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The NBC Sports Edge staff have gathered to give their Stanley Cup Final picks. The Final will take place between Tampa Bay and Montreal, a third seed and a fourth seed in their respective divisions.
Ryan: Montreal in 6. There isn’t any great logic behind this pick. The Tampa Bay Lightning are the better team on paper. As amazing as Carey Price has been, the Lightning offense will be his greatest test yet and if anyone can match a red-hot Price, it’s Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Plus, more than any other opponent that Montreal has faced, the Lightning know how to win when the stakes are at their highest. So rationally I should be picking the Lightning to win this series, but I’m not. Hockey isn’t always rational. Sometimes the right team at the right time can do something truly special, even when it looks like technically, they shouldn’t. Montreal has come together to do something special and they know that if they can’t convert, they may never get another chance like this. I think they’ll finish what they started.
Corey: Montreal in seven – The Canadiens have been the Cinderella story of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They have been underestimated throughout the postseason and all they have done is defeat each team put in front of them. Montreal has heated up at exactly the right time and are currently riding an 11-2 run into the Stanley Cup Final. The penalty kill, which could be a major key to the series, has been excellent and the team has gotten timely goal scoring up and down the lineup. The Canadiens have also managed to shut down the best players on the opposition during this impressive run. Tampa Bay, who are the reigning and defending champions, will be the stiffest test and they have proven before that they can rise to the occasion when it matters most. Montreal could finally cool down and run into a buzzsaw that is the Lightning, but the way they have played in the postseason so far suggests otherwise. Tampa Bay will be a heavy favorite, but that hasn’t stopped Montreal from having success before, as they seem to relish the role of the underdog, and it would not come as a surprise if they had more upset in them. If that comes to pass then Carey Price would be my winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy. He has been instrumental in the team’s success and if he can outduel Andrei Vasilevskiy then he certainly deserves the award.
Jeff: Tampa over Montreal in 6 Games – I’ll continue to go against the Canadiens and maybe I’ll eventually be right. This is by far Montreal’s biggest test and they’ll need every ounce of juice left in the tank to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. News is currently breaking that Joel Armia is in the COVID-19 protocol and he is a huge piece of Montreal’s impressive PK and fourth line. The Habs played so well against Vegas but it was really their penalty kill that pushed them over the edge, never giving the Golden Knights a chance to build momentum. My worry for this series is that Tampa’s power play is like none the Canadiens have seen yet and the series will be either won or lost depending on who wins the battle of the special teams. My Conn Smythe winner is Brayden Point. I believe he should have won the trophy last season. His goals have been as clutch as they come and he has been Tampa’s most consistent skater throughout the postseason. In my eyes, it’ll come down between Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Who will have the bigger series?
Joey: Tampa Bay in 7 – As someone who is born and raised in Montreal, there’s nothing I’d rather see than the Canadiens putting their Stanley Cup drought to bed. The fans here deserve it. I don’t think the Canadiens will be totally overmatched by Tampa, but the Lightning are battle-tested and they know what it takes to go all the way. I think the championship experience they picked up in the bubble will help get them over the hump this year. The Canadiens and Islanders are very similar in the way that they play, so the Lightning will know what to expect from this Montreal team. Of course, Carey Price could steal a game or two in the series and swing the Cup Montreal’s way, but Andrei Vasilevskiy is fully capable of doing that too. I think this one is going to be tight to the very end.
Michael: Tampa Bay in 7 The Canadiens have to win at least one of the first two games in order to have a chance to win the series. If they fail to do so, I think the Lightning will win in five. The biggest difference should be the depth of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The series will be close as the Canadiens are a similar team to the New York Islanders who pushed the Lightning to seven games, but unless Carey Price is able to stand on his head, the Lightning should prevail. There is too much scoring on all four Tampa Bay lines at this time. It will be interesting to see if Mikhail Sergachev is a difference maker, as Tampa Bay acquired him from Montreal for Jonathan Drouin who is out for the remainder of the season. The Lightning are strong up and down their lineup, and while Vegas was as well, and Montreal still beat them in six games, Tampa Bay is just a bit stronger. I guess I’m the only Toronto writer to pick the Lightning. The Conn Smythe should go to Carey Price. He has been spectacular and I expect more of the same in the Final.
Consensus: Tampa Bay 3 Montreal 2