The Tampa Bay Lightning begin their pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup tonight against the Montreal Canadiens. This marks the team’s first trip to the playoffs since the 2010-2011 season, when they were eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals by the Boston Bruins (the eventual Stanley Cup Champions). The Canadiens are the only team from Canada in this year’s playoff field, marking the first time since 1973 that the postseason will feature just one team from up north (h/t Sean McIndoe). This will be the second ever playoff meeting between the two teams, as the Lightning swept the Habs in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on their way to becoming the 2004 Stanley Cup Champions.
Entering the playoffs, the Bolts are 25/1 to win the Stanley Cup; the Canadiens have a slight edge at 20/1. The winner of this series will advance to take on the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings. The Bruins are the odds on favorite to win the Cup (7/2), while Detroit, which fought to keep its playoff streak alive, enters the postseason with 30/1 odds to win it all. The Bolts are 11/1 to win the Eastern Conference and Vegas currently has the Habs at 8/1. By most accounts, the Lightning are entering the opening series as underdogs against the Canadiens, despite winning 3 of 4 in the regular season. It is worth noting that only one game in the regular season series ended in regulation, so it would be safe to assume that this will be a very evenly matched series.
- How will Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper handle his first playoff experience?
- Will Bolts netminder Ben Bishop return during the series (NOTE: It has already been announced that he will not play in tonight’s opener)?
- How will Anders Lindback handle the starting duties for the Lightning after posting two shutouts to close out the season?
- Can Steven Stamkos lead the Bolts to success in a post-St. Louis era?
- Will the physicality of this series have an impact on the eventual winner moving forward?
- It seems that every time the Bolts make the playoffs, our fans resort to “Stanley Needs A Tan” signs. This year, we’ve even created a song:
Game 1: Montreal Canadiens @ Tampa Bay Lightning
When: Wednesday, April 16th @ 7 p.m. EST
Line: Lightning -120
TV: Sun Sports, CBC, RDS, CNBC
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra App.
Game 2 (April 18): Montreal @ Tampa Bay (7 p.m. EST, CNBC)
Game 3 (April 20): Tampa Bay @ Montreal (7 p.m. EST, NBCSN)
Game 4 (April 22): Tampa Bay @ Montreal (7 p.m. EST, NHLN)
Game 5* (April 24): Montreal @ Tampa Bay (7 p.m. EST, CNBC)
Game 6* (April 27): Tampa Bay @ Montreal (TBD, NBCSN)
Game 7* (April 29): Montreal @ Tampa Bay (TBD, CBC)
For a more in-depth preview of tonight’s match-up, be sure to visit Bolts by the Bay.