Who the Stars should want to face, avoid in the first round


The Stars got here up wanting clinching the Central Division on Thursday evening after they fell 3-0 to the Winnipeg Jets.

Dallas nonetheless controls its destiny within the division and must win simply considered one of its closing two video games towards non-playoff groups Seattle on Saturday or St. Louis on Wednesday to take residence its first division title since 2015-16.

The Stars have assured their spot within the playoffs, however over the subsequent week, the playoff image will turn out to be clearer.

Nevertheless, the Stars might end wherever from first to 3rd within the division relying on what occurs in the previous couple of video games of the season.

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In the event that they end first, they’ll face one of many two wild card groups. Which one depends upon the place they finish within the convention standings. In the event that they end second or third, they’ll face the opposite second- or third-place finisher.

Here’s a have a look at all six of the Stars’ potential first-round matchups.

If the Stars win the Central Division, they might face…

Vegas Golden Knights

Dallas’ report towards this season: 1-0-2

Wish to face? Fairly not.

The Vegas Golden Knights are a well-known opponent for the Stars after ending their season final 12 months within the Western Convention Closing by a 4-2 collection end, however quite a bit has modified since that collection got here to an in depth.

The Golden Knights received all three matchups towards the Stars within the common season this 12 months. Nevertheless, the groups haven’t confronted since Dec. 9. The primary two contests required additional time, and the final was a 6-1 blowout.

Vegas was the No. 1 crew within the league on the day of that Dec. 9 contest after an 18-5-5 begin. Since, the Golden Knights have struggled, dropping 10 of their final 20 video games, together with their final three consecutive. Regardless of main the league up till Dec. 20, they now rank 14th within the NHL and eighth within the convention, presently occupying the second wild card spot.

The Golden Knights don’t rank within the high 10 in any main crew stat class (objectives for per recreation, objectives towards per recreation, energy play proportion, penalty kill proportion). They solely have three gamers with 20 or extra objectives on the 12 months — Jonathan Marchessault (41), Jack Eichel (29) and William Karlsson (27).

Vegas does have two goalies with over a .900 save proportion — Logan Thompson (.907) and Adin Hill (.911). Dallas struggled towards Hill in final 12 months’s playoffs, getting shut out twice within the six video games they performed.

Vegas’ depth proved to be a battle for Dallas within the postseason, particularly defensively, however the Stars have bolstered each their ahead and defensive models since that collection. They didn’t have Chris Tanev in any of the three matchups towards the Golden Knights this 12 months.

The largest problem for Dallas in the event that they should face Vegas is that the Golden Knights’ long-term injured reserve pool is simply shy of $16 million. Captain Mark Stone ($9.5 million cap hit) might return for the postseason in addition to ahead William Provider ($1.4 million), who scored two objectives within the collection towards Dallas final 12 months. The Golden Knights additionally not too long ago added commerce deadline acquisition Tomas Hertl from the San Jose Sharks, who returned from damage and will present a spark as soon as he builds extra chemistry with the crew.

Whereas the present Golden Knights crew is way from the caliber of the one Dallas confronted early within the season and within the playoffs final 12 months, Vegas will not be the Stars’ best choice in opponent. However in the intervening time, it seems to be the most probably.

Dallas Stars center Luke Glendening (11) faces off against Vegas Golden Knights center...
Dallas Stars heart Luke Glendening (11) faces off towards Vegas Golden Knights heart Chandler Stephenson (20) because the puck is dropped through the second interval in Sport 6 of the Stanley Cup Western Convention Finals in Dallas, Might 29, 2023.(Tom Fox / Employees Photographer)

Los Angeles Kings

Dallas’ report towards this season: 3-0

Wish to face? Sure.

The Kings are probably the most favorable opponent the Stars can attract a gauntlet Western Convention race. Dallas dominated Los Angeles in all three of their matchups this 12 months, outscoring them 13-3.

The Kings are one other crew that fell off in the midst of the 12 months, shedding 14 of 16 video games throughout a stretch from Dec. 28 and Jan. 28. The crew dropped from fourth within the convention standings to seventh throughout that point.

Los Angeles is a stronger crew defensively than offensively. It ranks fourth within the league in objectives allowed per recreation (2.58) and second in penalty kill (85%) whereas rating sixteenth in objectives for per recreation (3.09) and eleventh in energy play proportion (22.4%)

Trevor Moore is their main objective scorer with 30 objectives whereas Adrian Kempe and Kevin Fiala have 72 and 71 factors, respectively.

Goalie Cam Talbot was the crew’s All-Star choice this 12 months, and whereas his play lulled in the midst of the season, he has an 11-6-1 report within the final two months with a .922 save proportion and a pair of.32 goals-against common.

Whereas Los Angeles has been a powerful crew defensively, they’ve had no reply for the Stars’ depth. Ten completely different Stars have scored of their three conferences. Wyatt Johnston had a objective in every recreation, and Joe Pavelski had two objectives within the collection.

Common season outcomes don’t all the time correlate to the postseason collection, however the Stars’ capability to dominate the Kings might bode nicely for fulfillment in a first-round matchup. Nevertheless, the Kings presently sit in third within the Pacific Division standings and are three factors forward of Vegas, in order that they’ll must lose at the least considered one of their final three video games towards Anaheim, Minnesota and Chicago — all non-playoff groups — to fall behind Vegas.

Nashville Predators

Dallas’ report towards this season: 2-2

Wish to face? Fairly not.

