The Western Conference Final is very much up for grabs, with the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars each winning a game in this competitive series. But one of those teams will take a series lead following Thursday night’s Game 3 in Edmonton.
Here is a preview for Game 3 between the Golden Knights and Stars, along with a series recap and a free pick. Vegas is favored to win at -165.
When the series began, two teams who were rolling on offense got into a defensive battle. Ultimately, an early goal by Dallas was enough, as the Stars won Game 1 by a final of 1-0. The lone goal came from defenseman John Klingberg a little over two-and-a-half minutes into the game, his third postseason goal in the bubble. Anton Khudobin was brilliant as well, making 25 saves to earn his first career postseason shutout.
But the Knights stormed back in Game 2 thanks to an explosive second period. After a scoreless opening frame, center Paul Stastny, center William Karlsson, and left-wing Tomas Nosek all scored in a 10-minute span in the second to lift Vegas to a 3-0 win. This time, Robin Lehner stood out in net, earning a 24-save shutout for his ninth win of the postseason.
Keys to Victory
Vegas will win if their special teams are strong. In the playoffs, having your power play and the penalty kill both excelling is vital if you want to be the last team standing. Through two games, only one of those has shown up. The Golden Knights are a measly 1-for-10 on the power-play this series, doing an excellent job of forcing Dallas into mistakes but failing to capitalize on them. They will need to start taking advantage of power plays sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, the penalty kill has had success thus far, going 4-for-4 through two games. However, Dallas has the most power-play goals (14) out of anyone so far in the playoffs, so the Golden Knights will need to continue to be focused and disciplined.
Dallas will win if they break through their offensive struggles. In the second round, no team looked better on offense than the Stars. Dallas managed to beat the Avalanche in seven, scoring 28 goals for an average of four per game. But that offensive output has disappeared entirely this series, as they have now been scoreless for the past 117 minutes of action against Vegas.
The power play needs to improve, as the Stars have just three shots total over their four unsuccessful chances. But it will take a huge effort from some of their slumping players.
Center Tyler Seguin has been held without a point for six straight games, while left-wing Jamie Benn and right-wing Joe Pavelski have been scoreless for the last four contests. These veteran playmakers can’t be silent on offense for much longer if Dallas expects to win the series.
Despite the second period of Game 2, defense has dominated through two games of the Western Conference Final. I anticipate another game that sees strong performances from both goaltenders and goals fairly hard to come by.
But for me, I like the look of Vegas’ key contributors more than Dallas’, so I’m picking the Knights to get the job done once again and take a series lead.
Pick: Golden Knights -165