Photo: NHL.com (Scott Audette, Getty Images)
The matchup for the 2021 Stanley Cup Final is set. On Friday afternoon, the schedule was announced. Then on Friday night, the matchup was finalized when the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Islanders in Game 7 of the third round of the playoffs. The Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens will be the participants in this year’s Finals, with the first game to take place on Monday, June 28 at 8:00 p.m. at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.
Summary of Playoff Journey
The Lightning beat the New York Islanders in seven games on Friday, getting an early shorthanded goal by Yanni Gourde to take a 1-0 lead and holding onto that lead for the entirety of the game.
Photo: NHL.com (Scott Audette, Getty Images)
The Lightning finished in third place in the Discover Central Division and started their playoff run by facing the Florida Panthers, who had finished second in their division, in the first round in six games.
After that, they met the Carolina Hurricanes, who had finished first in the Discover Central Division, in Round 2, and beat them in just five games. The Lightning, after emerging from the two playoff rounds in the Discover Central, then met the New York Islanders.
The Islanders were the fourth seed from the MassMutual East Division, who defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins and then the Boston Bruins, and won a hard fought seven-game series against them. The Lightning were awarded the Prince of Wales trophy, which generally is awarded to the finalist from the Eastern Conference.
The Lightning, who won the Stanley Cup in 2020, are hoping to become the first team to win back-to-back championships since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017.
Photo: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
The Montreal Canadiens finished in fourth place in the Scotia North Division for the regular season. They met the top-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs and beat them in seven games, coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the process. They advanced to the second round, where they met the Winnipeg Jets, and swept them in four games.
As the Scotia North playoff winners, they met the Vegas Golden Knights, winners of the Honda West Division and beat them in six games. The Golden Knights themselves had advanced past the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche during the first two rounds. The Canadiens were awarded the Clarence Campbell Trophy which generally is awarded to the finalist from the Western Conference.
This is the first time the Canadiens have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1993.
2021 Stanley Cup Finals Playoff Schedule
Game 1: Mon. June 28: Canadiens at Lightning, Amalie Arena, 8:00 p.m. ET
Game 2: Wed. June 30: Canadiens at Lightning, Amalie Arena, 8:00 p.m. ET
Game 3: Fri. July 2: Lightning at Canadiens, Bell Center, 8:00 p.m. ET
Game 4: Mon. July 5: Lightning at Canadiens, Bell Center, 8:00 p.m. ET
*Game 5: Wed. July 7: Canadiens at Lightning, Amalie Arena, 8:00 p.m. ET
*Game 6: Fri. July 9: Lightning at Canadiens, Bell Center, 8:00 p.m. ET
*Game 7: Sun. July 11: Canadiens at Lightning, Amalie Arena, 7:00 p.m. ET
All games will start at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, except for Game 7 which will start at 7:00 p.m. The first two games will be broadcast on NBCSN. The remaining games will be broadcast on NBC. In Canada, they will be broadcast on CBC, Sportsnet, and TVA. Games are available for streaming on Peacock.
Past Playoff Matchups
The teams have never previously met in the Stanley Cup Finals, however, they have previously played each other in the playoffs on three different occasions. They met in the second round of the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs, in which Tampa Bay swept the Canadiens on their way to eventually winning the Stanley Cup. 10 years later, they met in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. This time, the Canadiens returned the favor and swept Tampa Bay. They had a rematch the very next year, in the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This time, Tampa Bay advanced by beating Montreal in six games.
Photo: NHL.com (Tampa Bay Lightning web site)
Stanley Cup Playoff Team Leaders
Going into the Stanley Cup Finals, the leading point scorer for Tampa Bay is Nikita Kucherov with 27 points (five goals and 22 assists). Their leading goal scorer is Braydon Point with 14 goals; the Lightning’s leader in assists is Kucherov with 22.
The leading point scorer for Montreal is Tyler Toffoli with 14 points (five goals and nine assists) followed closely by Nick Suzuki with 13 points (five goals and eight assists). Toffoli, Suzuki, Joel Armia, and Jesper Kotkaniemi all have five goals. Toffoli is the Canadiens’ leader in assists with nine, followed by Suzuki with eight.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has compiled a Save Percentage of .936 and a Goals-Against Average of 1.99 in 18 playoffs games. The Montreal Canadiens will counter with Carey Price, who has compiled a Save Percentage of .934 and a Goals-Against Average of 2.02 in 17 games.
Former Capitals Involved
There are no former Washington Capitals playing for either the Montreal Canadiens or the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals. The Caps’ fanbase is likely divided for whom to root.
However, there is one former Capitals player coaching for the Lightning. Jeff Halpern who played with the Capitals from 1999-2006, is an assistant coach. As a member of Tampa Bay’s coaching staff for the 2019-20 season, he lifted the Stanley Cup as part of their celebration.
By Diane Doyle