The Stars might face a Central Division opponent in each of the primary two rounds in the event that they find yourself drawing Nashville as a first-round opponent. The Stars and Predators break up of their 4 matchups — all of which occurred earlier than the commerce deadline.

Their rivalry produced a handful of memorable moments this 12 months, together with the Stars scoring two objectives within the final 15 seconds to steal the 3-2 win on Dec. 23 or Dallas scoring a season-high 9 objectives on Feb. 15.

Nashville is led by ahead Filip Forsberg, the eighth-leading scorer within the NHL with 43 objectives this 12 months.

Nashville labored its manner into the highest wild card spot after an 18-game level streak from Feb. 17 to March 26. However since, it has misplaced 5 of its final seven video games.

Nevertheless, with Winnipeg, Colorado and Dallas locked into the highest three spots within the Central Division and Nashville already clinching, the Predators are assured a wild card spot.

It’s going to come all the way down to seeding on the high of the convention and between Nashville, Vegas and Los Angeles to find out the place they land, however they’ve been in that No. 1 wild card spot for a month.

Any division matchup within the playoffs can be a difficult one, particularly if Nashville is ready to catch hearth once more prefer it did over that month span late within the season.

Dallas Stars left wing Jason Robertson (21) breaks away with the puck from Nashville...
Dallas Stars left wing Jason Robertson (21) breaks away with the puck from Nashville Predators heart Ryan O’Reilly (90) and heart Gustav Nyquist (14) through the first interval on the American Airways Heart in Dallas, January 12, 2024.(Tom Fox / Employees Photographer)

St. Louis Blues

Dallas’ report towards this season: 1-1-1

Wish to face? Sure.

St. Louis’ playoff hopes are hanging on by a thread, and so they might be eradicated any day now. However, in the event that they win out or get some assist from different groups like Vegas shedding, they might discover themselves within the closing wild card spot.

The Stars opened their season towards the Blues and received in a shootout. They’ll shut the 12 months towards them, too, at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday evening.

The Blues are led by Robert Thomas (83 factors) and Jordan Kyrou (29 objectives) in addition to goalie Jordan Binnington, who has 28 wins on the 12 months, a .911 save proportion and a 2.88 goals-against common.

The chances of the Stars and Blues going through within the playoffs are slim, however it’s a good matchup for Dallas. The one recreation Jake Oettinger performed in towards the Blues was the one Dallas received, and so they haven’t performed since Dec. 27. The Blues haven’t but seen Dallas’ full potential.

If the Stars end second or third within the Central Division, they might face…

Winnipeg Jets

Dallas’ report towards this season: 3-1

Wish to face? Fairly not.

Up till Thursday, Winnipeg appeared like a manageable playoff matchup for the Stars, however the 3-0 loss to the Jets on residence ice proved how harmful they are often.

For the reason that Stars simply should win yet another recreation to clinch, it’s extra possible that they face the winner of a Winnipeg-Colorado collection within the second spherical. No matter once they play, it’s attainable that they might cross paths sooner or later.

The Jets play a mode of hockey nearly fully reverse to the Stars. The Stars’ former head coach Rick Bowness now coaches in Winnipeg and is understood for his defense-first model. He additionally has the benefit of the league’s greatest goalie this season, Connor Helleybuyck, who’s the Vezina frontrunner with a .920 save proportion and a pair of.42 goals-against common.

Whereas the Stars outscored Winnipeg 9-3 of their first three contests, they realized Thursday that when Winnipeg settles into its recreation after scoring first, it may be harmful.

The Stars have confirmed their capability to deal with the Jets once they management the matchup, but when a repeat of Thursday occurs, their run might come to an finish by the hands of the Jets.

Colorado Avalanche left wing Miles Wood (28) is sandwiched between Dallas Stars defenseman...
Colorado Avalanche left wing Miles Wooden (28) is sandwiched between Dallas Stars defenseman Joel Hanley, left, and goaltender Jake Oettinger within the third interval of an NHL hockey recreation Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Denver. (AP Picture/David Zalubowski)(David Zalubowski / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Colorado Avalanche

Dallas’ report towards this season: 1-2-1

Wish to face? No.

Probably the final crew the Stars wish to face within the first spherical can be the Avalanche. Within the Stars’ good world, the Jets will bounce the Avalanche within the first spherical after already beating them in each regular-season conferences to this point, so the Stars can keep away from taking part in them within the postseason altogether.

Colorado handed Dallas a few of its worst losses of the season, together with a 6-3 loss in November the place they blew a three-goal lead and a 5-1 loss in February the place that they had nearly no life.

Granted, two of the Stars’ video games towards the Avalanche have been on the second evening of a back-to-back — together with their 7-4 win most not too long ago, arguably their largest win of the 12 months. In addition they suffered an additional time loss after Miro Heiskanen sustained an damage within the third interval of their Jan. 4 assembly.

The Avalanche are led by one of many leaders within the Artwork Ross Trophy race, Nathan MacKinnon, who has the second-most factors within the NHL with 137 and the fourth-most objectives with 51. He is among the final gamers a crew will wish to face within the postseason.

Colorado additionally has Alexandar Georgiev, the league’s chief in wins amongst goalies at 38.

A Colorado-Dallas playoff collection feels inevitable, however each groups will hope they will push it off to the second spherical. Neither crew can have a transparent benefit, and it’ll be a dogfight.

On X/Twitter: @Lassimak

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