Montreal Canadiens (46-28-8) at Tampa Bay Lightning (46-27-9)
|Date & Time||Wednesday April 16, 2014, 7:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Tampa Bay Lightning -133 / Montreal Canadiens +121 --- Over/Under: 5
The Lightning and Canadiens kick off the 2014 NHL postseason in Tampa Bay as these Atlantic division foes are in for an exciting battle.
The Canadiens head into the postseason as the third seed in the Atlantic division and thanks in large part to a shootout win on the final day of the season by the Lightning the Habs have to take to the road to start the season at the St. Pete’s Times Forum. The matchup between these two teams has been imminent for weeks thanks to a spectacular season by the Bruins but the matter of home ice was still to be determined and it was the Lightning who were rewarded with the benefit of playing with home ice advantage. The Canadiens are playing very well heading into the playoffs having won seven of their last 10 contests and if they’re going to win this series they know they have to steal a game on the road and their best chance to do so is in the early going either in game one or two. Carey Price is the better of the two goalies in this series and gives Montreal a nice edge in that regard but Ben Bishop, if healthy isn’t too far behind and is certainly capable of stealing a couple games.
The Lightning finished off the regular season having won four straight contests with the last three without Bishop who tweaked his lower body in what is now a meaningless game and could be sidelined for the postseason. Tampa Bay has endured a ton of adversity this season as they lost Steven Stamkos to injury for most of the year, have had to deal with the Marty St. Louis saga, and now one of their key players in Ryan Malone has been charged with a DUI and possession of cocaine which can only add to the madness that has been the off ice circus for the Bolts this season. Tampa is a decent team but I don’t see them as being much of a threat in the Eastern Conference playoffs especially as mentioned if Bishop is on the shelf as Anders Lindback is far from a playoff goalie and if they are relying on him to outduel Carey Price they’re in a trouble. While the first game usually favours the home side I think the Canadiens will be geared up here and if they’re going to split the first two in Tampa I think they come out flying here and take the series opener.