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Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview and Game Day Thread: No backing off now

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The Lightning took the first game, they can’t let off for the second one.

2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens: ROUND 4, GAME 1

Time: 8:00 PM Eastern

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, Peacock

SNOpponent SB Nation Site: HabsEyesOnThePrize

Throughout the entire playoff run, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been in the most trouble when they’ve put themselves there. Turnovers, shoddy coverage, and bad penalties have allowed other teams to stay in and win games they had no business in winning. They need to avoid falling back into those bad habits tonight if they want to head north with a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.

While the final score of Game One indicated the Lightning dominated most of the night, it was just a one-goal game after two periods and there were moments early in the game where the Bolts were having issues clearing the puck. Montreal did a good job of anticipating their breakout passes and stepped up to pick them off in the zone.

Credit to the Lightning for recovering fairly well when they did turn the puck over. They did a really good job of limiting the prime opportunities for the Habs with only four shot attempts coming from right in front of their goaltender.

downloaded from Evolving Hockey 6-29-21

It also helps that their goaltender is Andrei Vasilevskiy. While the ultra-dangerous chances were kept to a minimum, he still had to make some key saves though the first two periods in order to keep things close. The Lightning’s talent did pull the game out in the third, and Nikita Kucherov’s two minutes into the third to re-establish the two goal lead was the turning point of the game, but without Vasy’s play in the first two periods there might have been a different outcome.

Faced with the possibility of being down two games, expect Montreal to come out with an even more aggressive forecheck to try and disrupt the Lightning’s transition game. Following their Game One loss to the Vegas Golden Knights last round, the Canadiens came out and absolutely shut down Vegas’ offense in the first period, allowing just 13 shot attempts and 4 shots on goal. They out-chanced the Golden Knights 8-1 in the high-danger areas and built a 2-0 lead.

Their first goal came as a result of a pretty good forecheck with Joel Armia causing a turnover behind the net with a strong check on Alec Martinez:

If the Bolts make quick decisions and move the puck cleanly in their own zone, they can neutralize the pressure. It will be key for their forwards to make sure they don’t fly the zone too quickly and offer support for the blueliners trying to get rid of the puck.

Quick puck movement will allow the Lightning to transition through the neutral zone and use their speed against Montreal’s slightly less-mobile defense. Coach Cooper likes to preach that taking care of the puck in your own zone will lead to chances in the opponent’s zone. If the Lightning commit to that approach, it will be hard for Montreal to keep up with them.

For the first time in the playoffs, there will be some shuffling among the Lightning’s offensive lines. Alex Killorn didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot in the third period and is “day to day” according to the head coach. Wednesday morning, Coach Cooper confirmed he will be out of the line-up for Game Two. Killorn plays a big role on the forecheck and first power play unit so his loss will be felt. We'll have to wait until game time to see if Mathieu Joseph, GemelSmith or Mitchell Stephens draws in to the line-up. So no need to go scrambling to your betting apps to make any last minute changes just yet.

Coach Cooper could also elect to bring Luke Schenn back into the rotation and go 11/7, but that could be risky with Kucherov still not at 100% and the Canadiens targeting him with extra shots to the midsection. Also, that would be an option that would be more effective on the road when he needs to mix things up without having the last change.

On the other side, expect Joel Armia to return to their fourth line and, more importantly, their penalty kill. His ability to control the puck and make responsible plays could help them defensively.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines and Pairings

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

(?) - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos

Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman

Pat Maroon - Tyler Johnson - Ross Colton

Defense

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - David Savard

Goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy - starter

Curtis McElhinney

Montreal Canadiens Lines and Pairings

Forwards

Artturi Lehkonen - Phillip Danault - Brendan Gallagher

Tyler Toffoli - Nick Suzuki - Cole Caufield

Paul Byron - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Josh Anderson

Joel Armia (?) - Eric Staal - Corey Perry

Defense

Ben Chiarot - Shea Weber

Joel Edmundson - Jeff Petry

Erik Gustafsson - Jon Merrill

Goalies

Carey Price

Jake Allen