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NHL Playoff Vibe Check: Lightning needs to strike one more time

Keith Jones, Liam McHugh, Patrick Sharp and Anson Carter break down the top options for the Conn Smythe Trophy and explain why the Tampa Bay Lightning's Andrei Vasilevskiy is the clear favorite.

When a team leads 3-0 in a series there’s only one way to describe the vibes. The Lightning have been dominant all postseason long, but especially so in this Stanley Cup Final with the Canadiens.

While the Bolts have put up 14 goals, the Canadiens have managed just five in the first three games, and three of those came in one game. So it’s fair to say the vibes have not been in favor of the Canadiens.

Even with Carey Price doing his best, the defense in front o him has struggled. That’s cost the Canadiens who also haven’t scored all too well. Meanwhile, the Lightning depth and goaltending has been elite.

So as we check the vibes for likely the last time this Cup Final, there’s not much to check; the games tell the story.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]

Tampa Bay Lightning

The vibe: Champa Bay

Energy check: Actually maybe Tom Brady was the championship key all along.

The Lightning are 60 minutes away from repeating as Stanley Cup champions. It’ll be funny if, the two seasons impacted by the pandemic the most, result in the same Cup winner.

No one in Tampa Bay or who cares about the Lightning will care; they’ll just be the first back-to-back champions since the Penguins did it in 2016 and 2017. They’ll be the newest mini-dynasty in the NHL, and then next season go back into a division with the Maple Leafs and Bruins and Panthers and, yes, these Canadiens.

So, the vibes are, this is a team slated to win another championship Monday night (8 p.m. ET; NBC/Peacock), in a few days, and do something kind of historic and leave the Canadiens in the same category of the Dallas Stars; a trivia question years from now.

Montreal Canadiens

The vibe: Yeaaaah I am not feeling good!

Energy check: Well they changed their entire lineup so that always goes well.

Sometimes a team makes a drastic lineup change and it changes everything. Down 3-0 against the best team in hockey, not sure that’s going to do all that much anyways.

The Canadiens -- who, as noted, have struggled to generate any offense this season -- sat one of their best offensive players in Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Tomas Tatar remains out of the lineup. It’s a move that screams desperation, which, they are desperate. Still, they haven’t scored all that much and taking that kind of scoring out can’t help.

Perhaps this is the changes help. Or perhaps Game 4 is destined to be the last game of the season anyways.

CANADIENS VS. LIGHTNING (TB leads series 3-0)

Game 1: Lightning 5, Canadiens 1
Game 2: Lightning 3, Canadiens 1
Game 3: Lightning 6, Canadiens 3
Game 4: Mon. July 5: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock) - livestream
*Game 5: Wed. July 7: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)
*Game 6: Fri. July 9: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)
*Game 7: Sun. July 11: Canadiens at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)

*if necessary


Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.