’d be more than happy to be wrong about the Montreal Canadiens one final time. Tampa Bay in 6.