The Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights went to overtime for the third time in four games in the Western Conference Finals. Aside from the NHL’s other conference finals, the Stars avoided a sweep by defeating the Golden Knights 3–2 to bring the series back to Vegas 3–1.
Joe Pavelski scored the OT game-winner for the Stars, who fought back in Game 4 after trailing 1–0 and 2–1. After Dallas made another dangerous look on the overtime power play, Miro Hiskanen set up Pavelski for an emphatic goal. Keep the Stars’ Stanley Cup dreams alive.
It was Pavelski’s 18th career playoff game-winning goal, and already the fourth of this run. Pavelski’s 73 playoff goals Lead all active NHL playersBroke the tie with Alex Ovechkin.
The Stars’ top line scored all three goals, including two from Jason Robertson. With Jake Oettinger looking sharp for Game 4, the Stars’ biggest guns gave him reason to believe in an improbable comeback.
The Golden Knights Are On An Epic 5-on-5 Run
Tired of hearing about the even-strength dominance of the Golden Knights? If anything, it’s hard to overstate how great this team has been in the most normal of post-season games.
Before Game 4, the Golden Knights came away with only 18 goals in 5-on-5. This is easily the best number by any team with at least 11 playoff wins. in over a decade, In fact, this year’s Florida Panthers are second-best since 2012-13, allowing 25 5-on-5 goals in their own unimaginable run.
After Game 3, it was noted that part of what makes Vegas so difficult to handle are its waves of dynamic duos (sometimes formidable trios). This is especially evident at strength as well. Just 4:17 into Thursday’s game, William Carlson tipped in a Reilly Smith shot for the 1–0 goal, Carlson’s eighth tally of the postseason.
As much as Carlsen’s sneaky Conn Smythe argument hinges on astute defensive skills, he’s also producing offensively.
Speaking of playoff production, Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchesault continue to deliver in clutch situations. It felt like a familiar sight: Eichel outflanked opponents with his puck protection and smarts, and made a big play in the back of the net. Brayden McNabb kept the play going until Marchesault, who once again reached a dangerous zone to score, looked easy (if you forget how difficult it is to get into those dirty areas).
To Oettinger’s credit, he brushed aside at least two dangerous Eichel rush opportunities before the Marchesault’s marker.
After one of those high-danger stops against Eichel, the Stars were able to score their first even-strength goal against Vegas as Heiskanen found the back of the net 2:47 into Game 2. Since that Hessennen strike, the Stars’ goals have dwindled. Been like this:
Robertson PPG (2nd period of Game 2)
Robertson PPG (1st period of Game 4)
Robertson even-strength goal (2nd period of Game 4)
Pavelski PPG (Overtime of Game 4)
Don’t Blame Robertson For The Stars Down 3-1 In The Series
Has anyone charged the batteries for “Robo”? While the Stars’ scoring depth dried up, Robertson reignited their offense against the stingy Golden Knights.
Entering the 2023 Western Conference Finals, Robertson had a lot of assists (10 in two rounds) but scored only two goals in 13 games. He is now scoring nearly the All-Stars’ goals during this series, bringing his overall playoff tally to six.
There’s a lot going for the stars, including players in the flesh of their prime years: Roop Hintze is 26, Oettinger is 24, Heuskenen is 23 and Wyatt Johnson is just 20. Robertson may be the most important piece of that puzzle, and at 23, he’s already the type of star that can fuel a team’s offense.
That nucleus could use some props, yet they don’t seem that far from the big stuff. Maybe they will somehow manage to bring this series back from the dead.
Stars need to find answers on defense
As a team, the Stars played strong, structured defense in 2022-23. We often saw the best of both worlds: remnants of rigid Rick Bowness defensive determination not bogged down in the mud to generate an offense with enough spark. For the most part, Peter DeBoer mixed the old with the new this season. his hockey ie chart Captures how well they defend their goals:
In playoffs, sometimes strengths are neutralized—sometimes to the same extent as weaknesses—when you grind against evenly matched opponents. Under that harsh playoff spotlight, the Stars’ defense has too often looked like “Miro Hiskanen and a bunch of boys.”
More and more, Ryan Sutter has become a target of criticism as he has been elevated above his comfort level as a top-pair defenseman (often forcing Heiskanen off his off-side to make matters worse). colliding).
If the Stars knew they could deal with 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in Game 4, do you think they’d be more willing to play someone with skill (and a right-handed shot) like Nils Lundqvist? Would you be interested? Management may not be thrilled that a player They spent a first-rounder to acquire A healthy scratch remains.
This deep into the playoffs, it’s probably too late to throw Lundqvist into the mix. The 22-year-old is out of the lineup from March 25, Still, you could blame a lack of long-term (even medium-term) vision for not getting him back in sporting action sooner.
If Lundqvist is either lost or someone who still needs to gain DeBoer’s trust, the Stars made a big mistake by not seeking help on defense during the trade deadline. The pairing of Max Domi and Evgeny Dadonov has exceeded expectations and at a bargain price. Yet those players may come closer to a good thing than overcome the necessary problems.
Beyond subtle tweaks, there’s only so much the Stars’ chances can change during these playoffs. So the real key will be to make the right moves during the off-season. At the moment, Heiskanen, Sutter and Asa Lindell are the only Dallas defensemen under contracts for at least the 2024-25 season. Thomas Harley can be expected to return, as is his pending RFA with Lundqvist. Even if the Stars bring back most of their free agents (unrestricted and restricted), they still need to add some versatility to their defense.