Canadiens in Good Shape Despite Game 1 Loss to Lightning

The saying “you’re only in trouble once you lose at home” just doesn’t apply to the Montreal Canadiens after their 2-1 double-overtime, Game 1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

They’ve no doubt lost home-ice advantage (in heartbreaking fashion), wasted a whole bunch of energy & a fine first-game effort for ultimately nothing, and failed once again to get the monkey off their back after losing once again to Tampa (the sixth time) this season.

However, it’s still too early in the series for the Canadiens and their fans to consider this a lost cause, especially with a positive out there for every negative. For example:

 

3. Stamkos Kept in Check

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos – (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

It may sound like a broken record at this point these playoffs, but Steven Stamkos was kept off the scoresheet in Game 1. He, of course, has zero goals in nine games, a streak that extends prior to the start of the postseason. However, he also only had three shots on goal, much like leading Lightning scorer Tyler Johnson (who admittedly got another last night).

Not to take anything away from Ryan Callahan (six shots in Game 1), but the Canadiens would be all too happy to have him continue to lead his team in that category at the expense of either one of those two guys (especially seeing as he has zero goals as well).

 

2. Canadiens Outshoot Lightning

In sharp contrast, the Lightning would probably love to limit the amount of interaction Brendan Gallagher, Montreal’s shots leader with nine, has with goalie Ben Bishop. The problem is there was much more where that came from for Montreal relative to Tampa in Game 1, though.

Now, there’s little denying the Canadiens are far from analytics (possession) darlings. For example, in the regular season, they had a 48.5% Corsi for rating at five-on-five (23rd), which ranks the percentage of shot attempts they had relative to their opponents. It serves as a proxy for possession of the puck and the higher it is, the likelier you are to win. Only the Calgary Flames ranked worse among playoff teams (44.5%). Tampa’s was 53.0% (fourth).

In spite of this and the fact Tampa outshot the Habs in four of five regular-season wins against Montreal (the two teams had the same amount in one of them) and 191-120 overall, Montreal held the edge in Game 1 (44-35). Even adding in blocked shots (34-27 for Montreal), the Habs would still come out on top in that department.

It may be a hollow victory, seeing as Montreal still needs to score to be able to beat Tampa in this series, but it looks like they’ve got that covered as well.

 

1. Bishop Is Beatable

Of note, Bishop just became the first goalie to post a shutout in his first game 7 since Carey Price. He was on the verge of posting another until Max Pacioretty unleashed this howitzer with Montreal trailing 1-0 and five minutes left to play:

 

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It probably isn’t worth reading more into this other than Bishop made a mistake (albeit at a critical juncture for his team). Mistakes happen. He recovered. He ended up posting a pretty decent save percentage of .977 in the game.

It’s not like Bishop is a bad goalie, the Canadiens are now in his head, and he’s suddenly going to turn into a sieve. That his head is attached to an oversized 6’7” body kind of makes that unlikely.

However that goal is critical to Montreal’s confidence going forward. They know now that Bishop can be beaten. They know that they can beat him. More importantly, they know they were just one more of those shots away from being up 1-0 in this series. They still have a shot overall, in other words.