2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Golden Knights vs. Stars Western Final preview (2023)

The conference finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will feature four teams in two best-of-7 series, which start Thursday. Today, NHL.com previews the Western Conference Final between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Dallas Stars.

(1P) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (2C) Dallas Stars

Golden Knights:51-22-9, 111 points; 4-1 to win first round against Winnipeg Jets; 4-2 to win second round against Edmonton Oilers

Stars:47-21-14, 108 points; 4-2 to win first round against Minnesota Wild; 4-3 to win second round against Seattle Kraken

Season series:VGK 0-1-2; SONG 3-0-0

Game 1:Friday (8:30 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS, ESPN+)

The Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights are back at it again, playing a best-of-7 series for the right to play for the Stanley Cup.

They did this three years ago in the Edmonton bubble during the COVID-19 pandemic, from Sept. 6-14, 2020. The Stars and Golden Knights played in what that year was called the Stanley Cup Semifinals.

Dallas won the series in five games before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final.

Twenty-one players and five coaches that were involved in that series are going to be a part of this Western Conference Final, including Dallas coach Peter DeBoer, who was the Golden Knights coach, and Vegas assistant John Stevens, who held that same role with Dallas.

"There will be more information available early in this series," Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. "There's a little more knowledge in this series, internal knowledge. We'll see how that plays out."

The Golden Knights got here by dispatching the Winnipeg Jets in five games in the first round and the Edmonton Oilers in six games in the second round.

[RELATED:Complete Golden Knights vs. Stars series coverage]

The Stars have made by defeating the Minnesota Wild in six games in the first round and the Seattle Kraken in seven games in the second round. They won 2-1 in Game 7, limiting the Kraken to 23 shots on goal and shutting them out until there were 19 seconds left in the third period.

"I think we've got to play like we played [in Game 7]," Stars centerRoope Hintzsaid. "[The Golden Knights are] also four lines. They play hard. They play a good forecheck. So I think when we play fast and with our strength with four lines, I think we're good."

DeBoer was fired by the Golden Knights a year ago Tuesday and hired by the Stars on June 21, 2022. Stevens was let go by the Stars on May 20, 2022, and hired by Vegas on June 28.

"There's a lot to unpack there," DeBoer said.

The Stars won all three regular-season games against the Golden Knights, although two of them were decided in a shootout.

"The teams are going to know each other well," Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon said.

Game breakers

Golden Knights:Jack Eichel, in his eighth NHL season, appears to be getting comfortable in his first go round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 26-year-old center leads the Golden Knights with 14 points and is tied for the team lead with six goals (Chandler Stephenson). Eichel had a huge series against the Oilers with nine points (three goals, six assists) that all came in Vegas' four wins. The Golden Knights are 7-0 when Eichel gets on the scoresheet and 1-3 when he gets doesn't in the playoffs.

Stars:At 38,Joe Pavelskiis still getting it done for the Stars. The forward enters the conference final on a goal a game pace with eight in eight, including three game-winners, tied for the most in the playoffs with Florida Panthers forwardCarter Verhaeghe. Pavelski also has two assists for 10 points. He's a heart and soul leader for the Stars and one of the most impactful scorers. This is also Pavelski's fourth time facing the Golden Knights in the playoffs (2018 and 2019 with the San Jose Sharks, 2020 with the Stars). His teams are 2-1 and he has 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 19 postseason games against them.


Golden Knights:It looks like it's going to beAdin Hill's series and there's no doubt the 27-year-old has earned it. Hill was forced into action in the first period of Game 3 against Edmonton becauseLaurent Brossoitsustained a lower-body injury. It was the beginning of the best and most impactful goaltending we have seen from Hill in his six-year NHL career. He allowed four goals on 33 shots in a 4-1 loss in Game 4, his first start in more than two months. Hill rebounded to become arguably the biggest reason why Vegas won the series in six games. He made 32 saves in a 4-3 win in Game 5, and 38 straight after giving up goals on the first two shots he faced in Game 6, a 4-2 win. Hill is 3-1 with a 2.19 goals-against average and .934 save percentage this postseason after going 16-7-1 with a 2.50 GAA and .915 save percentage in 27 games (25 starts) in the regular season.Jonathan Quickis expected to continue serving as Hill's backup with Brossoit andLogan Thompson(undisclosed) injured.

Stars: Jake Oettingerhad a tough series against the Kraken in the second round, but when the Stars needed their 24-year-old goalie to step up in Game 7, he did so in a big way. Oettinger made 22 saves on 23 shots in a 2-1 win. Although he was pulled twice in the series and gave up four or more goals in three games, Oettinger also stepped up big with the Stars down 2-1 in the first round against the Wild. He helped them win three games in a row to take the series in six games by allowing only three goals on 85 shots, including a 27-save shutout in Game 5. Oettinger is 8-5 with a 2.75 GAA and .903 save percentage in 13 games in the playoffs. BackupScott Wedgewoodhas allowed three goals on 18 shots in two relief appearances in the playoffs.

