GDB +13.0: Oilers and Stars Struggle in Game 1s (6:30pm MT, CBC)

Edmonton Oilers Dallas Stars
Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
26 days ago
Over the past three seasons, the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars have played 40 and 39 playoff games respectively. Only Florida (42) and Carolina (40) have played the same or more.
Yet, both the Oilers and Stars struggle in Game 1 of a series.
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Dallas has lost the first game in each of its last six series. Edmonton has lost Game 1 in six of its previous seven series. However, both teams won four of their series when losing the opening game.
Both have shown an ability to bounce back after dropping the first game, however, neither managed to win in the Conference Final when losing Game 1.
Edmonton lost to Colorado in 2022 and Dallas lost to Vegas last year after losing Game 1. I don’t think the Oilers had a good enough or healthy enough team to defeat Colorado even if they had won the first game, but Dallas is a much better team than Vancouver, and needing to win four of six games against Dallas will be tougher than doing it against Vancouver. It won’t be impossible, just more difficult. And with Roope Hintz set to return later in the series, Dallas will get even stronger.
The Oilers are 2-9 in the opening game of a series in the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl era. They had a great first 34 minutes against Vancouver grabbing a 4-1 lead, only to see it evaporate and lose 5-4. The Stars also blew a three-goal lead in their opening game v. Colorado. They led 3-0 after the first period but lost 4-3 in overtime. Both teams showed they were the better team in the series, but I’d argue Edmonton is better than Colorado, and Dallas, like the Oilers, would like to avoid playing catchup in this series.
In the salary cap era (since 2006), teams that win Game 1 of the Conference Finals are 21-15 in the series. When the home team wins Game 1, they are 11-10 in the series, and when the road team wins, they have a record of 15-10 in the series. Neither team will quit or give up and think the series is over after losing tonight, I just feel that for the Oilers a Game 1 victory gives them a huge boost, and history shows a much better chance of winning the series. This season they have shown their resiliency. After a horrible loss in San Jose on November 9th, which had them in 31st place in the NHL, they rebounded and had the best record in the NHL over the next 70 games. They blew a three-goal lead in Game 1 to Vancouver and wasted a 45-shot effort in the Game 3 loss, and after playing their worst game of the playoffs in Game 5, they were excellent in the final two games, save for four minutes after Ryan McLeod’s ghastly turnover.
It is odd how the Stars and Oilers have combined to go 1-12 in series openers since 2022. Maybe tonight’s victor won’t have much of an advantage in the series, but the odds favour the Oilers much more if they can win on the road.




RNH – McDavid – Hyman
Holloway – Draisaitl – Kane
Foegele – McLeod – Ryan
Janmark – Carrick – Brown
Ekholm – Bouchard
Nurse – Desharnais
Kulak – Ceci
Adam Henrique is close, but he won’t play tonight. Edmonton will stick with the same lineup. The team’s coming off two of its best defensive games of the playoffs and will need to continue that tonight. Dallas will attack much more than Los Angeles or Vancouver, and they love to attack off the rush. Defensively, the Stars aren’t as big and heavy as Vancouver but are more mobile. Dallas ranks 11th in allowing forecheck chances, and while it isn’t the Oilers’ strength offensively, the Stars are vulnerable off a strong forecheck.


Robertson – Johnston – Stankoven
Marchment – Duchene – Pavelski
Benn – Seguin – Dadonov
Steel – Faksa – Smith
Harley – Heiskanen
Lindell – Tanev
Suter – Petrovic
Dallas did a great job of slowing down Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche off the rush. They are very connected. They rarely have large gaps between their forwards and defensemen. The Avalanche didn’t have a second-line centred by Draisaitl, nor do they have a speedy third-line centre like Ryan McLeod. But McLeod will need to show a pulse offensively this series. He and Warren Foegele have been disappointing once the puck crosses centre into the offensive zone. That line will need to be much better than it was in the first two rounds. They need to break even against whichever line they face.
Dallas head coach Pete Deboer didn’t match one specific line against Nathan MacKinnon. In the four games Roope Hintz played, he only logged 18 minutes against MacKinnon.
Maybe it will be different against McDavid, but Wyatt Johnston (38%) was the only Stars forward who was out against MacKinnon for more than 30% of MacKinnon’s minutes. They focused more on having their top-two defence pairs out there with Anton Lindell (57%), Chris Tanev (52%), Thomas Harley (35%) and Miro Heiskanen (35%). Johnson and Logan Stankoven are exciting young players, but the Oilers should be fine with them matching up against McDavid if Deboer opts to go that route.


Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Tough to pick a winner considering both team’s struggles in the opening game. But Edmonton finds a way to extend Dallas’ losing streak in Game 1s to seven with a 3-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Todd Marchant, Curtis Joseph, Mike Modano and Joe Nieuwendyk references will equal up to 10 during the broadcast.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton’s third line makes an offensive appearance and scores its first 5×5 goal of the 2024 playoffs.

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