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Playoff Scouting Report: Dallas Stars

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The first round will feature a lot of familiar faces for the Golden Knights, especially the man standing behind the opposing bench. In a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Final, Vegas will head to Dallas to open the postseason.

Season Series
10/17/23 vs DAL: VGK 3-2 in shootout
11/22/23 at DAL: VGK 2-1 in OT
12/9/23 at DAL: VGK 6-1

Series Odds (William Hill)
Dallas Stars -130
Vegas Golden Knights +110

Dallas Possible Lineup
Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski
Marchment-Duchene-Seguin
Benn-Johnston-Stankoven
Faksa-Steel-Dadonov

Harley-Heiskanen
Lindell-Tanev
Suter-Hakanpää

Oettinger

Extras: Craig Smith, Ty Dellandrea, Nils Lundkvist, Makrik Borque

Stars Season Stats
52-21-9 (26-11-4 home, 26-10-5 away)
113 points (2nd in NHL)
298 goals for (3rd in NHL)
234 goals allowed (8th in NHL)
24.2% Power Play (6th in NHL)
82.0% Penalty Kill (8th in NHL)

Differences from last year

Thomas Harley and the D-Corps

The biggest difference in the Stars from this season to last is the emergence of 22-year-old Thomas Harley. The 6’4” former-1st round pick has taken a massive step forward seeing an increase of about five minutes per night in ice time compared to last year’s playoffs. He’s scored 15 goals and added 32 assists, plays in all situations, and has posted an impressive +28 rating. Last year Harley was playing above his head on a second pair with Joel Hanley, this year he’s a bonafide first pair option with Miro Heiskanen.

In addition, trade deadline acquisition Chris Tanev has stabilized the defensive unit and helped put every player in a role that fits their skill sets better. Ryan Suter has been bumped from the first to third pair, Esa Lindell is back to taking most of the defensive zone starts, and there are options on the third pair in Jani Hakinpaa and Nils Lundkvist depending on if the Stars need brawn or skill. Last year Vegas simply needed to cancel out Heiskanen to neutralize Dallas’ D-corps, this year it is much more equipped to thrive in the 35 minutes he’s not on the ice.

Deeper forward group

Last year the Stars entered the playoffs with seven players who had reached at least 30 points. This year they have eight with more than 50. Matt Duchene has been a much better fit than Max Domi was and Wyatt Johnston has grown into a legitimate scoring option reaching 30 goals in his second NHL season.

The Stars team the Golden Knights faced in the Western Conference Final last year had four players in the lineup that were barely a threat to score, that number is down to two, maybe even one, this year. The Stars could reasonably ice a fourth line including Evgenii Davonov (12 goals), Craig Smith (11 goals), and the AHL’s leading scorer 22-year-old Mavrik Borque. If they do, there will be just two forwards of the 12 with fewer than 10 goals, Logan Stankoven who has six in 24 games, and Borque who scored 26 with the Texas Stars.

Healthy Goalie

Jake Oettinger allowed more than three goals per game and posted a paltry .895 save percentage in the playoffs last season. Those numbers were even worse against the Golden Knights at 3.84 goals per game and .877 save percentage. Oettinger sprained his ankle in October 2022 which caused him to miss a few weeks early last season. He battled through it the entire year and didn’t expect to need to have it repaired in the offseason. After losing to Vegas though, the Stars decided to have his ankle surgically repaired and he’s been much better this season.

Recently, his form has been incredible too. Oettinger is 10-1-0 in his last 11 starts allowing just 17 goals and posting a .941 save percentage. He has two shutouts, three games allowing just one goal, and has allowed three or more just once since mid-March. Dallas’ improved defense coupled with a healthy star goalie will make them much more difficult to score on.

Similarities to last year

Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski

The Star’s top line was dominant in the regular season scoring 52 goals on the ice together while allowing just 24. Their advanced numbers were off the charts and it helped lead Robertson to a 109-point season and Hintz to 37 goals. Against Vegas though, that line hit the skids. VGK outscored Dallas’ top line 5-3 in more than 70 minutes of ice time and held them to just 10 high-danger chances, about two fewer per game than they had been averaging.

That line remains the driving force of the Stars offense and Vegas should still have the answers for it. Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez handled the majority of the time against them which will likely mean Pietrangelo and Noah Hanifin will get the call this time around. William Karlsson and Nic Roy were the leading centers in ice time against Dallas’ top line while Mark Stone and Jack Eichel saw about 20 minutes each of them over the six games. Vegas slowed them down last year and it didn’t take Bruce Cassidy loading up a line to do it. Do it again, and the #3 scoring team in the league won’t look as dangerous.

