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Well, What Did You Expect -- A Miracle?
Bolts take Game 1. Kucherov notches his 30th point of the postseason, giving him 64 in the past two postseasons.
There could be a sweep in the works!
One thing you can say about the Lightning -- they're still the Champs.
And until the Canadiens prove otherwise, will remain la creme de la creme of the National Hockey League.
The sometimes Flying Frenchmen got that translation last night at Amalie Arena. Not surprisingly, Tampa Bay annexed Game One of the Stanley Cup Final with a 5-1 decision.
Which is not to dismiss the Habs out of hand. They have fooled us before and they very easily could pull off an upset again.
Just try telling that to Steven Stamkos and his merry blend of skaters who often seem to rival the wind.
Let's face it, The Champs can match -- or, in most cases surpass -- the Visitors every which way. And when they put their mind to it, the results underline that point.
Prior to the opening faceoff, the Habs best hope was in goal; as usually has been the case when Carey Price is healthy.
His problem stems from the act that he's not six feet wide and four feet high. And since he lacks full net dimensions, there are ways to beat him apart from the five, six or seven holes.
From the get-go, the Habs showed grit and speed. It was impressive.
But it wasn't as impressive as the Lightning's rush-rush-rush, nasty in-fighting and passing like you wouldn't believe.
Yeah-yeah, Montreal pushed back and came awfully close a few times. But no cigar.
Meanwhile, Price seemed to have a revolving head trying to keep track of the Bolts dizzying pace. When necessary, the likes of Alex Killorn (who sat out most of the third) was tossing their bodies in front of Canadiens shots.
Still, the Habs shook it all off and finally got on board with a screened deflection. The second period ended with Tampa nursing a one goal lead.
But the nurse didn't hang around for long. In virtually no time at all the Bolts proved that it pays to go to the net. A fluke deflection led to the third goal; only because a net charge preceded it.
The Bolts kept looking more and more unbeatable when Nikita Kucherov upped it to 4-1 with meteoric wrister.
Uncannily, the Lightning upped the another notch and the nastiness as well. Blake Coleman went to the box for bloodying Brendan Gallagher, something awful.
As if their lead wasn't enough, the Bolts seemed determine to win every physical battle as the third game wound down.
That said, there is an element -- call it "secret weapon," if you will -- that, at some point, could give Montreal an edge; though not much of one.
Without Duke Ducharme behind the Canadiens bench, the general staff chose Luke Richardson to mastermind the team.
Cool Hand Luke has proven to be both master and mind.
He's proven to be a superior "players coach," with a creative head that may, in fact, be superior to that of the very efficient Ducharme.
After all somebody has to keep coaxing those Mighty Mouse Habs along their Miracle Mile.
So, we shall see what we shall see. Opening games of the Final round have a touch of opening games of the season. There's a tendency to make much over a millimeter.
When the Islanders won the first match of the last round, there was talk that the Nassaumen could pull off an upset. Credit them with coming within two goals of making the Final.
But that New York miracle never materialized because hockey is a game of mistakes and the Isles committed one faux pas that deleted their dream.
Which brings us to Game Two and the need for the Montrealers to demonstrate that they really can play the Bolts even or even beat them.
Fascinating stuff, these playoffs, aren't they?