The Vegas Golden Knights had a relatively easy time advancing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs beating the Winnipeg Jets in five games and dispatching Edmonton in six. The top seed in the West opens the Western Conference finals at home on Friday taking on the Dallas Stars, who survived a tough seven-game set with the second-year Seattle Kraken to set up a rematch of the 2020 conference finals, which Dallas won in five games. The Stars won all three regular season meetings, including a pair of victories in Vegas. The series was close, though, with two games decided in a shootout. But as we’ve seen this postseason what happened during the 82-game grind means nothing once the second season begins.
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NHL Playoffs Schedule for Friday, May 19
Dallas at Vegas, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
NHL Playoffs Picks for Friday, May 19, 2023
Dallas was a strong defensive team during the season allowing the third-fewest goals per game. The Stars struggled at times keeping the puck out of their net against Seattle giving up 18 goals in the three games they lost. They saved their best defensive effort for the clinching 2-1 Game 7 victory. It was also a positive sign for Jake Oettinger, who struggled in net in Game 6 getting yanked after surrendering four goals in the 6-3 setback.
Oettinger had a sensational regular season winning 37 games with a 2.37 GAA, .919 save percentage and five shutouts. He was money in the opening round against Minnesota posting a 2.01 GAA and .929 save percentage in six starts. He also started all three regular season meetings against Vegas allowing three goals with a .967 save percentage.
The Stars beat Seattle despite getting little help from leading scorer Jason Robertson. The 109-point scorer during the season went without a goal against the Kraken and had five assists, though three of them came in a 5-2 win in Game 5. It’s hard to keep good goal scorers down and taking positive odds on Robertson scoring a goal in Game 1 is a solid same game parlay play.
Using five different starting goalies during the season isn’t typically a recipe for success. It worked out for Vegas, though, with all five winning at least two games and the club being one of 12 to allow an average of fewer than 3.00 goals. Just like during the year the injury bug hit in the playoffs with designated starter Laurent Brossoit going down in Game 3 of the Edmonton series.
It appeared as though Oilers and their potent offense were ready to roll over the Golden Knights. Instead Adin Hill came to the rescue and the Knights tightened up defensively to shut down the high-powered Oilers attack. They allowed 10 goals over the final four games of the series starting with Hill pitching a shutout in relief of Brossoit in Game 3.
Playing defense is what got both teams to this point so there’s a good reason why were discussing the goalies. However, you have to put the puck in the net in order to win games and both clubs have talented offensive players. Jonathan Marchessault scored three goals in the clinching 5-2 win over Edmonton. Jack Eichel and Mark Stone are each averaging more than a point per game in the postseason.
Dallas’ Roope Hintz is the second leading postseason scorer with 19 points while four other players have reached double figures. And after playing explosive offensive teams in the previous round both clubs will revert to the style of play that made them successful. The difference is Dallas has more options on offense allowing them to steal home ice with a Game 1 victory.
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