Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars
The Vegas Golden Knights and the Dallas Stars face-off for game two of their Western Conference Finals series on Tuesday night. The underdog Stars impressed in Game One, shutting Vegas down completely in a 1-0 win.
Where does that leave us going into game two?
I think it’s fair to give Vegas the benefit of the doubt. Vegas played Game 6 against Vancouver on Thursday night, Game 7 on Friday night, and then Game 1 against Dallas on Sunday night. Three games in four days is draining on the body, especially when two of them are elimination games. Dallas did play a grueling Game 7 that went to overtime on Friday, but their schedule has been less condensed.
It’s important to note what actually happened in Game One. Vegas is a team that usually dominates games; they are first in these playoffs in terms of shot attempts, high danger chances and expected goals. That was not the case in Game One.
Dallas had 58.4% of the score-adjusted shot attempts, 68.8% of the high danger chances and 63.5% of the expected goals. They held Vegas to just 25 shots on net, well below their average of over 36 in these playoffs. This leads you to believe that there is validity to the idea that Vegas just didn’t have their legs in the opener. That was not Knights hockey.
How did Dallas do it? Rick Bowness actually changed up his lines late in the Avalanche series. He split up his big names amongst all four of his forward lines. Jamie Benn, Denis Gurianov, Joe Pavelski and Tyler Seguin all anchor their own lines. Grinders like Blake Comeau are getting shifts with Benn. This is done to spread out their attack and to prevent one line from being taken advantage of.
Dallas’ best defensive pairing was the unit of John Klingberg and Esa Lindell. Klingberg scored the only goal of the game early in the first period, but the duo led the Stars in controlling play and generating shot attempts.
On the other side of the matchup, Vegas has not scored an even-strength goal against a goalie in over three games. They were shutout in Game Six by Thatcher Demko. In Game Seven, they scored a powerplay goal and two empty net goals. In Game One of this series, they were shutout again.
Vegas has always been a below average team in terms of shooting percentage. This could be unluckiness which could regress back to the mean, but it also indicates a lack of finishing talent which can be true about a lot of players on the Golden Knights. They work collectively as a unit, but they don’t have many big time superstars. Even their best player, Mark Stone, is known for being a top-level two way player rather than as an offensive juggernaut.
Dallas held Vegas to just four high danger chances at even strength in Game One. Despite their high-scoring games in the playoffs, Dallas has developed a reputation as an elite defensive team in the league. No team in the conference allowed fewer goals per game during the regular season. Goalie Anton Khudobin had a .930 save percentage during the regular season. While he hasn’t been quite that good in the postseason, he’s extremely capable of making saves.
Offensively, Dallas was also known to be lackluster. During the regular season, only one team scored less 5v5 goals than Dallas did.
The interesting question for Vegas is in the crease. Marc-Andre Fleury was a surprise start for the team in Game One after Robin Lehner posted a shutout in Game Seven against Vancouver. Fleury was only beaten once, but he lost the game. The assumption is that Lehner was given a rest in Game One after playing back-to-back nights in Games Six and Seven.
The past two seasons, there probably hasn’t been a better goalie than Robin Lehner in hockey. He was nominated for the Vezina trophy as the league’s top goalie in 2019. In 2020, Vegas traded for him at the deadline to upgrade their goaltending. He delivered, posting three shutouts in their series win over the Canucks.
All the factors in this game point towards another under. Vegas usually has the puck most of the game, but right now they are struggling mightily to score goals. Dallas usually struggles to score as well, though these playoffs have tested that reputation. Both Lehner and Khudobin are top-level goaltenders.
After a 1-0 game in the series opener, the under might seem too easy. However, the public hates betting unders. Expect Lehner and Khudobin to put on a show as this game stays under the total.
BET: Under 5.5 Goals @ -109
Under 5.5 Goals @ -109
BONUS PROP PICK
Shea Theodore to Record a Point @ -122
Theodore plays over 22 minutes per night on the Vegas defense. He spends well over a third of the game on the ice playing in important situations.
He quarterbacks Vegas’ top powerplay unit and plays the most minutes of any Vegas defenseman on the man advantage. He gets to play alongside the likes of Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith.
Theodore put up 46 points in 71 games during the regular season. In these playoffs, he has 16 points in 16 games. He’s recorded points in 11 of their 16 games.
Vegas has scored only one goal against a goalie in their last three games, but the goal was scored by Theodore on the powerplay.
Theodore is on the ice a lot, plays with talented players, and has produced big time in these playoffs. This feels like a cheap price for one of the games’ best young defensemen.