The Western Conference Final started off in a low-scoring fashion, with the Dallas Stars taking a series lead over the Vegas Golden Knights. Now, Game 2 gets underway Tuesday night in Edmonton, with the Stars trying to extend the series lead and the Knights hoping to tie things up.
Here is a preview for Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, along with a recap of the previous game and a free pick. Despite being down in the series, Vegas is favored at -160 to take the win.
After playing in a series that averaged around eight goals per game, it looked as if Dallas was on their way to another offensive explosion when defenseman John Klingberg fired a wicked wrister in the middle of the Vegas zone to give the Stars a 1-0 lead just 2:36 into the first period. But that’s the only scoring that would happen all game, as strong goaltending and shot-blocking kept the game at 1-0 until the final horn sounded.
For the Stars, goaltender Anton Khudobin was magnificent, stopping all 25 shots that came his way to earn his first career playoff shutout. It was the second straight day with a shutout in the Stanley Cup playoffs, with the Islanders blanking the Flyers 4-0 in Game 7 of their second-round series. Despite earning the loss, Vegas’ decision to turn to Marc-Andre Fleury in net wasn’t a bad one, as the veteran still made 24 saves.
After a relatively even first period, the two teams each had their dominant periods. In the second period, Dallas outshot Vegas 12-4, with center Tyler Seguin and right-wing Denis Gurianov, each putting up multiple shots in an effort to generate offense. But the Knights made it interesting in the third, winning the shot battle 13-2.
Left-wing Max Pacioretty and right-wing Reilly Smith were two of the more active players on offense in terms of putting pucks on net. Vegas also had four power-play opportunities throughout the game, failing to capitalize on all of them.
Keys to Victory
Dallas will win if the offense makes a return. While no one will question how solid the Stars were defensively during the regular season and in Game 1 of this series, they don’t make it past the Avalanche in the second round without their offense getting scorching hot.
Since Game 4 of their opening-round series against the Flames and before Game 1 against Vegas, Dallas scored a whopping 42 goals in 10 games. While continuing on that pace may be somewhat unrealistic, they are still facing a team who out-scored and outshot them fairly comfortably during the regular season.
Additionally, with the veteran Khudobin only capable of some much over the course of a full series, the goal-scoring from last round will likely need to re-appear quickly for the Stars to win Game 2 and more.
Vegas will win if the power play shows some consistency. In general, the Golden Knights have been the better team on the ice in almost every postseason game thus far. Their Corsi For and expected goals ratings during five-on-five play are among the best in the Stanley Cup playoffs, showing the general dominance they have had throughout the playoffs in terms of controlling possession.
But the Stars are still a team that can make things difficult defensively, evident by Game 1, so the boost Vegas would get from their power play would be huge. The Knights certainly haven’t been bad with the extra attacker, but could stand to be more consistent thanks to an 0-for-4 and 0-for-5 performance in two of their last three games. If the power play starts to come through, the pressure will squarely be put on Dallas once again.
If Game 1 was any indication, we may see goals be tougher to come by this series than what we had seen previously in the Western Conference playoffs. I’m anticipating another lower-scoring game where each team’s defense thrives and stifles the opposition.
I also see a Vegas team that does not want to climb out of an 0-2 hole in the series. I’ll take the Knights finding a way to figure out Khudobin and even up the series.
Pick: Golden Knights -160