Stanley Cup Final predictions for Lightning vs. Canadiens

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Of the 10 who picked the Lightning, four predicted center Brayden Point will win the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is awarded to the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Four predicted goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy will be named MVP and two selected forward Nikita Kucherov

All five writers and editors who predicted the Canadiens to win the Cup chose goalie Carey Price to win the Conn Smythe.

Game 1 of the Final is Monday in Tampa Bay (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS). 

Here are their picks:

 

Amalie Benjamin, staff writer
Semifinals record:
1-1
Record through three rounds: 5-9

PICK: Canadiens in 7

WHY: This has been a topsy-turvy Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the popular picks going down over and over again. So with this series pitting the defending Stanley Cup winners against the team no one expected to get out of the Stanley Cup First Round, it stands to reason that this would be the time for an upset to finish off the playoffs. With the chance to win their first Cup since 1993 — and the first for Canada since that year — the Canadiens will ride the goaltending of Price to the ultimate prize. 

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Carey Price, Canadiens

Tim Campbell, staff writer
Semifinals record:
1-1
Record through three rounds: 6-8

PICK: Canadiens in 7

WHY: The Lightning have the best defenseman in the NHL in Victor Hedman, a possible Vezina Trophy winner (again) in goalie Vasilevskiy and the pedigree of a champion, having methodically taken care of business to win the Cup last season. The Canadiens barely made it to the postseason and have not faced a team of this quality in the playoffs but there’s just something about the cumulative effect of Montreal’s group of defensemen and Price that says, ‘Why not?’ 

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Carey Price, Canadiens

Brian Compton, deputy managing editor
Semifinals record:
0-2
Record through three rounds: 8-6

PICK: Lightning in 6

WHY: Tampa Bay has plenty of firepower, but it showed during the Stanley Cup Semifinals against the New York Islanders it has the ability to roll four lines and play a fearless defensive style. The third line of Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman gave the Islanders fits, and Gourde will be extremely fired up to have a chance to play in the Cup Final in his home province of Quebec. The Vasilevskiy-Price showdown in goal will be must-see television, but Vasilevskiy had two shutouts over the last three games of the Semfinals and is showing no signs of fatigue. 

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Nikita Kucherov, Lightning

Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist
Semifinals record:
1-1
Record through three rounds: 5-9

PICK: Lightning in 6

WHY: Since the Columbus Blue Jackets upset them in 2019, the Lightning not only have not lost a playoff series, they have not lost consecutive playoff games. In the Semifinals, they defeated the Islanders, a team like the Canadiens that takes away the middle and counterattacks. They showed they can win 8-0 or 1-0. They will defend their Stanley Cup championship.

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Brayden Point, Lightning

William Douglas, staff writer
Semifinals record:
1-1
Record through three rounds: 8-6

PICK: Lightning in 6

WHY: Flexibility and goaltending. Tampa Bay has shown throughout the playoffs it can defeat teams a variety of ways, whether it’s a high-scoring game or a defensive battle like the 1-0 victory against the Islanders in Game 7 of the Semifinals. And they’re getting stellar goaltending from Vasilevskiy. As excellent as Price has been for the Canadiens, Vasilevskiy has been slightly better with a playoff-leading four shoutouts to go along with a 1.99 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning  

Tom Gulitti, staff writer
Semifinals record:
0-2
Record through three rounds: 5-9

PICK: Canadiens in 6

WHY: After picking against them every round and being wrong, I’m convinced Montreal is a team of destiny and has what it takes to thwart Tampa Bay’s repeat bid. Since trailing the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 in the first round, the Canadiens are 11-2 and appear to be getting better with each opponent. Price is at the top of his game, captain Shea Weber anchors a stifling defense and rookie forward Cole Caufield has added another dimension to the Montreal offense.

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Carey Price, Canadiens

Pete Jensen, senior fantasy editor
Semifinals record:
1-1
Record through three rounds: 6-8

PICK: Lightning in 6

WHY: With captain Steven Stamkos healthy this playoffs, Tampa Bay is arguably an even stronger team than it was during the championship run last season. The Lightning just reminded everyone they can play fast and outscore their opponent 8-0 or lock it down and win 1-0 on any given night. The Canadiens have been an incredible Cinderella story and close to perfect on the penalty kill, but their clock may strike midnight against the supremely talented and battle-tested Lightning. And Vasilevskiy can go toe-to-toe with Price throughout the series to offset Montreal’s best player.

