Western Conference Playoff Preview and Prediction: Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights

Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.
Ryley Delaney
11 days ago
The top team in the Western Conference against the second Wild Card team should be a no-contest, right?
Wrong, as the reigning Stanley Cup champions finished eighth in the West. Not only that, but they have reinforcements on the way, as Mark Stone is ready to suit up in Game 1 for the Vegas Golden Knights’ first-round series against the Dallas Stars.  
This will be an interesting series. Let’s compare the two teams’ forwards, defence, goaltending, and playoff experience to see who has the edge.


The Dallas Stars team is made up of veterans who’ve been there and done that, young players currently in their prime, and even younger players who are early in their careers. This is reflected in their top three scorers.
Jason Robertson was selected in that great 2017 class, and he has 29 goals and 80 points, leading the Stars in 2023-24. Joe Pavelski is one of those veterans, and he had 27 goals and 67 points as a 39-year-old. Wyatt Johnston was selected in the 2021 draft (one pick after Xavier Bourgault), and he had a team-leading 32 goals and 65 points.
Of course, there are players who don’t quite fit into one of three categories but still had great seasons. Roope Hintz was selected in 2014 and had 30 goals and 65 points. Matt Duchene, a free agent signing, had 25 goals and 65 points as well.
Other important forwards in the lineup include Jamie Benn (21 goals, 60 points), Mason Marchment (22 goals, 53 points), Tyler Seguin (25 goals, 52 points), Sam Steel (nine goals, 24 points), Evgeny Dadonov (12 goals, 23 points in 51 games), Craig Smith (11 goals, 20 points), and Radek Faska (seven goals, 19 points).
The Stars also called up Logan Stankoven, who was selected in the same draft as Johnston and had six goals and 14 points in 24 games this season.
Vegas is led by Jonathan Marchessault, who scored 42 goals and 69 points this season. Jack Eichel had 31 goals and 68 points, while Willam Karlsson had 30 goals and 60 points. Eichel missed nearly 20 games, while Karlsson missed 12 games.
Captain Mark Stone also missed games as well, ending up on the LTIR for the third consecutive season right before the trade deadline. He had 16 goals and 53 points and could be in the lineup for Game 1. This also freed up a whole lot of cap for the Knights, and they acquired Tomáš Hertl and Anthony Mantha.
The former had two goals and four points in six games (17 goals, 38 points in 54 games this season), while Mantha scored three goals and 10 points as a Knight, and 23 goals and 44 points in 74 games.
Depth scoring include Chandler Stephenson (16 goals, 53 points), Ivan Barbashev (19 goals, 45 points), Nicolas Roy (13 goals, 41 points), Mike Amadio (14 goals, 27 points), Paul Cotter (seven goals, 25 points), Pavel Dorofeyev (13 goals, 24 points), Brett Howden (eight goals, 19 points),  Keegan Klesar (eight goals, 18 points), and William Carrier, who scored six goals and eight points in 39 games this season.
Both teams can roll four lines and it’s pretty evenly matched. If I had to pick a better forward core, Dallas would get the slight edge.


The Stars only made one move at the trade deadline, trading a prospect, a 2024 second-rounder, and a conditional third-round pick in exchange for Chris Tanev from the Calgary Flames. It won’t be the only time the Flames traded a defenceman to either of these two teams.
Tanev joined an already strong defence core, as Miro Heiskanen had nine goals and 54 points this season. On his left side was Thomas Harley, who scored 15 goals and 47 points and is progressing to become a very good defender. The second pairing consists of Tanev on the right side (two goals, 19 points) and Esa Lindell (five goals, 26 points) on the left side.
One of those veterans I mentioned in the forward section is on the third pairing, which consists of Ryan Suter (two goals, 17 points) and Nils Lundkvist (two goals, 19 points).
The Golden Knights also traded with the Calgary Flames to land the other half of their then-second pairing, acquiring Noah Hanifin. The left-shot defenceman had 13 goals and 47 points this season, falling one point shy of matching his career-high. Alex “Axe-man” Pietrangelo is his defence partner, and he had four goals and 33 points in 64 games this past season.
Vegas’ second pairing consists of Brayden McNabb (four goals, 26 points) on the left side, and Shea Theodore (five goals, 42 points in 47 games) on his right side. Their third-pairing has Nicolas Hague (two goals, 12 points) and Zach Whitecloud (two goals, 14 points). In terms of their seventh defender, experienced veteran Alec Martinez (four goals, 17 points) could be used if a defenceman goes down.

Mar 24, 2024; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger (29) looks on against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period at Mullett Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports


The Dallas Stars selected Jason Robertson and Miro Heiskanen in the 2017 draft but also picked up netminder Jake Oettinger late in the first round. This season, the 25-year-old had a .905 save percentage and a 2.72 goals-against average in 54 games played. This was down from his .919 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average in 2022-23.
After posting a league-high .954 save percentage in seven games during the 2022 playoffs, Oettinger struggled in the 2023 playoffs, posting a .895 save percentage and a 3.06 goals-against average in 19 games played.
Backing up Oettinger is Scott Wedgewood, who had an .899 save percentage and a 2.85 goals-against average in 32 games played this season.
After a 30-save performance on 31 shots to end the Edmonton Oilers’ bid to match the longest win streak in history, Adin Hill was riding high at a .938 save percentage in 18 games played. However, over his next 17 games played, Hill posted an .877 save percentage, bringing his season save percentage to .909 with a 2.71 goals-against average.
When he was injured or through his rough play, Logan Thompson filled in, and he wasn’t much better. He had a .908 save percentage and a 2.70 goals-against average in 46 games played, finishing the season with a 25-14-5 record.
Both teams had subpar goaltending this season, but both starters also had quite a bit of rest. It wouldn’t be all too surprising if both netminders stand on their heads in this series.

Wrapping up

In the wrap up section, I’ve been looking at the two teams’ playoff experience, and these two teams rank first and second. The Dallas Stars have 1,089 playoff games played on their roster, beating out the Edmonton Oilers at 1,026. However, the Vegas Golden Knights have an insane 1,342 games played in the playoffs between the players on their roster.
Again, it isn’t the end all be all, and you can be sure Dallas would like to get revenge for being knocked out of the playoffs during the last Western Conference finals. The teams are evenly matched.
In the regular season, Vegas went 3-0-0 against Dallas, but two of those wins came in overtime (the other was a 6-1 win). Moreover, the last time these two teams faced off was December 9, so who knows what has changed.
This very well could be the most exciting series of the eight in the first round!
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Ryley_L_D.


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