Numbers to know

Golden Knights:They are the third team in NHL history to advance to the round before the Stanley Cup Final at least four times in their first six seasons, joining the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues. … They're averaging 3.73 goals per game, the most by any team that advanced past the first round. … Vegas is 12th on the power play (17.5 percent) and 15th on the penalty kill (60.0 percent) among the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs. … They have 31 goals at 5-on-5, second behind the Kraken (33). … The Golden Knights have allowed the first goal in eight of 11 games, going 5-3 in those games.

Stars:DeBoer is in the third round of the playoffs for the fifth time with four teams in his NHL coaching career. He is the only coach in NHL history to lead a team to the third round in his first season with a team on four separate occasions. … The Stars are averaging 3.62 goals per game in the playoffs and their power play is converting at 31.7 percent. … Dallas is 83.3 percent on the penalty kill, second among teams that advanced out of the first round (Carolina Hurricanes, 90.0 percent). … The Stars lead the playoffs in face-off percentage (57.1). … Dallas is 8-1 when scoring the first goal and 0-4 when they give up the first goal.


Golden Knights:ForwardWilliam Karlssonis coming off a series in which he had to go againstConnor McDavidwhenever Vegas could get the matchups it wanted. By the end of the series, the Oilers were taking McDavid off the ice when Karlsson was sent on for a face-off. No offense to anybody on the Stars, but they don't have a Connor McDavid, although Karlsson will again get the toughest matchup, particularly at home, and it's a role he relishes. Look for him and linematesReilly SmithandNicolas Royto match up against the Stars top line of Pavelski, Roope Hintz andJason Robertson. Karlsson, who can put the puck in the net, is arguably their most important forward considering the role he plays defensively.

Stars:Hintz leads the Stars and is second in the playoffs with 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists). But scoring is only one of the ways he impacts games. Hintz is a possession driver, with Dallas taking 56.6 percent of the shot attempts at 5-on-5 with Hintz on the ice. He helps that by winning face-offs (60.0 percent, 54-of-90). Hintz is playing 18:26 per game, second among Stars forwards behind Robertson (18:47). He plays on the top power-play unit (3:16 per game), and gets limited time on the penalty kill (38 seconds per game). He touches all areas of the game and will have to continue to do so against the Golden Knights.

They said it

"We're going to keep going until our organization reaches the ultimate goal. This was one step in the right direction. When you think about it, we're only halfway done to our goal here. There's a lot of work left to do." -- Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault

"When you asked me if you think you can win [the Stanley Cup], I feel like not every year you can honestly say yes. I think this year I feel like we can win it. We have everything. When we play the way we want to play and we do the little things right, I think we can beat anyone."-- Stars goalie Jake Oettinger

Will win if…

Golden Knights:They stick to the formula that got them here, which is to stay out of the penalty box as much as possible and control play at 5-on-5. Their special teams have not been all that special this postseason, but they have been the better team at 5-on-5 in each of their series so far. Staying that way gives them the best chance, especially if they can get solid goaltending.

Stars:Forecheck, forecheck, forecheck. The Stars have to know that when the Golden Knights struggled against the Oilers it was because of Edmonton's forecheck. Vegas struggled to get the puck out of its defensive zone, turned it over and committed penalties. The more aggressive the Stars are on the forecheck, the better their chances of forcing the Golden Knights out of its plan to try to make it a 5-on-5 series. Oettinger has to be a difference-maker too. He's the best goalie in the series.

How they look

Golden Knights projected lineup

Ivan Barbashev-- Jack Eichel --Jonathan Marchessault

Reilly Smith -- William Karlsson -- Nicolas Roy

Brett Howden--Chandler Stephenson--Mark Stone

William Carrier--Teddy Blueger--Keegan Biker

Alec Martinez--Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabb--Shea Theodore

Nicolas Hague--Zach Whitecloud

Adin Hill

Jonathan Quick

Scratched:Ben Hutton,Paul Cotter,Kaedan Korczak,Brayden Pachal,Michael Amadio,Phil Kessel

Injured:Laurent Brossoit (lower body), Logan Thompson (undisclosed)

Stars projected lineup

Jason Robertson -- Roope Hintz -- Joe Pavelski

Mason Marchment--Max Domi--Tyler Seguin

Jamie Benn--Wyatt Johnston--Evgenii Dadonov

Luke Glendening--Radek Faksa--Joel Kiviranta

Ryan Suter--Miro Heiskanen

Esa Lindell--Colin Miller

Thomas Harley--Joel Hanley

Jake Oettinger

Scott Wedgewood

Scratched:Ty Dellandrea,Nils Lundkvist,Jani Hakanpaa,Fredrik Olofsson,Riley Tufte


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