- The Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights will meet in the 2020 Western Conference final
- VGK has opened as a massive favorite
- See the odds and predictions before the best-of-seven kicks off on Sunday, Sep. 6th
Two thrilling Game 7s later, the Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights have advanced to the 2020 Western Conference final, which gets underway this Sunday, Sep. 6th, at 8:00 pm ET.
For the third series in a row, Vegas has opened as a massive favorite, with odds north of -200.
Stars vs Golden Knights Series Odds
|Team||Moneyline at FanDuel||Series Spread||Game Total O/U|
|Dallas Stars||+176||+1.5 (-122)||TBD|
|Vegas Golden Knights||-220||-1.5 (-110)||TBD|
Odds as of Sept. 5. Total will be updated when the odds become available.
The matchup was finalized on Friday when Dallas topped the Colorado Avalanche 5-4 (OT) and Vegas finally dispatched of the Vancouver Canucks 3-0. Both teams had been up 3-1 in their second-round series.
Dallas’ Path to the Western Conference Final
- Round one: 4-2 series win over Calgary
- Round two: 4-3 series win over Colorado
Dallas started slowly in the seeding round, going 1-2-0 and scoring just three goals in 180 minutes of regulation time. The scoring issues were a holdover from the regular season when they mustered just 2.58 GPG, fifth-worst in the 31-team league.
Since then, the Stars have produced a flurry of goals that was less expected than the Spanish Inquisition. Dallas averaged 3.5 GPG in their’ 4-2 series win over Calgary in round one, led by 23-year-old Denis Gurianov (six goals) and a resurgent Joe Pavelski (four goals). The production ramped up even further in round two with the Stars potting a full 4.0 GPG in their seven-game victory over Colorado.
The hero of Game 7 only added to the stunning tenor of the Stars’ entire playoffs. Rookie Joel Kirivanta, who had only drawn into one other postseason game, came up with a hat-trick, tripling his production from the regular season (one goal in 11 games). The 24-year-old Finn tied the game at 2-2 early in the second, tied it again at 4-4 late in the third, and then became the first rookie to notch a hatty in a Game 7 when he buried the series-clincher at 7:24 of OT.
While the offensive explosion has certainly been a treat for Stars fans used to watching 2-1 games, it is masking a host of defensive problems that have crept up. Dallas was the second-stingiest team in the regular season, allowing a paltry 2.52 goals per game. That number is up to 3.77 in the postseason (including the seeding round).
The problems start in net. Number-one goalie Ben Bishop, who led the league in save percentage two years ago (.934) and was top ten again this year (.920), had been “unfit to play” until Game 5 against the Avalanche. Pressed into the starting role, usually-reliable backup Anton Khudobin saw his regular-season SV% of .930 drop precipitously to .909 in the playoffs.
When Bishop was able to suit up against Colorado, he lasted less than one period, surrendering four goals on 19 shots in just 13:43 of action. He’s back on the shelf.
Dallas Stars Postseason Scoring Leaders
|Miro Heiskanen (D)||5||14||19|
|Denis Gurianov (F)||8||6||14|
|Jamie Benn (F)||5||7||12|
|Joe Pavelski (F)||8||3||11|
|John Klingberg (D)||2||8||10|
|Alexander Radulov (F)||5||4||9|
|Roope Hintz (F)||2||7||9|
|Tyler Seguin (F)||2||5||7|
|Radek Faksa (F)||3||4||7|
|Corey Perry (F)||2||4||6|
The players in front of Khudobin and Bishop bear their share of blame. Dallas was fourth in the NHL in high-danger chances percentage in the regular season at 53.27% (meaning they generated over 53.27% of the HDCs in all of their regular-season games, combined). In the playoffs, they are down to 50.67%. They are allowing an average of 12.33 HDCs per game compared to 10.55 in 69 regular-season games.
If this team has real Stanley Cup aspirations, it’s going to need to clean up that end of the ice. The Stars won’t have the luxury of facing goalies like Cam Talbot, Pavel Francouz, and Michael Hutchinson the rest of the way.
Vegas’ Path to the Western Conference Final
- Round one: 4-1 series win over Chicago
- Round two: 4-3 series win over Vancouver
Unlike Dallas, Vegas blew threw the seeding round, grabbing the #1 seed with a 3-0 record. That earned them the right to face an overmatched Blackhawks team in the first round, and they took full advantage. Five games later, they had “lucked into” a second-round matchup with a youthful Vancouver team, which had just upset the defending champion Blues in six games. Vegas went up 3-1 thanks in part to a pair of shutouts from Robin Lehner, a trade-deadline acquisition who usurped the starting job from an aging and inconsistent Marc-Andre Fleury.
Then Canucks’ backup Thatcher Demko took over for an injured Jacob Markstrom and all bets were off. Vegas was only able to solve Demko once in Games 5 and 6 (2-1 and 4-0 losses) – despite peppering the Boston College alum with 91 shots. Game 7 was writing a similar script until Shea Theodore broke a 0-0 tie with just over six minutes to play in the third period.
— NHL (@NHL) September 5, 2020
Two empty-net goals later, the Golden Knights were off to their second Western Conference final in their three-year existence.
Outside of a snake-bitten 140 minutes, Vegas has been near flawless . Their high-danger chance percentage is a preposterous 58.89%, over 3% better than the best team in the regular season (Minnesota: 55.26%). They have a ton of depth (11 different players have scored at least two postseason goals), arguably the best defenseman left in the playoffs (Theodore), and a solid starting goalie who’s backed up by a Stanley Cup champion.
Golden Knights Postseason Scoring Leaders
|Mark Stone (F)||6||9||15|
|Shea Theodore (D)||5||10||15|
|Reilly Smith (F)||4||8||12|
|Alex Tuch (F)||7||2||9|
|William Karlsson (F)||3||5||8|
|Jonathan Marchessault (F)||3||5||8|
|Nate Schmidt (D)||2||6||8|
|Alec Martinez (D)||1||6||7|
|Max Pacioretty (F)||5||2||7|
|Nicolas Roy (F)||1||5||6|
Stars vs Golden Knights Prediction
Vegas is a better, more complete team which has shown far fewer cracks than Dallas in the postseason. Their forward group is significantly faster, their D corps is at least on par and, based on playoff performance alone, they have a decided advantage in net.
Barring Khudobin putting in several Demko-like performances, Dallas will be hard-pressed to extend the series beyond five games. The -220 price tag is not worth it, though. Vegas -1.5 (-110) is better value. If it gets to a Game 7, something has gone awry for the Golden Knights.
Pick: Vegas -1.5 (-110)
Let's have fun and keep it civil.