The Montreal Canadiens continued to silence the naysayers with their stunning semi-final series victory over the heavily favoured Vegas Golden Knights, and are set to make their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 28 years when they take the ice at Amalie Arena for Game 1 on Monday night. Underachievers during the regular season, the Canadiens have powered their unlikely march to the Final with impressive defensive team play and spectacular goaltending. Now expected to face their greatest challenge of the playoffs against the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the Habs continue their bid for their first Stanley Cup title in 28 years pegged as lengthy underdogs.
CanadianBettingSites takes a look at how the Canadiens and Lightning stack up as the puck drops on this year’s Stanley Cup Final, and where to find value on the NHL playoff odds. Sports bettors getting into NHL playoff action for the first time can learn more about how to gain an edge by reviewing or guide on how to bet on hockey.
Cinderella Canadiens Defying the Odds
It has truly been a tale of two seasons for the Montreal Canadiens. Fortunate to back into a playoff spot while falling to defeat in their final five regular-season games, the Canadiens were expected to put up little resistance against the high-powered Toronto Maple Leafs in their first-round matchup. And indeed, Toronto pushed the Habs to the brink of the elimination, taking a 3-1 series lead that dumped Montreal’s Stanley Cup odds to as long as 96.00.
All I know is that IF the Canadiens beat Tampa for the Stanley Cup, it will be one of the greatest Cinderella runs in pro sports history. That story will be regularly mentioned, discussed, researched, published, and referenced on its way to hockey immortality.
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) June 26, 2021
But with Carey Price flashing the sensational form that has previously earned him Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy honours, the Canadiens have since rewritten that narrative. The club rebounded to hand Toronto yet another massively disappointing playoff defeat in seven games, and followed up with stunning upset series wins as underdogs against both the Winnipeg jets and Vegas Golden Knights.
Youngsters Making a Difference in Montreal
Winners in 11 of 13 contests entering Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Canadiens recent turnaround has yet to give them an edge at the sportsbooks. Now faced with the daunting task of getting past the defending champion Lightning to claim their first Cup victory, the Canadiens once again find themselves in the role of underdogs, with a $20 bet at 10bet on a Montreal championship win (3.25) returning $65.00.
#Habs Cole Caufield becomes the 5th #Canadiens rookie since 1993 (!!) to record multiple career points in potential series-clinching games (Caufield had an assist on the series-clinching goal in Round 2 vs. Winnipeg)
— Priyanta Emrith (@HabsInHighHeels) June 25, 2021
Despite the continued tempered expectations at the sportsbooks, there is plenty to like about this club. The Canadiens have consistently played smothering defence during their Cinderella run, and have benefited from the arrival of budding stars that have given a much-needed boost to what was a moribund attack during the regular season. The club has surrendered just 25 total goals during their current 11-2 run, while the youthful trio of Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi have combined to rack up 27 total points during that stretch.
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Battle-Hardened Lightning a Formidable Foe
The question now is whether the Canadiens can maintain their magical play against a battle-hardened Lightning squad set to make their third Stanley Cup Final appearance in seven years. With 19 players from last year’s championship roster set to hit the ice for Game 1, Tampa Bay holds a clear edge in experience. And like the Maple Leafs and Golden Knights, the Lightning were among the highest-scoring teams in the NHL during the regular season. Those factors have been key to Tampa Bay’s climb to the top of the odds to claim a straight second Stanley Cup, with a $20 bet at Sports Interaction (1.42) returning just $28.40.
The Lightning can beat you so many different ways. They can win a game by scoring a ton with guys like Kucherov and Stamkos, and can beat you in a tough, physical, low scoring game with guys like Gourde and Coleman
— Joe Collins (@joedcollins1) June 18, 2021
But unlike the Canadiens’ previous high-powered opponents during this postseason, it has been a stingy defensive play that has made the difference during Tampa Bay’s playoff run. The Lightning have limited opponents to two or fewer goals in nine of their past 13 games and allowed just 11 total goals during their seven-game series victory over the New York Islanders. With the stage now set for a low-scoring Final, the opportunity exists for sports bettors laying wagers on the puck total after seeing the OVER prevail just three times in Tampa Bay’s last 14 contests and just four times in Montreal’s 17 contests in this postseason.
A Two-Way Race for the Conn Smythe
Of course, neither of these teams would likely have seen their defence-first strategies pay off were it not for the spectacular play of their respective goaltenders. Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy has been lights out since the end of the first round, the 26-year-old has allowed more than two goals just four times in his last 13 outings, and has risen to the occasion when it has mattered most, with three of his four shutouts coming in series-clinching games. That has lifted Vasilevskiy to a strong favourite to take home Conn Smythe Trophy honours as the MVP of this year’s playoffs, with a $20 bet at Betway (2.50) returning just $50.00.
On this day in 1987, the @EdmontonOilers win their 3rd Stanley Cup in 4 years thanks to a 3-1 defeat of the Flyers in the 1st SC Final series to go 7 since 1971. Meanwhile, Ron Hextall becomes the 4th of 5 all-time players from the losing team in a SCF to win a Conn Smythe Trophy pic.twitter.com/5QRwIEsDkX
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) May 31, 2021
Not surprisingly, Price closely trails Vasilevskiy on the Conn Smythe Trophy odds, and with good reason. Few would argue that were it not for Price’s acrobatic play against Toronto, the Canadiens would not get out of the first round. Montreal’s position as underdogs to lift the Cup have dampened Price’s odds. Indeed, the Lightning remain the best bet to defend their title. However, seeing a player from a losing team win the Conn Smythe is not without precedent. That history certainly makes Price the best bet to add to his trophy case, with a $20 bet on price at Bodog (2.75) returning a generous $55.00.