2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Final Preview: Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Three years ago, the Stanley Cup-contending Vegas Golden Knights and the kind-of-cinderella Dallas Stars met in the Conference Finals.
A Golden Knights team backstopped by Robin Lehner in goal and led up front by Max Pacioretty sent wave upon wave of shots against Dallas, but their goaltender Anton Khudobin, with the help of top-scoring defenceman John Klingberg and veteran winger Alexander Radulov managed to counter each attack and dispatch them in five games.
My point? A lot's changed since these last two teams met in the postseason.
The acquisition of Mark Stone by Vegas at the deadline ahead of that last series fueled the idea that this team was star-chasing, but all they've done in the time since is add Alex Pietrangelo and Jack Eichel to their already stacked lineup.
After a similarly stunning loss to the Montréal Canadiens in 2021 and a wounded sojourn in the wilderness in 2022, the Golden Knights have reached the Conference Final for the third time in their six seasons of existence. The window's not closing but given the age of their core, this is probably the best shot they'll get.
Meanwhile, Dallas' aging core looked like it was on its last legs; Joe Pavelski scored less than half a point per game at 35, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn were falling off offensively, and aside from promising youngsters Miro Heiskanen and Denis Guryanov there didn't appear to be much in the way of reinforcements on the way.
Enter Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, Jake Oettinger, and the dawn of a whole new era for these Stars. Barring a collapse, this shouldn't be the last time this core gets this deep, but they are very well-positioned to maximize this crucial transition point where the older core can still contribute at a high level.
My playoff previews are stats-based, going off of both macro- and micro-level statistics gathered by TopDownHockey and AllThreeZones respectively. This allows us to look not only at high-level results (like goals, shots, and expected goals) but also the stylistic process that creates them (like passes, shot types, and transition play) to get a better sense of how the teams match up. Instead of comparing offence to offence and defence to defence, I'll be breaking down the offence vs. defence matchups.
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