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2024 NHL PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Vegas Golden Knights v. Dallas Stars

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 22: Vegas Golden Knights right wing Mark Stone (61) has words with Dallas Stars left wing Mason Marchment (27) (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire)

Vegas Golden Knights v. Dallas Stars

Revenge is a dish best served cold, or in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Dallas comes into this series as the top seed in the West and one that looks to exact revenge on the team that removed it from last years conference finals. We get those same finals match-up now as a first-round series given Las Vegas’ status as a wild card team. The Golden Knights are, once again, a topic of discussion in the world of long-term injury reserve salary cap savings. Both Mark Stone and William Carrier, previously sidelined by injury, have been skating with the team in advance of this series. Each could return either before or within the first round, changing the makeup of the Golden Knights in a big way.

The season series belonged to Vegas, who swept all three and needed overtime in two to complete the task. That said, in many ways, things have changed for Dallas, too. The addition of Chris Tanev made an already strong defensive unit even stronger. The top pairing of Thomas Harley and Miro Heiskanen is must-watch hockey featuring two of the most mobile, puck-friendly defensemen in the league. Perhaps the biggest change for Dallas is in goal and they didn’t have to adjust personnel to get it. Looking at goals saved above expected among goalies with at least 500 minutes of performance at even-strength this season, Jake Oettinger ranks 38th. That doesn’t sound particularly great, but when you hone in on the last few weeks of the regular season, he’s starting to look like a real problem for the opposing team in goal. Assuming he’d have maintained a .913 save percentage for the duration of the year, he’d be significantly higher in those standings. Whether or not that run can continue will be a huge part of this series.

This series has a big feeling for the Stars. They made an aggressive swing at the deadline to bring in a defensive stalwart on the blueline. They are a top five team in goal scoring, zone entries, and finishing. If they can clear the hurdle of a bitter playoff rival laden with playoff experience in the first round, you must feel like that could be the necessary win to propel them to another Stanley Cup Final. From the Vegas perspective, the pieces are once again aligning at the right time and two capable goaltenders sit ready to play in any circumstance. I expect this series to be a long, arduous affair rife with unpleasantries from the onset. It isn’t just the return of Stone and Carrier for Vegas, they also went out at the deadline and bulked up with the likes of Noah Hanifin and Tomas Hertl.


Jack Eichel vs. Miro Heiskanen and Thomas Harley

These defensemen have an ability to mute the Golden Knights top offensive talents. Eichel’s line is talented and can score lightning fast, but they only control 52% of the expected goals at even-strength. For a frame of reference, Heiskanen and Harley are controlling 61% of the expected goals at even-strength. Their ability to jump into the play or take over a breakout and gain the zone themselves tests the best centers in the league to be up to the task of chasing them down and marking them. Eichel’s best bet to neutralizing these threats is to force them to play defense as much as possible. The battle between the Stars top pairing and whoever they’re on the ice against for Vegas will be must-watch television.

Peter DeBoer vs. Bruce Cassidy

This is a situation where I’m really looking forward to the coaching match-up. Dallas has a strong setup in both their offensive zone approach and their power-play structure that create fits for opposing teams. Add in the fact that DeBoer has a good familiarity with much of the Vegas cast as he was coach there through 2022. I wonder if we see Vegas attempt to sit back and clog up the middle at all to slow down the Dallas breakout. The Stars are usually bolstered by one of their puck-moving defensemen assisting in the effort of gaining the zone. Given that Vegas was 22nd in zone entry defense, there may be some manipulating on the part of Cassidy to give his team a little more support against a heavy and relentless Dallas attack. I also wonder what Cassidy will do to limit the damage done through Roope Hintz on the power-play as Vegas could be vulnerable to him walking the puck off of the wall for scoring chances.

Matt Duchene vs. Tomas Hertl

Each of these centers are key additions for their respective teams and I expect we’ll see a lot of them against each other in this series. Duchene has been a critical piece to the Stars improved depth. His 65-point campaign put him back on the map as a verifiable offensive threat. Meanwhile, Hertl scored four points in five games to cap off his regular season as he returned to the lineup for the Golden Knights. Both of these players expect to have a hand in this series, and both have been through extended playoff runs.


Dallas Stars: Wyatt Johnston was already a problem for opponents on the Stars third line. Add Logan Stankoven to the mix and you have a third line that controls over 63% of the expected goals at even-strength. They can do that against other teams’ top lines or third lines. They have no preference in their dominance. This line will pose a significant problem for Vegas in even-strength situations. I will be particularly interested to see which direction Bruce Cassidy goes with regard to defending this unit.

Vegas Golden Knights: The potential for Mark Stone to appear in this series is a significant development regardless of how long he’s been out. Stone provides a significant benefit both offensively and defensively. In last year’s meeting between these teams, he was a force to be reckoned with and created massive problems for the Stars in all three zones. Although this Stars team is deeper and seemingly more capable of dealing with that addition, it creates a trickle-down effect through the lineup that makes Vegas a significantly more difficult team to deal with.


I fully expect Roope Hintz and his speed to present problems for the Golden Knights at even-strength and on the power-play. I think Hintz ends up with a lot of good looks in this series and I have to lean on his power-play presence again here as I think he poses a threat to the Golden Knights penalty kill from the half wall. From a depth perspective, I have to hearken back to Johnston/Stankoven. The Stars third line has been a difficult thing to handle, and I expect a lot of depth scoring to be of major impact in this series. Johnston especially looks to build off of his special sophomore season with an encore in the playoffs.

Jonathan Marchessault scored a lot of points this year. With Vegas getting healthy, I think he’s bound to score a lot more. This shifty winger is going to give the Dallas defense fits with his ability to quickly separate and find open space. I also want to give a nod to Tomas Hertl here. Lost in some of the other returns is him slowly finding his legs. He knows how to perform in the post-season and I expect he’ll have some extra pep in his step for this series, especially in those tougher areas of the ice. Given the situation with Stone’s injury and the uncertainty about his return, I’d keep a close eye on him as well. A staunch performer against Dallas historically, Stone is worth a flier even if he misses the first game.


I like Dallas in a seven-game war here. I think they exercise some demons and clear a huge hurdle early on that battle-tests them for the rest of the post-season. Jake Oettinger has stabilized in goal, and that Dallas blueline is rich with threats that will keep the Golden Knights forwards busy with defensive responsibilities. Add in a little special teams advantage for Dallas and I like them to clear this round, albeit in an extremely close fashion.