The Canadiens staved off elimination on Monday night to force a Game Five back in Tampa Bay and avoided becoming the first team since the 1997-98 Capitals to get swept in the Stanley Cup Final. Luckily for NHL fans and bettors, we’ll be treated to at least one more night of hockey before a three-plus month offseason.
Friday’s best bet didn’t go as planned. The Canadiens were gashed by the Lightning in a 6-3 defeat, handing us our first loss in the last four wagers. Tonight could be the last NHL betting opportunity of the season, and if it is, let’s make sure we go out on a high note and make one last improvement to the season’s 13-9-1 record.
Here’s my best bet for Game Five of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens: Game Five (TBL Leads 3-1)
Montreal came out of the gate in Game Four looking like a team who wanted to get the game over with and head to the golf course. But a switch flipped about halfway through the first period, and from then on, the Canadiens were energetic, physical, and the better of the two teams on the ice. Now the series heads back to Tampa Bay, where the Canadiens had all kinds of trouble in the first two games, and while I do think the Lightning are going to wrap this thing up and avoid a flight back north of the border, I don’t think there’s any value at all left on the Bolts at -225. We’ve got to find better value, and I believe I have.
Andrei Vasilevskiy’s marvelous run of dominance in series-clinching victories has been widely touted throughout these playoffs. As I highlighted in my series preview, the Tampa Bay netminder is 7-0 with a .967 save percentage and 0.89 goals-against average in the last seven series-deciding wins, including shutouts in each of the last four. Vasilevskiy had a chance to slam the door shut on the Canadiens in Game Four but let in three, including the overtime winner, and while this may seem like his run of excellence has concluded, it actually follows a very familiar pattern.
Of the last five victories to win a series, four have come after a loss, and three of those losses were in overtime. It sounds eerily similar to the situation we’re in Game Five. Furthermore, four of the seven wins came on home ice, exactly where the Lightning will be tonight. Don’t let Game Four deter you; Vasilevskiy has done this dance before. He’ll be up to the task in Game Five, as will the Lightning.
How’s this for a stat?
Tampa Bay Lightning after a loss, last 2 postseasons:
13-0, 3.85 GF/GP, 1.46 GA/GP
Andrei Vasilevskiy after a loss, last 2 postseasons:
13-0, .949 Sv%, 1.30 GAA
You know the deal: Do it one more time. #GoBolts
— Michael Wax (@MichaeljWax) July 6, 2021
To add to the deck that’s already stacked against the Canadiens, they haven’t generated much scoring in Tampa Bay this series. They netted just a goal in each of the two games at Amalie Arena and only averaged two goals per game for the entire series, regardless of venue. They’re going to have trouble scoring again tonight, and because of that, we’re going to attack their team total.
With the game total at over/under 5 and the Lightning as heavy favorites, we can imply that the books don’t expect the Canadiens to exceed two goals as a team. Yet somehow, their team total of 2 is -105 at most books and no lower than -112 at others. The worst-case scenario here is a push, but given Vasilevskiy’s dominant run and the Canadiens’ inability to score in Tampa Bay, I think there’s a ton of value on this total at nearly even money. And because the Lightning goaltender has been so strong in elimination games, I’m going to place an extra quarter-unit on him to shut the Canadiens out at +600.
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