Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens vs Tampa Bay Lightning: Playoff Preview

The Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning get set to kick off their playoff series – and the NHL Playoffs – tonight in Florida.

There is very little that compares to the first game of a playoff series. It’s just like the first game of the season only there’s a 1/16 chance you will win the Stanley Cup. It doesn’t matter if you’re the favourite or the underdog – every team is 0-0.

Admittedly, the Canadiens go into tonight’s game with several question marks. Lars Eller and Brandon Prust have returned to practice and are expected to play tonight.

They are now healthier than they have been in weeks with Josh Gorges, Prust, Eller and Dale Weise coming back within the last week. Yes, they lost Alex Galchenyuk but Tampa Bay might be without one or two of their top six forwards as well.

The one big absence in this series has to be Ben Bishop. For whatever reason, Bishop has always scared me. It is probably due to the fact that he’s huge and definitely due to last year’s performance of Craig Anderson.

Bishop has always been good against the Canadiens, and a goaltender can steal a seven game series. However, he is out for at least the first game and possibly the series. And Anders Lindback is not Ben Bishop, so advantage Canadiens.

I’m not saying that Lindback won’t steal the series – even Martin Biron has done that – but there’s a less menacing vibe around a Lightning team without Bishop.

Playoff time is always exciting, especially when you have an expectation of winning. Tampa Bay has home-ice advantage but Montreal arguably has a deeper team and a better goaltender.

It’s not a lock that Montreal will win the series by any means. However, if they play well for the entire series, they have a very good chance of winning it. This is a team that peaked at the right time with a noticeable blip against the Islanders.

In about nine hours, we will have a much better idea of what to expect in this series. These two teams are actually much different than they were when they last played in what was seen as a playoff preview.

I think that this series will continue to be Carey Price coming out party after his success at the Olympics. Canadiens in six.

Tags: 2013-14 NHL Playoffs Ben Bishop Brandon Prust Carey Price Montreal Canadiens

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