Can anyone stop the Tampa Bay Lightning in their pursuit of Stanley Cup glory this year? It would take a brave man to back against them on current form. Jon Cooper’s side have won eight of their previous 10 National Hockey League fixtures and another victory looks likely this weekend. It could be backs against the wall stuff for Montreal at Amalie Arena.
The Lightning lead the NHL in wins (46), total points (96) and goals scored (245) – Cooper’s men have been a class above their rivals this season. Taking their current momentum into the playoffs is Tampa Bay’s number one priority now and the Canadiens will be wary of a heavy defeat.
Montreal’s fate is more or less secure – Claude Julien’s side will miss out on the playoffs this year after a disappointing campaign. The Canadiens cannot have any complaints; they just haven’t been good enough or consistent enough. Defensively, Montreal are relatively weak compared to some of their rivals and that is a key factor for their shortcomings.
At the other end of the rink, Montreal have failed to inspire confidence; notching 171 goals so far this season. To put that record into perspective, only two teams (the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres) have scored fewer goals in 2017/18.
Lightning Destined For NHL Glory?
Winning the Stanley Cup is no easy feat but Tampa Bay are well placed to stake a solid claim for ice hockey’s ultimate prize this year. The Lightning have one of the most complete teams in the National Hockey League and punters will be tempted by the 5/1 currently available with bet365.
Crucially, Tampa Bay know how to win close games – that is usually where some franchises tend to fall short. In fact, their last victories have been by the odd goal. The Lightning are in the mix for postseason glory and those tight affairs should benefit them in the long term.
KEY MAN: Nikita Kucherov. You could make a viable argument for Steven Stamkos here but Kucherov could be Tampa Bay’s difference maker once again. With 86 points this season, he is up there with the best offensive players in the league and stopping Kucherov is a difficult task. He will fancy his chances of grabbing his 34th goal of the campaign…
Miserable Month Ahead For Montreal
Preparation for the 2018/19 season starts now for Montreal. Whilst hockey’s top teams are fighting for the Stanley Cup, the Canadiens will be sat at home watching on television – and they only have themselves to blame. It has been a season to forget for Julien’s men and the Montreal head coach must bounce back next year.
This one could get seriously out of hand if the visitors are already in holiday mode. Montreal have nothing to play for now though and motivating this Canadiens side will be hard; Julien will have to rely on all of his experience as a head coach.
KEY MAN: Max Pacioretty. Take your pick – backing any Montreal player to perform well at this moment in time is something of a lottery. Pacioretty is experienced at this level and he has the mental strength to respond in 2018/19. A strong finish to the current campaign may be on the cards.
It is hard to look past a Tampa Bay victory here – and a comfortable victory at that. Backing against the Lightning would be foolish to say the least; every sign and omen points to a home win. This one could get out of hand if Cooper’s side go for the jugular early on.
LIGHTNING 5-1 CANADIENS