Vegas Golden Knights vs Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Predictions

Vegas Golden Knights vs Dallas Stars NHL
Knights vs Stars, Western Conference Finals

The Dallas Stars overcame a two-goal deficit in the third period then capitalized on an overtime power play to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in two decades. Once again, the Vegas Golden Knights dominated large chunks of the play in the game, but they could not convert that into goals. The bigger disappointment, though, was their inability to hold a lead after they took a 2-0 advantage early in the third period. Dallas took advantage of a power play late in the third to tie the game then Denis Guiranov converted the 26th and final shot of the game for the Stars to earn the victory.

Dallas Stars win 4-1

The result of the series was certainly shocking, but credit the Dallas Stars for making the most of their opportunities. The Vegas Golden Knights averaged 10 more shots per game than the Stars, but Dallas limited Vegas to just eight goals over five games while Dallas scored nine, meaning the Stars had roughly twice as good of a shooting percentage as the Golden Knights. Anton Khudobin was stellar for the Stars, but the defense in front of him also did an excellent job at keeping Vegas out of the scoring areas despite the high shot totals. Dallas will have a tough test no matter who comes out of the East, but the Stars have defied every logic in this postseason.

Game 1

September 6th, 8:00 p.m., Rogers Place

This series matches up the favorites in the Western Conference, the top-seeded Vegas Golden Knights, with the Dallas Stars, who needed a shootout to earn the No. 3 seed after the round robin. Dallas struggled in the final two round robin games to score goals and it had its own set of issues in each of its next two series. Yet the Stars are still alive due to a gritty roster that has continued to do what was necessary to win whether it’s scoring a lot of goals or protecting leads. Vegas, meanwhile, won three high-scoring games in the round robin then controlled the play of almost every game it has played since the NHL playoffs began.

Vegas might have went seven games with Vancouver, but that had more to do with the Canucks’ goaltenders standing on their heads than the Golden Knights letting Vancouver dictate anything. Over the last five games in that series, Vegas held a 234-143 advantage in shots, and in the last three games, the edge shot up to 127-54. It certainly is proof that Robin Lehner is beatable as the Golden Knights’ goalie, but the pressure Vegas applied would break many teams. What also helps is that the Golden Knights broke through late in Game 7 against Vancouver, so there is more confidence in the offense having seen pucks go in the net as opposed to consistently watching great shots be stopped or blocked at the last moment.

Dallas’ best effort in the round robin came in a 5-3 loss to Vegas, so there is confidence that the Stars can score in this game. The question is whether or not they can defend well enough to keep the Golden Knights off the board. Dallas was able to take advantage of Colorado’s poor defending and goaltending to win in seven games, but the Stars struggled in Games 5 and 6 when the Avalanche either ended the game early with a barrage of goals or played decent defense. Vegas’ defense was excellent against Vancouver and the Golden Knights dominated the shot totals and possession, two things Dallas cannot afford to let Vegas do in this series.

The NHL betting sites in New Jersey have made Vegas the favorite to win this series and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. The odds point to this series lasting five or six games, and I tend to agree with that assessment based on what we saw in the previous two rounds. Vegas has always controlled the tempo and has a good enough goalie to limit the damage in the few shots he faces. Dallas will need to be efficient in capitalizing on its chances because there won’t be very many, but more importantly, they need to keep the Golden Knights to the perimeter and not let them get into the scoring areas. I’d lean toward Vegas winning this series in five games, but it’s the same +370 odds to pick the Golden Knights in six games, so you can even bet them both to hedge your bets.

Everything about Game 1 points to Vegas winning and doing so handily. The Golden Knights really dominated the play all series against Vancouver, but were foiled by outstanding goaltending. Dallas definitely doesn’t have the goaltending to contend with the Canucks’ duo, so as Vegas ramps up the pressure, the goals should flow for the Golden Knights. The odds are short on Vegas in the first game, but the Golden Knights should win the game easily, so I’ll take Vegas at -103 odds to win in regulation.

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Game 2 (Dallas Stars lead 1-0)

September 8th, 8:00 p.m., Rogers Place

The Dallas Stars scored on their first shot of the game a little more than two and a half minutes into the game then bunkered down to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights in the first game of the Western Conference Finals. Both teams finished with 25 shots in the contest, but it was a tale of two different games with Dallas controlling the play for the first 40 minutes then soaking up Vegas’ pressure over the final 20. The Golden Knights had more than half of their shots in the third period, but they could not solve Anton Khudobin, who picked up his first career postseason shutout in the win.

Dallas played a fantastic hockey game for the first two periods in limiting Vegas’ offense while also pumping out some quality chances of its own. The third period was certainly not close to good enough, but Khudobin held on against the onslaught to protect the shutout over the final 20 minutes. It was an important victory for the Stars from a confidence perspective, but it also gave them excellent tape on what they can do to help keep the ice more even than it was in the third period. Dallas also needs to find ways to score more goals because it is well aware that one goal will not be enough in future games, so it must find a way to generate more offense for itself in high-danger areas then convert on those chances.

What we saw from Vegas in the third period is what many expected to see from the Golden Knights through the entire series. Through the first two periods, Dallas held a 23-12 advantage in shots and the Stars only blocked eight other attempts. The Golden Knights held a 13-2 edge in shots over the final 20 minutes and forced Dallas to block seven other attempts as Vegas searched for a tying goal. Perhaps that third-period surge is a sign of things to come, but Vegas has struggled to turn its dominance into goals over the last four games, and that is troubling. The Golden Knights need more scoring from their best players and start gaining confidence that the goals will flow again, especially against a team that came into the series with the worst goals against average of the four remaining teams at 3.5 goals allowed per game.

