The Montreal Canadiens need more than their best offensive line in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa, Fla. – The loser of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals has won the championship in each of the last three years.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will likely end that streak if the Montreal Canadiens don’t get a better performance from the aggressively talented line of Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli.
While the Canadiens have a habit of bouncing back after this season, the series opener was an eye-opener against Tampa Bay’s top trio of Ondrej Palt, Breden Point and Nikita Kucherov. Because the Lightning gets a final line change again in Game 2 on Wednesday night, coach John Cooper can get the line of point on the ice as much as he wants against Suzuki, and it doesn’t look like a favorable matchup for Montreal.
“It looks like they want to play against us full time, so we have to do a better job,” said Suzuki, noting his two turnovers as part of his line’s problems. “You just have to do a better job of cleaning up the turnover, limiting their time and space and doing your best to keep them off the scoresheet.”
This did not happen in Game 1, when Point’s line scored twice on Suzuki’s line and opened it for a 5–1 win. Pulling off the puck against that caliber of opponents isn’t a recipe for Montreal to hang out with Tampa Bay.
Of course, the Canadiens have felt this way before, having already pulled out in the semi-final against Vegas and won six games before. The memory of taking over against Vegas and erasing a 3–1 series deficit to beat Toronto in the first round has given players confidence that they can repeat those comebacks.
It starts with acknowledging how bad Game 1 was.
“We were far from our best game,” said center Philippe Danault. “I felt like we were just a little against Vegas (in Game 1), kind of looking. We’ve got some young players… just to step up and play our game and be confident.”
Montreal’s best game is taking the lead, moving defensively and counting on goal-scorer Carey Price to save. Acting coach Luke Richardson said Monday was one of his team’s worst performances in recent weeks and blamed poor puck management.
Richardson insisted execution, not personnel, was the primary issue.
“Those are going to be adjustments: to make sure we’re playing a little smarter with the puck,” Richardson said. “They’re going to make up their own guilt. We don’t have to help them in any way, that’s for sure. So if we can narrow it down to very little, we’re going to give ourselves a chance.” It’s our own game plan to get more energy and more success.”
The Lightning’s game plan completely neutralized many of the things the Canadiens had done to overcome it, including Price and the penalty kill, which resulted in a streak of 32 chances without a power-play goal. The third was broken late in the period.
Cooper and his team will also have to adjust to Montreal’s take and rely on a mature approach to playoff hockey.
Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said, “(We) are trying to get the strength of our game as much as possible and reduce teams over the course of a long series.” “We always think the big picture is that it might take seven games, so if we stick to our description and continue to play with the pace and the structure and the pressure, we think it pays off in the long run.” ..”
Lightning knows very well how to play the long game and how Canadians feel after losing a series opener. They did last year’s final, trailing Dallas and the last round against the New York Islanders.
Tampa Bay players have stated on several occasions that the Canadiens are “here for a reason” and that they would not underestimate an opponent standing in the way of a second cup championship. But now Montreal is under pressure to show that it is its own.
Suzuki said that Approach is trying to steal the road before heading back home for Games 3 and 4, but also acknowledged that Game 2 is “going to be a big one for confidence,
“We will respond well,” he said. “I think we just got a taste of what they bring to the table and we just have to match that intensity, match their competition and I think we can definitely play with these guys.” Huh.”
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