Series Preview: Golden Knights vs. Stars (Western Conference Final)
Host Jacob Cheris and analysts Chris Hess, Jordan Mansberger, and Logan Bourandas preview the 2020 Western Conference Final between the Dallas Stars and the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Vegas Golden Knights will face the Dallas Stars in the 2020 Western Conference Final. Both teams are coming off Game 7 wins. Dallas’ victory came in a thrilling 5-4 overtime win over the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars have not been to the conference final since 2008, and they almost missed the opportunity again, nearly blowing a 3-1 series lead to Colorado. Likewise, Vegas almost blew a 3-1 lead to Vancouver, but the Golden Knights took care of business 3-0 in Game 7 to advance. The Golden Knights are the first team in NHL history to reach the conference final twice in their first three seasons.
Vegas is a much deeper team than last year and the year before, as the Golden Knights are getting much more production from the entirety of their lineup. Defenseman Shea Theodore leads the team in assists (10) and points (16) through the playoffs, while Alex Tuch leads the team in goals (8). That might seem like a tiny number for the leading scorer to own, but it’s worth noting that 15 other players have also scored at least one goal.
Vegas also has the best one-two goalie punch in the playoffs: Robin Lehner and three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury. Even as the veteran presence, Fleury has spent more time as the backup, as Lehner has been dominant. For evidence of that, just look at his incredible save in Game 7 that robbed Vancouver’s Brock Boeser of the lead-taking score. He’s playing like a legitimate number one goalie. Lehner also has a 1.99 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage coming off his 14-save shutout versus Vancouver.
In terms of experience, Vegas has three players who have won a Stanley Cup: Chandler Stephenson (2018), Fleury (2009, 2016, 2017) and Alec Martinez (2012, 2014). Having experienced players that know what it takes to win a Stanley Cup is important, as those are the guys that teammates will look to in big moments.
Unfortunately for Vegas, Ryan Reaves is now suspended for one game after taking a five-minute major penalty for an illegal check to the head of Tyler Motte in Game 7. Reaves is a physical player that plays on the line, but sometimes that physicality can get him into trouble.
Most hockey fans were not expecting the Stars to make it this far, but they were the second-best defensive team in the regular season, allowing only 2.52 goals per game.
Miro Heiskanen is having a terrific postseason, leading his team with 16 assists and all defensemen with 21 points. Heiskanen is a very deceptive skater and is only a second-year pro, so his career is only getting started. Defensively, he is very good at angling players into the boards, forcing them to lose the puck.
The true storyline going into this series is that of Stars rookie Joel Kiviranta. Kiviranta played his first NHL game on Friday and scored a hat trick. He is the first player since Wayne Gretzky in 1993 to score a hat trick in a Game 7, with his third goal was the game winner in overtime. The undrafted Finn replaced Andrew Cogliano due to an injury, and he’ll be hoping that his head coach Rick Bowness puts him back in the lineup.
For both teams to be successful in this series, it’s going to come down to goaltending and defense. Dallas goaltender Anton Khudobin has struggled at times (.909 save percentage and 2.94 goals-against average), so if he loses the first game of this series, Ben Bishop could take his spot, now deemed “fit-to-play.” Khudobin sometimes gives up bad rebounds, and the traffic in front of him plays a big role. He’ll need to improve that part of his game because Vegas loves to pounce on second- and third-chance opportunities. But overall, Khudobin has been really good for his team.
Lehner has also struggled with his rebound control, as he has had to make a lot of saves with his pads. When goalies make saves with their pads, the puck is likely to come loose, resulting in a rebound. Lehner has to make sure he is kicking the puck out to the side of him rather than to the middle of the ice.
We should be in for another thrilling series with the first to four victories being the Western Conference’s representative in the Stanley Cup Final. It all begins on Sunday at 8 p.m. EST at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Jacob Cheris is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Hailing from Long Island, Christopher has experience in public address announcing alongside broadcasting football, volleyball, hockey, baseball, and softball. Chris has been featured on State College Saturdays, CommRadio’s Saturday college football pregame show, Daylate Tailgate, CommRadio’s Sunday college football recap show, and on a number of podcasts. Chris also writes a number of articles during football and hockey season and is an insider for the men’s hockey team. Chris is also a co-host on Hockey Night in State College. Chris is interested in either play-by-play or working in the sports media department for a college or professional sports team alongside being a sports radio personality. To contact Chris, email @firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sophomore / Broadcast Journalism
Jacob Cheris is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism from Gaithersburg, Maryland. He is an aspiring sports play-by-play broadcaster or sports analyst. Jacob is a huge Washington Capitals fan and has a great passion for hockey. He played all throughout high school and still plays in the Student Hockey League. He is also a member of Penn State Sports Night, where he analyzes hockey and other sports on YouTube. His favorite play-by play-broadcasters are Mike “Doc” Emrick of NBC Sports and Joe Beninati of NBC Sports Washington. Jacob is looking to expand his love for hockey and use it across all sports.
Sophomore / Broadcast Journalism
Junior / Broadcast Journalism
Jordan Mansberger is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in marketing and sports studies.