Continuing with our Round Robin adjustments, next we examine the Dallas Stars and the challenges the Golden Knights face. Dallas ended the shortened season with a solid 82 points, but a low goal differential of +4. The Stars scored the second least goals in the Western conference but also allowed the second least in the NHL. The two reasons for this are their defensive style and outstanding goaltending, both which have shown up against the Golden Knights.
vs. Dallas: (1-1) 4-2 L, 3-2 W OT
In both games this season, Dallas scored the opening goal of the contest. As mentioned above, the Stars are a low scoring team that can hold on to a lead better than most so that first goal feels like a much bigger hole against Dallas than anyone else in the Western Conference.
Record when Dallas Scores First: 23-5-4
Record when Leading After 1st Period: 17-2-1
Record when Leading After 2nd Period: 23-1-2
As you can see the Stars do a good job of locking down the opponents’ offense when holding a lead. However, the Golden Knights are also outstanding when scoring first, and lost out on a measly six points in 35 games when they held a lead after two periods.
Record when Vegas Scores First: 26-6-2
Record when Leading After 1st Period: 19-3-3
Record when Leading After 2nd Period: 31-2-2
The numbers show that Vegas is in fact a better club holding a lead, and they allow almost a half goal more goal per game than Dallas. The Golden Knights winning percentage is .764 when they score first to the Stars’ .718 which is why the game’s first goal is crucial. This is especially important if the goaltending holds an edge over the shooters in the round-robin stage which we believe it may.
Penalties were an issue again for the Golden Knights when they played the Stars back in November. Vegas awarded Dallas two power play opportunities in the first period, one in which Alexander Radulov scored the opening goal. The Golden Knights were called for three early penalties and the game was essentially lost after the first twenty minutes.
The Golden Knights took the second game against the Stars, winning 3-2 in overtime. It was a much cleaner game, and they held a one-goal lead for most of it but eventually let the tying goal in late in the third period. Vegas quickly secured the two points :51 seconds in OT. Overall both games were tight, and well defended.
Areas of Adjustment:
- Don’t fall behind early
Both clubs are excellent when scoring the first goal, so scoring first would be excellent, but even if the Golden Knights don’t score early, they have to manage to keep the game tied in the early going. Dallas quickly transforms into a defensive juggernaut the moment they get the lead and it’s a bear to overcome it. This is the case in every game, but it’s especially important against the Stars because a two-goal deficit is basically the lights out.
- Shrink Bishop
Now let’s get to the biggest obstacle. Like 6’7 big. Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop started both regular-season games and held Vegas to 5 total goals in 120:47 minutes. Bishop has a lifetime losing record against Vegas (2-3-1) but impressively held the Golden Knights offense to 2.09 goals per game. In 401:36 minutes in goal against Vegas, the NBA-sized goaltender has held the Golden Knights to 12 even-strength goals, and only two power play tallies.
The key to “shrinking” him is to create cross-ice chances. The bigger the goalie, the longer it takes for them to move side to side. And while Bishop is incredibly athletic for his size, moving him around the crease makes him much more vulnerable. Vegas has struggled to do this at times against the Stars, which is why they’ve had a hard time beating Bishop consistently. The normal “high danger” chances that Vegas feasts on right in front of the crease are much less dangerous against a giant than they are a normal-sized human playing goal.
- Take advantage of poor PK
You would expect since Dallas is a well-defensive team they are staunch on the penalty kill, but they’re not. Their PK 76.72% is below league average and they allow 3.14 power-play opportunities per game. This is really the weakness that is the difference between the Stars being the best team in the Western Conference to them finishing below Vegas in the regular season. It’s a huge vulnerability and one that might be even more exploitable after five months off. Pressure in all three zones will help to draw some penalties and then clean execution will convert them into power play goals.
Overall the Stars are statistically among the best defensive teams in hockey. They allowed the second least amount of goals per game with (2.52 GA/GP), so any puck passed Bishop will be a big one. The one guaranteed improvement from Vegas will be in net. Former backup Malcolm Subban started both games against Dallas this season, and without taking away anything from his performances, Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner will give them a significant upgrade in net.