Game fives are fun but are almost devoid of drama.
Not this time.
The Montreal Canadiens did what only a few die-hard Canadiens fans thought they could. They forced a game five. That was the first step. The question remains: can they take the next one?
It all starts somewhere. The quest to climb Mount Everest, to break the 4-minute mile barrier, fly from New York to Paris non-stop, and even coming back from being down 0-3.
They accomplished step one, but as well as they played, it took extra time, and great penalty kill and an amazing play to complete it. So let us just say step one was not an easy one for the Canadiens.
The Lighting, on the other hand, can make the Tampa Bay Mayor go from laughing stock to hero in less than 60 minutes. We touched on this after game 4, thinking WTF. Now she might be the one laughing all the way to the bank. Having game 5 in a city that is batting down for a tropical storm, means visitors and a possible parade that help fill the city coffers.
The Lighting are in position to be the second team to repeat in the Cap era. The Pittsburgh Penguins did it first in 2016 and 17. Eleven years after they installed the cap. One win is all it takes.
Game five should be one for the ages. Here are five things to look for during this Stanley Cup Final.
Tropical Strom Elsa
According to WESH.com out of Orlando, FL “At 2 (EST) a.m. on Wednesday, the center of Tropical Storm Elsa was located 95 miles west of Tampa, according to forecasters. Elsa was moving toward the north near 14 mph with maximum sustained winds at 70 mph.”
TROPICAL STORM #ELSA 🌀⛈ Here’s how it looked in Southwest Florida today as outer bands produced a fast-moving shelf cloud. Credit: @WINKNews viewer Marlene Musano @stormhour @spann pic.twitter.com/Gwblp0NfuH
— Matt Devitt (@MattDevittWINK) July 5, 2021
While they have downgraded the storm from a hurricane to a tropical storm and it should be Northwest of Tampa Bay, it could bring some heavy weather and strong wind and rains. As of this writing, there has been no mention of postponing the game, however, this is a developing situation that could change by the time you read this.
The question you may ask is, who does this benefit? The answer might surprise you. Both Team Benefit from a postponement and Montreal gets the upper hand if they play the game during the storm.
Huh?? That makes little sense. But it actually does. If they play the game during the storm, the crowd will not be at the same strength it would be if they postponed the game a day or two. A smaller, less boisterous crowd would help the Habs in my opinion.
In the first two games, the Tampa Bay Faithfull were definitely making up for the lost time. Unable to witness the bolts lift the Cup in 6 games last season they are telling COVID to “Kiss My A$$” we are not missing this one. Now, this tropical storm could hamper the experience a second time.
I could see Tampa wanting this game postponed a day to allow more fans to show up. Not only will it allow more Bolts in the building, but it could also take away a bit of the momentum that the Habs picked up in game four. I think these two cancel each other out. The extra day rest for the Habs, and the extra day of thinking about the one that got away, gives a slight edge to the boys from up North.
They billed this as the match-up of the century. Two all-world goalies, two Vezina winning net-minders, basically two of the games best. It has not turned out to be that.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has come as advertised. In the Finals, he has allowed only eight goals in four games. He has a .932 save percentage and a 1.91 GAA. These are the numbers you expected from him.
Carey Price on the other side of the ice has not come up as big as everyone expected. He has an .867 save Percentage and a sky-high 3.73 GAA allowing in 15 pucks. This has always been a knock-on Price. He was a big-time goalie, except during the big time.
Game five has the be the game we get the match-up we all thought we would. Game four was better, but this is to stay alive for Price.
Price Must have his best game if the Canadiens are to return to Montreal for game six. If not, they could return with their tails between their legs.
Montreal’s Young Guns
Last season was the greeting, this season has been the coming-out party for Nick Suzuki. He is the leading point scorer for the Habs this postseason. Suzuki has seven goals and nine assists to lead the way with 16 points. His line mate, rookie Cole Caufield is third in points dropping 14 (4G, 8A). On the left side of Suzuki is the Hero of game four, Josh Anderson.
Anderson is the veteran of this group. The 27 y/o has played seven seasons, 6 with the Columbus Blue Jackets and this season with the Habs. This line is special, but they have been missing from the finals. Through the four games, they have combined for eight points. Four of those points came in game four. The trio is a combined -7 in the finals.
Montreal must have this line be their top line. If it is Game six, here we come. If not…..
Tampa’s Big Guns
We could call the top six of Tampa the Missouri Group. In the Navy, the 4 Iowa Class Battleships were so powerful. They allowed them to have their own groups. Since I am but a stone’s throw from the USS Missouri’s ultimate resting place, and I was born in the show-me state. We will call these big guns Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, Steven Stamkos, and Nikita Kucherov, the Missouri Group. (The two Iowa Class Battleships were the USS New Jersey, and The USS Wisconsin.)
Kucherov has been the center of controversy this season. Prior to opening night, the Lightning placed him on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) to have hip surgery. Many in and around the league feel the Lightning and other teams used this loophole to circumvent the current salary cap. Not sure where I stand on this.
If this Battle Group sticks together and can thwart the opposition’s attacks, celebrate Tampa.
So, while this is my last thing to watch for, it may be the most important. In almost every big game there is some relatively Unknown and seldom talked about player that has himself a big night. Will Pat Marron get his rare three-peat? Will a coach make a change and put in someone from the press box that makes a difference? We just do not know and that makes the “X” such a noble thing to watch out for.
I have to say I am about as comfortable making this pick as Marron in a pre-game press conference.
But here goes. Do I go with my head or my heart? The Head says Tampa is going to come out like gangbusters and chase Price. The Battlegroup is trained, positioned, and ready to strike. Just like the collation forces were 30 years ago during the Gulf War. We all know how that turned out. Head: Tampa 6-1, and Vasilevskiy picks up a new piece of hardware.
Now my heart. The men in red remind me of the 2019 St. Louis Blues and the Canadian Mounties. The Mounties always get their man, and the Blues broke a 52-year drought. A Canadai(e)ns team has not won the cup since the 75th anniversary season when the Habs denied The Great One his fifth cup. Time and history are on the northern boy’s side. Every time Toronto and Montreal met in the playoff, the winner lifted Lords Stanley’s prize. Heart: Habs 3-2.
Till Next time Hockey Fans.