There’s a saying – ‘the series doesn’t start until the home team loses.’ Let’s hope the Canadiens are putting more stock into the adage than the actual data because the actual data isn’t promising. There have been 388 NHL teams who have fallen behind two games to none in a playoff series; just 52 (13.4%) have come back to win the series. It’s happened seven times this playoff as well, and just one team – the Golden Knights – came back to advance.
Montreal looked much better in Game Two than in Game One, but Andrei Vasilevskiy has been spectacular so far. He’s allowed just two goals all series and has turned aside 60 shots, including 42 in Game Two. Can Montreal finally find a way to crack Vasilevskiy and get back in this series? They haven’t left themselves with much choice. It’s essentially do or die.
Turning the attention to our best bets, we’ve now hit three plus-money winners in a row after we ever so slightly cashed the Game Two under at +105. Can we make it four straight? Let’s find out.
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: Game Three (TBL Leads 2-0)
The Canadiens were dominated in Game One. As I mentioned in my Game Two preview and best bets piece, the Lightning controlled play for essentially the entire game, outside of the last five or so minutes of the second period. MoneyPuck’s ‘Deserve To Win O’Meter’ said Tampa Bay would have won game one 73.3% of the time; in layman’s terms: they completely dominated it.
Game Two was a different story, however, despite the outcome being the same: a Lightning victory. Montreal this time controlled play and came out on top as far as the ‘Win O’Meter’ was concerned. MoneyPuck concluded that the Canadiens would have won Game Two 64.1% of the time, and while not as dominant as the Lightning’s 73.3% Game One output, it’s still pretty convincing. Expected goals were 3.59 for Montreal to just 2.37 for Tampa Bay, so they really did have a very legitimate chance of stealing Game Two if Andrei Vasilevskiy wasn’t other-worldly.
Montreal also had 56.52% of the scoring chances, 53.85% of the high-danger chances and won the Corsi battle by nearly 20%. Game Two was a total reversal of Game One everywhere but the scoreboard. If you couldn’t already tell, I clearly believe in the home underdogs in Game Three, and they clearly believe in themselves.
— Ryan Szporer (@rszporer) July 1, 2021
Aside from how improved the Canadiens were in Game Two, two additional pillars have me on Montreal in Game Three. The first is Carey Price. He hasn’t been great this series; he’s actually allowed 2.18 goals above expectation which is extremely uncharacteristic for him this playoff. But the secret may be in his home/road splits. On the road this playoff, Price is 7-4, but his save percentage is .919, and he owns a 2.49 goals against average. Not bad by any means, but nothing compared to his performance at the Bell Centre. Price has a .935 save percentage and a 1.88 goals against average to go along with a 5-3 record on home ice. He’s more comfortable in his crease, and I think we’ll see vintage Carey Price tonight.
The second additional pillar is the success of teams down 0-2 in the third game of a series this year. As I mentioned earlier, it’s happened seven times, and the team down 0-2 is surprisingly 4-3 in the third game. Of those seven teams, three have been at home – like Montreal is tonight – and those teams are 2-1. The data isn’t overwhelming, and it’s certainly not a huge sample size, but after getting blanked in the first two games of a series, it’s interesting to see the propensity for bounce-back performances.
Montreal is also expecting their coach, Dominique Ducharme, back behind the bench after sitting out for two weeks in COVID protocol. Interim head coach Luke Richardson has been great, but the return of Ducharme will provide an extra spark. After all, this is the Stanley Cup Final, so motivation will be at its highest for a Canadiens team staring the end of their run right in the face. There’s plenty of reason to believe the Canadiens will become the fifth of eight teams to snatch a Game Three victory and turn this back into a series.
The Pick: Canadiens ML (+115)
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