The Dallas Stars play the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday in the first game of the NHL Western Conference Finals best-of-seven series. Dallas reached this point in the NHL postseason after defeating the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 in their best-of-seven semifinal series with a 5-4 win in Game 7 on Friday.
Vegas took a similar route to this conference finals Series against Dallas by going the full seven games in their semifinal series before defeating the Vancouver Canucks 3-0 in Game 7 on Friday. Vegas had an easier time in its Game 7 victory winning in regulation, while the Stars were extended to overtime by Colorado.
Stars turn on the offense this postseasonWhile the Dallas Stars for several seasons have been known for their defense, it's been the offense that has led them to the Western Conference Finals. During the regular season prior to the long break for the COVID-19 pandemic, Dallas was 31st in the league in goals scored per game at 2.58, but against Calgary, Dallas averaged 3.50 goals-per-game in six games and averaged 4.0 goals per game in its seven-game series against the Colorado Avalanche. However, the offense must continue its high-scoring pace as there are several problems on the defensive end of the ice.
During the regular season, the Dallas defense gave up the second-fewest goals per game in the NHL at 2.52 but during the postseason that number has ballooned to 3.77. The problem begins between the pipes for the Stars. Ben Bishop, the Dallas No. 1 goalie who just two seasons ago was the league leader in save percentage has not been fit to play until late in the series against Colorado. Backup Anton Khudobin took his spot and his save percentage has dropped to .909 from .930 during the regular season. It is not only the problem of the goaltender for Dallas, the defense is allowing opposing lines too many high danger opportunities and not clearing players from in front of goal.
Vegas barely gets past an inexperienced Vancouver teamAfter starting the seeding round strongly, Vegas was seeded No 1 in the Western Conference after winning each of its three games and took on an overmatched Chicago Blackhawks team that they disposed of in five games before facing the young, upstart Vancouver Canucks led by Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson. The Golden Knights were up 3-1 in the series but lost two straight to Vancouver before coming up big in Game 7 with another shutout victory by Robin Lehner. During the postseason, Lehner is 8-4 with a 1.99 GAA and .918 save percentage.
Although Vegas did not look well in their two defeats to Vancouver in Game 5 and 6, the Golden Knights have had a very strong postseason. Vegas has a high danger chance percentage of 58.9% which is more than 3% higher than the best team during the regular season, which was Minnesota at 55.2%. In addition. The Golden Knights have a load of talent evidenced by the fact that two goals have been scored by 11 different players during the postseason. Alex Tuch is leading Vegas in goals scored during the postseason with seven and Shea Theodore and Mark Stone are tied for the lead in points with 15.
- Vegas has won 13 of the last 17 overall
- Vegas has won seven of the last eight against a team from the Central Division no.
- Dallas has lost six of the last seven against Vegas