Transition Susceptible

One of the best aspects of the Pete DeBoer offensive system is its ability to control the puck in the offensive zone while constantly getting pucks toward the goal. When it is humming the opposing team is often hemmed in the zone and when they finally can exit they are much more focused on getting off the ice than starting an attack. We used to call it the “shot suppression machine” and the Stars run it extremely well.

The downside to that system is the reliance on defensemen to help in puck recoveries which can be exploited into transition offense going the other way. In last year’s Western Conference Final, the Golden Knights used perfectly executed exits to spring transition chances time and time again. It was easily the most dangerous weapon for Vegas in the series. With both systems remaining identical to last year, it should be available to the Golden Knights again if they can clinically exit the zone. It’s not easy to do but Vegas have the players capable of doing it and the Stars a ripe for the picking once again in this area.

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28 Comments

  1. Mike Lawrence

    You paint a starkly grim picture. Let me ask you this all three Vegas victories occurred at the calendar year 2023. What was the VGK roster on those nights? How is it different today?

    • VGK were fairly healthy in all three of those games. Theodore missed one, Pietrangelo missed the other. Forwards were pretty much all there. Two close games, one blowout.

      DAL is a very very good team (that’s how you finish 1st) but I like VGK’s chances. I’m going to make my pick on the Twitter Space tonight, but it’ll be VGK.

      Game 28 at Dallas Stars
      Barbashev-Eichel-Stone
      Cotter-Karlsson-Dorofeyev
      Howden-Stephenson-Marchessault
      Carrier-Roy-Kolesar

      Hutton-Pietrangelo
      McNabb-Korczak
      Hague-Whitecloud

      Thompson

      Game 20 at Dallas Stars
      Barbashev-Eichel-Marchessault
      Howden-Stephenson-Stone
      Cotter-Karlsson-Amadio
      Carrier-Roy-Kolesar

      McNabb-Theodore
      Hague-Pietrangelo
      Hutton-Whitecloud

      Hill

      Game 4 vs Dallas Stars
      Barbashev-Eichel-Marchessault
      Cotter-Stephenson-Stone
      Howden-Karlsson-Amadio
      Carrier-Roy-Kolesar

      McNabb-Theodore
      Hague-Korczak
      Hutton-Pachal

      Hill

  2. NAM

    Nice write up Ken. I don’t remember off the top of my head what DAL ran for a 2nd line last year, but I don’t think it was nearly as good as Marchment-Duchene-Seguin are running right now. I think even with some kind of shut down of L1 this L2 line is dangerous. I really hate not having Smith to go with Karlsson in these big battles.

    Vegas’s chances rely on the missing guys, especially Stone and Petra, getting to their game quickly and the team tightening up the Cassidy system into playoff hockey.

    The Jets and their playoff injuries last year allowed Vegas (and Stone) to get to their game before EDM and DAL. This year it is kill or be killed right out of the gate.

    • Last year they ran out Benn-Johnston-Seguin. They had Marchment on the 4th line during a good portion of the VGK series. You are right though, the Marchment-Duchene-Seguin is going to be a problem.

  3. knights fan in minny

    the boys made Ottinger look silly last year

    • TS

      Kfim, unfortunately for us, Dallas looks like they fixed their problems and are ready to exact revenge on us. BIG men, BIG hits, BIG wins…UGH!

  4. Vic

    Since 2/29/24, Dallas is 17-4 and the VGK 12-11. Stars have home ice, better goaltending and have the revenge factor. The VGK can win the series, but handicapping doesn’t look good. For those betting against the VGK, game one is when to do it. Nothing earth shattering in my comments, but this will be rough for the VGK. Of course they can win it if everyone plays out of their minds like last year. Goalies must shut the door or it’s golf course time.

    • Jonathan

      They don’t need to play “out of their minds,” and you’re comparing… what are you even writing?! So some team that vaguely kinda resembles the one Monday went 12-11? Really? Because I don’t think that team had Mark Stone, Hertl (for all but a few games), or Pietrangelo for most of it. That’s not the team Dallas is playing. They’re playing a fully healthy VGK team that’s the best on the ice. This team already won last year and didn’t have Mantha, Hanifin, Hertl, or Dorofeyev, but did have Smith. The defense is so deep Martinez probably shouldn’t be on the ice at all (if it were me). It doesn’t take some sort of miracle, Vegas is a lot deeper and has more talent flat out.

  5. CANADA

    Wow great insights into Dallas. I agree with all . I am expecting a big wake up call for the Knights . Our only hope us we can use our goaltending from last year and we will out coach them . We are going to get hammered. I hope I’m wrong but I don’t see it.

