2023-05-22 · 2 min read · NHL/Hockey
Roope Hintz and Jack Eichel for West and Sergei Bobrovsky and Sebastian Aho for East

USA Today Sports | ESPN | AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights
These teams have a lot of familiarity with each other, partly as this is the second time in recent memory these two teams have faced off; with a trip to the Stanley Cup on the line. In the 2020 bubble they battled in a five-game series, in which the Stars pulled out, before losing the Stanley Cup to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stars are also coached by Peter DeBoer, who was the Vegas bench boss during that series and from 2019 to 2022; amassing a 98-50-12 record and two trips to the conference finals. DeBoer was fired by the Golden Knights a year ago Tuesday and hired by the Stars on June 21, 2022. Knights bench boss Bruce Cassidy was brought in to replace DeBoer. Now he gets his chance to win a conference final, over the man whose job he took no less.
As always let's take a look at who will be patrolling the crease in this matchup. For the Stars it's Jake Oettinger, who has a good playoff rep, but this year has had a few hiccups; in particular against the Kraken last round. Oettinger was pulled twice in the series, giving up four or more goals in three games. Yet Oettinger stepped up when needed, making 22 of 23 saves to clinch a 2-1 in game seven over the Kraken. Also, in the first round with the Stars down 2-1 against the Wild, Oettinger came clutch. The Stars won three games in a row to take the series in six games, by allowing only three goals on 85 shots; including a 27-save shutout in Game 5. Oettinger is 8-5 with a 2.75 GAA and .903 save percentage in 13 games in the playoffs.
For Vegas it looks like it will be Adin Hill, who was initially forced into action in game three against the Oilers. It was the beginning of the best goaltending we have seen from Hill in his six-year NHL career, mostly present as a backup. He allowed four goals on 33 shots in a 4-1 loss in Game 4, his first start in more than two months. Hill rebounded to become one of the main reasons why Vegas won the series in six games. He made 32 saves in a 4-3 win in Game 5, and 38 straight after giving up goals on the first two shots he faced in Game 6, a 4-2 win. Hill is 3-1 with a 2.19 goals-against average and .934 save percentage this postseason after going 16-7-1 with a 2.50 GAA and .915 save percentage in 27 games (25 starts) in the regular season. Veteran Jonathan Quick is likely to be the backup as Laurent Brossoit and Logan Thompson remain injured.
Vegas is the third team in NHL history to advance to the round before the Stanley Cup Final at least four times in their first six seasons, joining the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues. They're averaging 3.73 goals per game, the most by any team that advanced past the first round. Vegas has struggled on special teams with a 17.5% power play and a 60.0% penalty kill these playoffs. Meanwhile the Stars have been excellent on special teams as their power play is converting at 31.7 percent. On the other end Dallas is 83.3 percent on the penalty kill, second among teams that advanced out of the first round (Carolina Hurricanes, 90.0 percent). The Stars lead the playoffs in face-off percentage (57.1), a key element in a tight series.
Overall, I expect a very tight series, both teams for sure can realistically win this. I think Vegas has peaked at the right time, but the Stars have looked like a true contender all year. The Stars won all three regular-season games against the Golden Knights, with two of them needing a shootout to be decided. I expect more tight games to come in this series. If Dallas can get the best version of Oettinger between the pipes, keep control of the puck and stay aggressive on the forecheck, it's tough to see how they could lose. Meanwhile Vegas can continue to get solid goaltending, play smart hockey and stay out the penalty box, they can take down anyone.
Fun Facts:
DeBoer is in the third round of the playoffs for the fifth time with four teams in his NHL coaching career. He is the only coach in NHL history to lead a team to the third round in his first season with a team on four separate occasions. Dallas is 8-1 when scoring the first goal and 0-4 when they give up the first goal. The Golden Knights have allowed the first goal in eight of 11 games, going 5-3 in those games.
My Pick - Stars in 6
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By: Chase Howard


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