The 2021 Stanley Cup Finals start tonight in Tampa Bay as the Tampa Bay Lightning look to successfully defend their championship after winning the ‘Holy Grail’ of hockey last year, while the Montreal Canadiens make their first appearance in the Finals since winning the Cup back in 1993.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL season was changed so that all seven Canadian based teams could play in their own division for the entire season, plus the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The Canadiens finished with a record of 24–21–11, good for 59 points. They beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in a seven game first round series against their long time rivals, followed by the Winnipeg Jets in a four game sweep, and finally the Vegas Golden Knights in six games to earn a right to appear in the Finals.
This year marks the Canadiens 35 appearance in the Finals, and they are looking to add another title to their record setting 24 titles.
The Lightning finished the season with a record of 36–17–3, good for 75 points. They defeated their fellow Florida state team, the Florida Panthers, in six games, followed by beating out the Carolina Hurricanes in five games, and finally a re-match of last year’s Eastern Conference Final when they beat out the New York Islanders in seven games.
This is the Lightning’s fourth appearance in the Finals, and marks back-to-back appearances after winning their second title last year (their previous Cup win was in 2004.
This year marks the first time that a team from Canada has made it to the Finals since the Vancouver Canucks appeared in the Finals back in 2011. No Canadian based tem has won the Cup since the Canadiens won the Cup in 1993.
Look for the Canadiens to win in six games.