The Tampa Bay Lightning are one game away from winning back-to-back Stanley Cups after winning Game 3 by a 6-3 score over the Montreal Canadiens. Tampa Bay holds a commanding 3-0 over the Canadiens and the major reason has been the play of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy has now won his last 11 games against Montreal. This includes the regular season and playoffs. The Canadiens have not been able to solve the Lightning goaltender. Their goal scoring which has been so good throughout the playoffs has run dry. But that is because they have not faced a goaltender like Andrei Vasilevskiy prior to the Stanley Cup Final. Vasilevskiy has been the difference maker and why the Lightning can close out the series on Monday night in Game 4.
Montreal Has To Solve Andrei Vasilevskiy Going Forward
The Canadiens did get some momentum heading into Game 4, they were able to put three pucks past Andrei Vasilevskiy. Through the first three games of the series, the Canadiens have scored five goals, while the Lightning have scored 14. Two of the goals were perfectly placed shots. One was off the stick of Phillip Danault. The other was off the stick of Corey Perry. The other three goals took weird bounces and beat Vasilevskiy. Other than that Vasilevskiy has been rock solid especially in Game 2, where he stole the game for the Lightning. In that game, the Canadiens came outshot the Lightning 43-23. Vasilevskiy made 42 of 43 saves and was especially strong in the second period, where the Canadiens dominated outshooting them 16-7.
If Vasilevskiy is not between the pipes for the Lightning, the Canadiens probably win Game 2. There is a reason why Vasilevskiy is one of the best goalies in the world. He was nominated for the Vezina Trophy but did not win it. Do not think that is not a motivating factor. Look the Canadiens were not the highest-scoring team in the playoffs, to begin with. However, coming into the series they have not faced a goalie like this before. No disrespect to Jack Campbell, Connor Hellebuyck, Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner, but Vasilevskiy is just on a different level.
The Canadiens have the daunting task of winning four straight games against the best team and best goalie in the world. And scoring first has to be the goal heading into Game 4. However, in clinching games, Vasilevskiy and the Lightning go to even a higher level. Vasilevskiy has four shutouts in the last four clinching games for the Lightning. He makes the difficult save so easy. And with Vasilevskiy inside the heads of the Montreal Canadiens players, it will be tough to beat him with the Stanley Cup on the line.
Tampa Bay Capitalizes On Montreal Turnovers
Coming into the series, the Canadiens had not seen a team like the Lightning in the playoffs. When they made mistakes, they did not end up in the back of their net. Unfortunately, against the Lightning that has not been the case. The Lightning have made the Canadiens pay on every single turnover or mistake they have committed in this series. In the past two games alone the Lightning have scored five goals off of Montreal mistakes or turnovers. In Game 2, the Lightning capitalized on a poor dump into the zone late in period 2, where Blake Coleman scored that diving goal to give the Lightning momentum and the lead in Game 2. Later in Game 2, Palat scored on a miscommunication between Jeff Petry and Joel Edmundson.
The trend continued into Game 3. Jan Rutta opened the scoring when Josh Anderson could not get the puck out of the zone after a bad icing, where the Canadiens could not change their five-man unit. Later on, Nikita Kucherov scored on a 2-on-0 after the Canadiens made a poor line change and the Lightning took advantage of it. Then when Johnson scored his second of Game 3, when he intercepted a Joel Edmundsson pass out of the Canadiens zone.
Outside of staying out of the penalty box, the Canadiens needed to limit mistakes and turnovers against a very good Lightning. Since they have not, Montreal sees themselves in an 0-3 hole.
Average Carey Price
Through the first three rounds, Carey Price was playing at a Conn Smythe Trophy level. However, since the Stanley Cup Final has begun his play has dipped dramatically. What’s the old saying. The Canadiens go as Carey Price goes. And Montreal is trailing in the series because Price has not matched the play of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Price has made some remarkable saves no doubt, but he has given up soft goals and has looked averaged. He even said so after Game 3 when asked about his play. “I need to be better,” Price said to the media after Game 3. “My performance has not been good enough.”
Price and the Canadiens find themselves in a hole no team has climbed out of in the Stanley Cup Final in a long long time. Price had to be the reason why the Canadiens were going to win the Stanley Cup. The Canadiens chance to win was in Game 2, but they could not get the job done. Price was excellent. But those early and late goals have been back-breakers. And in Game 3, Price let in a few soft goals that he has to stop. Those are the type of goals that set the tone. Price needs to be on his game in Game 4 if the Canadiens hope to avoid being swept.
The Lightning do not have to change much heading into Game 4. The only adjustment they made was moving Johnson from the wing to the centre, which paid huge dividends. Other than that, the Lightning have looked dominant and Andrei Vasilevskiy has looked all the Conn Smythe Trophy winner. For the Canadiens, if they do not want the Stanley Cup handed out on Bell Centre ice, they need to score the first goal which allows them to play their style of game. But it will be a tough ask if they continue to make turnovers. We are heading towards a coronation it all depends if it happens in Game 4 or Game 5.
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