    • John

      Why would we get hammered? This team is even better than any version Dallas has seen in the last 9 games when we went 7-2 against them. Did you see the defense during the 6-1 blowout?! That’s like half guys who shouldn’t even be there. No Hanifin or Pietrangelo and Dallas still couldn’t score, still got destroyed. Dallas isn’t a scary team, they’re good, of course they’re very good. But Vegas is better.

      • CANADA

        John our goaltending is suspect. Our forchecking has been average at best defense has lots of issues . After watching this team for the last 60 days im not a believer . STONE may not make the first round and we need him to pull this team together. You don’t just go into a heavy team like Dallas and start rocking it. Again I hope I’m wrong but I don’t see it.

  6. Emmanuel

    The Stars have talent but where is the heart? Have they done it before?
    Anyways, once the playoffs start its a different puckgame played by different (unofficial) rules.
    If Stone & Pietrangelo are back and FULLY healthy I wouldnt wanna be the Stars.

  7. vgk21

    Hill was hot last year, and had confidence and swagger. right now that is missing.

    and LT has never played an NHL playoff game, so inexperience is a possible factor.

    if the Vgk forecheck is deep in the Dallas zone, it will be effective. If they mainly try it in the neutral zone, and play rope a dope in the d zone, it will be ineffective.

  8. JB

    So little confidence in our defending champs. I don’t think Dallas is as good as record shows. Not in playoff hockey! I am not worried much about them. We are in their head and they have to prove they can beat us. If our injured / sick players return we WILL win this series. Wait and see!

  9. John W

    Listened to a competing podcast today (Rymes with “Rocked Long”). Figured I’m done listening to them after both agreed that Dallas has the coaching advantage with DeBoer being the better coach than Cassidy.

    The above referenced idiots notwithstanding, here is how I handicap things.

    Offense – Slight advantage to Dallas
    D-corps – Slight Advantage to VGK
    Forward/Centermen Defense – advantage VGK
    Goalie – Advantage to Dallas
    Special Teams – slight Advantage to Dallas
    Coaching – Big Advantage to VGK

    Thoughts?

  10. LVsc

    Game 1 last year the Vgk lost 5-1 at home vs Winnipeg. Stone was all hunched over and rusty as hell.
    the Vgk then proceeded to sweep the next 4 games and the rest is history.

    It could happen again IF they have a healthy Stone and 7, and IF they get a hot goalie like last year.

  11. Jack Hammer

    HELLO MY FRIENDS. WENT TO CHURCH TODAY. TALKED TO PRIEST AFTER AND HE SAID A PRAYER FOR OUR GOLDEN KNIGHTS

    Jesus be my friend
    Try to make amends
    God is close at hand
    I don’t need you now
    Like I needed you then
    Like I needed you then

    Jesus be my friend
    I tried to understand
    Why God is close at hand
    I don’t understand
    Just why you let me down
    You never let me down

    I want a piece of paradise
    I want to keep you as a friend
    I want to look you in the eyes again
    I want a piece of paradise
    I want to love you
    I want to love you again

    I don’t know why you left me
    I don’t need you now
    Like I needed you then
    Like I needed you then

    Boulder in a stream
    Water on a stone
    God is close at hand
    You never understood
    Just who I really was
    Just who I really am

    I want a piece of paradise
    I want to keep you as a friend
    I want to look you in the eyes again
    I want a piece of paradise
    I want to love you
    I want to love you again

    Jesus be my friend
    Try to make amends
    God is close at hand
    I don’t need you now
    Like I needed you then
    Like I needed you then

    I’m not sure
    Just who you really are
    Just who you really are

    • TS

      Jack, Well, this is better than gay hookups, at least! Palatable, not indecent. I can live with this over the alternative ANY DAY.

  12. knights fan in minny

    and jack hammer is a nut job thats what i learned in church today

  13. CANADA

    Anyone who thinks Cassidy will be out coached by Debour is dreaming. . DEBOUR is a soft coach and will not bring out the best in his team . The only question is will the KNIGHTS players sacrifice to win . Fingers crossed

    • TS

      Canada, I AM crossing fingers…and toes! KICK SOME DALLAS ASS, KNIGHTS!!

  14. ~REDD~

    oh jack hammer…really??? this is hockey buddy..just sayin~

  15. LVsc

    Just now on NHL Network both Dave Reed and Tony Granato picked the VGK to win the cup again.

  16. Rashaad

    Looks like Dorofeyev will not be in the lineup for game 1.

    I’m sure he gets in at some point.

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