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Brayden Point, Lightning

Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor
Semifinals record:
1-1
Record through three rounds: 8-6

PICK: Lightning in 6

WHY: Tampa Bay is a high-skill team, with four lines that can score, a group of top-end defensemen and an elite goalie in Vasilevskiy who plays his best in the biggest games. But that’s not why the Lightning will win the Stanley Cup for the second straight season. It’s their championship mindset. They never panicked in Game 7 of the Semifinals against the Islanders, winning for the 14th straight time after a postseason loss. They understand how to deal with adversity, which might be their best skill, and that will give them the edge against the Canadiens.

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning

Mike G. Morreale, staff writer
Semifinals record:
0-2
Record through three rounds: 6-8

PICK: Lightning in 7

WHY: Montreal has been a surprise, due in large part to the goaltending of Price. The Stanley Cup Final, however, will come down to experience and Tampa Bay has that in bunches as the defending champion. The Lightning have greater depth and that could bode well against a tough, active Canadiens defense that prides itself on limiting the number of Grade-A scoring chances. Tampa Bay’s bottom six, including centers Gourde and Tyler Johnson, has played a key role and if there’s one goalie capable of going save for save with Price, it’s Vasilevskiy, who has four shutouts this postseason.

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Andre Vasilevskiy, Lightning

Tracey Myers, staff writer
Semifinals record:
1-1
Record through three rounds: 4-10

PICK: Canadiens in 7

WHY: I have been wrong for three straight rounds on Montreal. I’m now buying in. Price has done tremendous work in net. Caufield has shown nifty moves and veteran poise. The Canadiens defense has been outstanding, and their penalty kill has been especially effective with 30 straight kills since Game 4 against the Maple Leafs in the first round. Montreal has been waiting since 1993 for another chance at the Cup. It’s taken me a while, but I’m now a believer the Canadiens will take it. 

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Carey Price, Canadiens

Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial
Semifinals record:
1-1
Record through three rounds: 6-8

PICK: Lightning in 6

WHY: The Canadiens have had a good run, knocking off quality opposition at each turn, but none of those teams had the championship pedigree possessed by the Lightning, the defending Cup champions. It’s also hard to argue that any of the teams Montreal defeated had the talent that Tampa Bay boasts throughout its lineup, including Vasilevskiy, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and the best goalie the Canadiens have faced to this point. Hedman is elite and is surrounded by a strong supporting cast of defensemen. At forward, there’s a scoring threat, if not more, on each line. The Islanders play similar in style to the Canadiens and the Lightning solved the challenges they presented as the series went along. I expect the same to happen here.

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Brayden Point, Lightning

Dan Rosen, senior writer
Semifinals record:
1-1
Record through three rounds: 4-10

PICK: Lightning in 7

WHY: This team has something magical going on and it will lead to another Stanley Cup championship. The Canadiens are a dangerous opponent, but so were the Islanders and the Lightning found a way. They can win any type of game; low scoring, high scoring, defensive, run and gun. Vasilevskiy can go save for save with Price. Moreover, Tampa Bay is perhaps the best postseason adjustment team in NHL history. The Lightning do not lose two games in a row and they won’t in this series, either.

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Nikita Kucherov, Lightning

David Satriano, staff writer
Semifinals record:
1-1
Record through three rounds: 8-6

PICK: Lightning in 5

WHY: There’s no denying what the Canadiens and Price have done throughout these playoffs. However, their feel-good story ends here. Tampa Bay has won seven straight series and is 14-0 following a loss in the postseason since 2020. They are the defending champions and know how to win. Vasilevskiy has had shutouts in each of the Lightning’s past four series clinchers and will do so again as the Lightning go back to back.

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning 

Dave Stubbs, columnist
Semifinals record:
1-1
Record through three rounds: 6-8

PICK: Canadiens in 6

WHY: Having gone 0-3 in postseason predictions involving the 24-time Stanley Cup-champion Canadiens, I can disbelieve no longer. There is stardust showering on this team; call it destiny. Back in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 28 years, Montreal is a playoff-built team of seasoned veterans led by Weber, solid role players and kids who are too young to understand the meaning of the word pressure, all skating in front of the lights-out goaltending of Price. The “Drive for 25” will reach its destination. 

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Carey Price, Canadiens

Mike Zeisberger, staff writer
Semifinals record:
1-1
Record through three rounds: 7-7

PICK: Lightning in 7

WHY: It’s not a fluke that Montreal is here. In 17 playoff games, the Canadiens have faced some of the NHL’s top scorers in forwards Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty of the Vegas Golden Knights, center Auston Matthews and forward Mitchell Marner of the Maple Leafs, and center Mark Scheifele (for one game) and forwards Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets, and held them to three total goals. The difference: Tampa Bay’s core won a Stanley Cup last year and knows what it takes to cross the finish line. In a close series, that could be the difference.

CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Brayden Point, Lightning

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