The Tampa Bay Lightning kicked off the 2021 Stanley Cup Final on a much higher note than they did the 2020 Stanley Cup Final with a convincing 5-1 victory over the visiting Montreal Canadiens. Tampa Bay looked dominant at times and controlled play for a large portion of the game outside a five or six-minute window near the end of the second period. Montreal looked shell-shocked, and if they don’t bounce back immediately, they’ll be heading back north of the border in a daunting 2-0 hole.
It’s rare to see such a heavy moneyline favorite in a Stanley Cup Final game, but the Lightning are such a dynamic force that I anticipate us seeing similar prices as long as this series lasts. Tampa Bay opened at -200 on the moneyline, and early money brought the price all the way to -215. There’s absolutely no value left on them at this point, and while there’s plenty of value on the underdog Canadiens to steal a game at Amalie Arena, I’ve got a better way to attack Game Two.
Our best bet record for the year sits at 13-8-1, up 3.8 units thanks to back-to-back plus money winners. Let’s add another winning ticket to the ledger and finish out the year strong.
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens: Game Two (TBL Leads 1-0)
As much as I would love to hit another big plus-money winner, I don’t have much faith in Montreal to overcome the sheer depth and skill of the Lightning. Not after their Game One showing, anyway, and not on the road in Tampa. According to MoneyPuck’s ‘Deserve To Win O’Meter,’ which measures many metrics to determine which team actually deserved to win and how heavily they deserved to do so, Tampa Bay would win a similarly played game 73.3% of the time. Domination, so let’s pivot to the total.
The total for Game Two sits at 5, and it’s a difficult number to take the under on because of the obvious possibility of a push. Especially on a late, meaningless empty-netter. However, we can get a +105 price at some books and even-money at others, so there’s a ton of value to be had, and I think Game Two is going to be a low-scoring one.
Take a look at Game One, for example. The first period ended with just a single goal, and it was 2-1 after two periods. But, Tampa Bay poured it on in the third period after the Canadiens completely lost their composure. In fact, the over cashed with just 1:10 left, on a meaningless power-play goal to make the score 5-1 after Montreal took a bad penalty. Game One didn’t go the Canadiens way at all, and they let their frustrations boil over. That won’t happen twice in a row; the coaching staff won’t let this team put its Cup dreams in peril by taking uncharacteristic penalties again.
I also trust Carey Price – who’s been in top form this playoff, saving 12.1 goals above expectation through the first three rounds – to play much better after allowing 1.55 goals above expectation in Game One. Since the Canadiens fell behind Toronto three games to one in the opening series and not including Monday night’s game against Tampa Bay, Price has allowed three or more goals three times. In the games immediately following, he’s allowed just four combined goals, including one shutout. He’s got a short memory, and I’m expecting a bounce-back effort.
The Stanley Cup Final goalie duel, visualized.
Carey Price and Andrei Vasilevskiy are virtually neck-and-neck in goals saved above expected. #GoHabsGo #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/AjtXtchsDf
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) June 28, 2021
We’ve also got Andrei Vasilevskiy in our corner, and I’ve sung his praises enough this playoff, but he was barely challenged in Game One. He saw just 18 shots and stopped all but one; this coming after an 18-save shutout of the Islanders in Game Seven of the semifinal round. He’s also seen 30 or more shots just twice in the last 11 games, and with a .934 save percentage, the low volume of shots reaching his crease just aren’t going to be enough to threaten the over. Montreal didn’t create nearly enough high-danger chances on Monday night either, totaling just 46.7% of the high-danger opportunities.
Game Two is going to be a battle of the goaltenders. Montreal will clamp down and make sure their goaltender isn’t peppered like he was in Game One, and Tampa Bay will continue to form a wall in front of their netminder. I expect a lot fewer scoring chances on both sides and like the under at plus-money.
The Pick: Lightning / Canadiens Under 5 (+105)
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Mike Wagenman is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @mjwags23.
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