Despite not playing well offensively, the Golden Knights still held the Stars to just one goal on 25 shots, which bodes well for the future in this series. We saw in the third period how dominant Vegas could be when it is playing its game well, and I expect we’ll see more of that in Game 2 on Tuesday. Vegas is the favorite on the NHL betting sites in New Jersey, and the odds seem to be much better on the Golden Knights than I anticipated after the Game 1 loss. I think Vegas makes a statement and wins comfortably in Game 2, so I’ll pick the Golden Knights at +102 odds to win in regulation.

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Game 3 (Series tied 1-1)

September 10th, 8:00 p.m., Rogers Place

The Vegas Golden Knights were dominant again and left the Dallas Stars searching for answers even though their NHL playoffs series is tied at 1-1 after two games. Vegas scored three times in the second period and used its pressure to keep the Stars out of dangerous scoring areas in responding to a Game 1 blanking by shutting out the Stars in Game 2. Despite being tied in the series, Dallas’ offense continued to struggle for chances against Vegas, which dominated the faceoff circle and held an advantage in shots on goal.

What we saw from Vegas in Game 2 was what we had come to expect from the top seed in the Western Conference in these playoffs. The Golden Knights dominated possession, they limited the opposition to very few shots toward net and they peppered the opposing net with plenty of shots. The 32-24 advantage in shots wasn’t as big of a discrepancy as we’ve seen in the past, but there was no mistaking which team was on the attack more often and created the more dangerous opportunities. Robin Lehner picked up his fourth shutout of the postseason, his second straight clean sheet, as the Golden Knights scored three times in the second period to get the giant weight off their shoulders.

Dallas might be tied in this series, but the Stars are well behind the Golden Knights when it comes to the play in this series. The Stars have just 26 shots on goal over the last four periods of hockey and they have already given Vegas 10 power plays, but are fortunate Vegas has only capitalized once. Now that it is playing a team capable of defending that has solid goaltending, Dallas is struggling to get its offense going and that is a major problem. If the Stars can limit Vegas to just 30ish shots on goal per game the rest of this series, it would be a major victory for them, but if Dallas isn’t converting on the other end of the rink then it spells a quick series in Vegas’ favor.

The last four periods of this series were what we expected from these two teams with Vegas limiting Dallas’ offensive chances and maximizing its own. Dallas really hasn’t sustained much offense in this series in general, struggling to score on both of the Golden Knights’ goalies through 120 minutes of hockey. That doesn’t seem likely to change because the Stars don’t have the speed to put pressure on the Golden Knights, and they haven’t been clinical in their finishing against good goaltending so far. Once again, I’m forced into looking at the NHL betting sites in New Jersey and wagering on Vegas to win the game in regulation at short odds, this time -107 on the bet.

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Game 4 (Dallas Stars lead 2-1)

September 12th, 8:00 p.m., Rogers Place

The Dallas Stars made the most of their opportunities in Game 3 against the Vegas Golden Knights to take a 2-1 series lead over the top seed in the Western Conference. Alexander Radulov scored 31 seconds into overtime to lift the Stars in victory in a game in which they were outshot 40-23 and played most of the third period in their own zone. Yet Vegas was unable to convert its possession dominance into goals, especially in the first two periods. The Golden Knights were playing catch-up after allowing a Dallas goal late in the second period then again less than four minutes after tying the game at one.

Anton Khudobin had one of his best performances of the NHL playoffs to help Dallas get to overtime. From there, the Stars did what they do best and capitalized on the first chance they had to take the series lead. Khudobin stopped 38 of the 40 shots he faced, notably keeping the Stars in the game when Dallas was outplayed in the third period yet again. Although they were put on the defensive often, Dallas did an excellent job at creating odd-man rushes for themselves when they were able to clear the zone cleanly and score on those chances. Dallas never trailed in the game despite the unbalanced ice and continued to exploit every weakness Vegas showed in the game.

Vegas’ run of recent play is starting to concern me because although the Golden Knights are dominating in most areas of the game, they aren’t winning. This is the third time in the last six games that Vegas has held a significant shot advantage yet still didn’t win the game. The Golden Knights are getting shots through and limiting shots from the opposition, but they are not nearly as clinical in capitalizing on their attempts and that is becoming problematic. Khudobin has had 10 games with a sub .910 save percentage this postseason, but Vegas couldn’t score more than twice on 40 shots, and end up losing early in overtime. Perhaps it’s a goaltending issue or too many defensive lapses, but Vegas needs to be scoring more than two goals on 40 shots against Khudobin.

At this point, I’m not sure why I keep picking Vegas to win at the NHL betting sites in New Jersey, but I won’t stop in Game 4. The Golden Knights just seem too talented for the Stars, but my confidence is failing in this group the more I watch them play in this postseason. The offense is sporadic at best despite a heavy advantage in shots, and I can’t just write it off to good goaltending. The one thing that keeps bringing me back to Vegas is the defense and limited chances it allows to the opposition. Robin Lehner is probably better than allowing three goals on 23 shots, so I’ll stick with Vegas at -167 odds on the moneyline.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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