This article is part of our NHL Picks series.
Following a modified 56-game schedule that exclusively featured inter-division matchups, a Stanley Cup Playoffs that brought us two more rounds of divisional clashes, we are finally down to just two teams left. RotoWire will bring you a breakdown of each division ahead of the start of postseason play. AJ Scholz looks at Stanley Cup Finals and updated Conn Smythe odds courtesy of the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Montreal Canadiens (240) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (-286) - Game 1 Monday, 8 PM ET
During the regular season, the Habs finished 18th overall in the league-wide standings and were the lowest seed to qualify for the playoffs. Despite that, Montreal dispatched the Maples Leafs in seven, swept the Jets and knocked off the Golden Knights in six games. In 17 postseason contests, the Canadiens have relied heavily on their goaltending as they are averaging a mere 2.53 goals (11th best in the playoffs) while Carey Price is sporting a .934 save percentage and 2.02 GAA. When the team has generated offense, it's come predominantly from the second line of Tyler Toffoli, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, who have combined for 36 points, including 13 with the man advantage.
While the Lightning has a significantly more potent offense (3.22 goals per game), it has also leaned heavily on their backstop Andrei Vasilevskiy. Price's numbers are outstanding but are exceeded only by Vasilevskiy, as he has registered a .936 save percentage, 1.99 GAA and four shutouts in his 18 playoff contests. In the series-clinching Game 7 versus the Islanders, Brayden Point saw his historic nine-game goal streak come to an end. Despite dealing with an upper-body injury, Nikita Kucherov continues to lead all players with 27 playoff points, highlighting the offensive talent the defending champions have at their disposal.
AJ's Pick: Watching the Habs continue to get through each round makes it hard to bet against them but they will be squaring off with the potential Vezina Trophy winner in Vasilevskiy. As mentioned above, the Bolts are also the defending champions and have been through this grind before, knowing what it takes to win. The X factor in this series is like Carey Price who is capable of standing on his head and stealing a game or two but, ultimately, I see the Tampa Bay Lightning repeating and will take them to win the series at -286.
Total Games Played – AJ's Pick Over 5.5 (-143)
Looking at the series line, that's a lot of juice to give up to take the Lightning straight up, so the alternate series lines are a place to get some value, starting with the total games played. Even though Tampa Bay's offense has been nearly unstoppable, it hasn't faced anybody playing on Price's level, so I'm not anticipating a quick end to this series. Taking the over 6.5 at +250 seems a little too long of odds for me but I'll take the Habs to at least get two games and force a Game 6. To take that a little further, you can get the exact outcome of the series for the Lightning winning 4-2 for +415 which would also return a Tampa Bay -1.5 games at -136 in the series spread on the DK Sportsbook.
Conn Smythe Odds
Prior to the start of the second round, Andrei Vasilevskiy was sitting at +900 to take home the Conn Smythe but now finds himself as the prohibitive favorite at +135, no doubt on the back of his four shutouts. Nikita Kucherov has seen his odds improve to +300 from +700 as well which is likely due simply to the smaller field of players. For the Habs, the leading favorites include Carey Price (195), Cole Caufield (5500) and Nick Suzuki (6000).
AJ's Pick: Unless this series suddenly turns into a couple of offensive shootouts, it's unlikely anybody other than one of the goaltenders takes home the playoff MVP award. Since I'm on the Bolts winning the series, I'll stick with Vasilevskiy to win the Conn Smythe at +135. If there is a long-shot option that makes sense, it might be Corey Perry at +7500 if he can add to his three goals and six assists, giving him an improved resume combined with the fact he is playing in his 16th NHL season and could be considering hanging up his skates on top if the Habs pull off the upset.