The Tampa Bay Lightning are proving why they're the defending Stanley Cup champions as well as heavy favourites to hoist the trophy for the second time in two years – and perhaps much sooner that expected.
Is is too early to say the word, "sweep?"
The Lightning made the most of their opportunites in Game 2. Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens had plenty of chances to light the net, but were frustrated most of the game by the tough Lightning defence once again. Tampa Bay has outscored the Canadiens 8-2 and lead the best-of-seven finals 2 games of none.
So, no – it's not too early to think about a sweep.
Game 3, to be played Friday night in Montreal, becomes almost a must-win for the beat-up Canadiens. It's unfathomable that any team, let alone the Habs playing against a top team, can possibly overcome a 0-3 deficit in a Stanley Cup Final.
The bottom line is – a sweep in this series is very possible.
Oddsmakers and the betting public believe the Lightning will win Game 3. They're favoured to win as -140 favourites. The total has dropped, from 5 goals in the first two games down to 4.5, which is shaded to the OVER.
Another number to focus on is the puckline. Even though Tampa Bay has won both games by 2+ goals, they're +210 on that prospect tonight. Taking Montreal plus the +1.5 on the puckline requires laying -285, which has to be one of the worst possible bets anyone could make given how this series has played out so far.
Another number to look at: As of Friday morning, the 2-0 Lightning are listed at -1200 to win the Stanley Cup.
Here's a look at the numbers courtesy of SPREADS.CA:
The situation for Montreal isn't totally without hope. Consider that Game 2 was a much better effort than Game 1 for the Canadiens. In fact, Montreal outplayed Tampa Bay in various facets of the game. They simply couldn't take advantage of plenty of shots on goal (43 to 23!) and multiple power play opportunities.
In the nets, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been superb in this series, and his play is the primary reason the Lightning are now two wins away from repeating as champions. Meanwhile, Carey Price has surrendered eight goals in two games, even though at least two were probably not his fault. Price has won 19 straight playoff games in which the Canadiens have scored at least three goals, but there's no indication Canadiens might not get three goals in Game 3. They've struggled getting to 1 goal in both games.
Yet someway, somehow Montreal must find a way to win tonight. Note that only four teams in NHL history have ever come back from an 0-3 deficit in playoffs; only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs were able to come back from 0-3 in the Stanley Cup Finals. Moreoever, teams that take a 2-0 lead have gone on to win the Stanley Cup 90 percent of occasions.
Prediction: Montreal can be counted on to play tough again at home, but they've been manhandled by the more physical Lightning. The Tampa Bay defence has been in inpenetrable wall, so it's hard to see the Canadiens suddenly breaking through with many goals. Bet Tampa Bay in Game 3, which is a good value given how they've played in this series and Montreal's apparent inability to find the back of the net. Final score forecast – Tampa Bay 2, Montreal 1