The Vegas Golden Knights will be taking on the Dallas Stars in the 2023 Western Conference Final. It is the fourth Conference Final appearance in six seasons for the Golden Knights, who are continuing their incredibly successful entrance into the NHL. The Stars are making their return to the Conference Finals after losing in the Stanley Cup Final back in 2020.
In the second round, Vegas was able to match and subsequently stifle the high powered offence of the Edmonton Oilers to eliminate them in six games. Showing just how worthy an adversary this Golden Knights team is.
The Stars were given a handful in their matchup against the Seattle Kraken. It was a series full of back and forth action and momentum changes. But when it mattered, Jake Oettinger and the Stars were able to shut thr Kraken down and eliminate them in seven games.
Will Vegas take this momentum into the Conference Finals and shut down yet another opponent? Can the Stars utilize their star power to keep the Golden Knights at bay?
Playoff stats and head-to-head matchup
|TEAM/STAT||W||L||OTL||GF||xGF%||GA||CF%||PP%||PK%||Record vs. Opponent (regular season)|
|Vegas Golden Knights||8||3||0||41||48.7%||33||46.3%||17.5%||60.0%||0–1–2|
Expected goals for percentage (xGF%) and Corsi for percentage (CF%) stats are in all situations from moneypuck.com.
Vegas Golden Knights Round 2 recap
Despite being the higher seed and division winner, many predictions had the Golden Knights as the underdogs for this series against the Oilers. And who could blame them. The Oilers were the highest scoring team in the league with two of the best players in the world and had only lost a handful of games since the trade deadline.
But lo and behold, the structure and systems that Vegas employs on the ice worked wonderfully to counter almost anything Edmonton threw their way.
Vegas plays with an incredibly fast pace and aggressive forecheck. They will attack, pressure, and control the pace of play.
They used this extremely well against the Oilers and it led to Edmonton chasing play more often than not.
Despite giving up the first goal in five of the six games, Vegas responded with a goal within two minutes in three of those games. The tenacity and never-say-die attitude helped them come back from multiple deficits in many games as they made sure the Oilers knew no lead was safe.
Dallas Stars Round 2 recap
The Stars had their hands full as they battled the Seattle Kraken. This matchup was high event, fast-paced, and completely unpredictable. With the exception of games four and five, both won by Dallas, the teams traded wins the rest of the way.
As a testament to how high event this series was, an average of nearly 7.5 goals per game were scored between the two teams.
Dallas had trouble managing the game around the energy that the Kraken bring to the ice. Seattle buzzes around the rink nonstop, pressuring and creating turnovers, chances, and momentum. With the scoring depth of their lineup, and the collection of scoring threats they possess, the Kraken can turn the tide of a game in an instant. A trait they showed with quick attacks, turnarounds, and scoring in bunches.
Game 7 showed the experience and composure that the Stars possess. In the final game of the series, winner takes all situation, Oettinger and the Stars set the tone for a game completely different to the rest of the series. A 2–1 victory for Dallas sealed the fate of the Kraken. A stark difference from the rest of the series, in which an average of 8.2 goals were scored between the two teams in the first six games.
The Stars have, well, the star power to beat the Golden Knights. With elite forwards, a borderline Norris candidate at defence, and a top of the line goaltender to fill out the entire roster. But Vegas has just shown that they do not care about how much star power their opponent has, they have the systems to counter it.
Oettinger is by far the best goalie in this series, but he did have an uncharacteristic series against Seattle with just an .877 SV%. Regardless, with the Golden Knights leaning on Adin Hill, Dallas has a clear advantage in net.
Dallas will have to keep in mind the tenacity of the Golden Knights. Vegas is a team that can and will battle back from any deficit. They gave up the first goal in five straight games versus the Oilers, but still won three of them with a quick rebound goal to keep them in the game. Sure, Dallas can score as much as they want, but if they cannot maintain pressure after scoring, any lead they develop will be rendered meaningless shortly after.
Vegas’ defensive ability to box out the opponent in their defensive zone will be put to the test against the Stars, who like to drive the net and create second chances, especially the Roope Hintz—Joe Pavelski—Jason Robertson line. Dallas will have to find a way to work within this system and create the chances they need.
Vegas has the worst special teams of the four remaining contenders, converting on just 17.5% of powerplays and only a 60% success rate on the penalty kill. The penalty kill percentage is skewed a bit by going against the powerplay of the Oilers, but they were not much better in Round 1 against the Winnipeg Jets. It will be an area of the game for the Stars to gain an advantage.
That is an area the Stars can play into by utilizing their composure. The Golden Knights showed signs of letting their emotions get the best of them at times against the Oilers. Some strategic physical play could go a long ways towards throwing Vegas off their game by goading them into taking bad penalties.
Vegas Golden Knights versus Dallas Stars prediction
The depth and momentum this Stars roster is carrying bodes well for them in this series. There are a few key areas that Dallas can work towards taking advantage of that give them an edge in this series. Vegas is unpredictable, however, and could very easily push the Stars to the limit in this Western Conference Final.
Dallas Stars 4–1