Keys to Victory for Stars in WCF Against Oilers

Sam Steel #18 of the Dallas Stars skates the puck against Evan Bouchard #2 of the Edmonton Oilers during the first period on April 03, 2024. | Image by Sam Hodde/Getty Images
Sam Steel #18 of the Dallas Stars skates the puck against Evan Bouchard #2 of the Edmonton Oilers during the first period on April 03, 2024. | Image by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

The Dallas Stars are set to match up against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday in American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. in the Western Conference Finals, but the home team will have to emphasize key aspects of the game during this series to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Win the Power Play Opportunities

One of the biggest keys to victory in this series will come from the power plays, as Dallas will have to win the minutes when they are short a player while also taking advantage of the chances when the Oilers have someone in the penalty box.

The Stars enter this series with very few penalty minutes accrued during the playoffs, tallying 68 total minutes where a player was forced into the penalty box; however, they will face off against an Oilers team that has been incredibly efficient in their power plays during the postseason.

Edmonton has performed very well during advantages in this postseason, scoring on 37.5% of its power play opportunities across its 12 games, the highest percentage of any team in the playoffs.

Dallas will have to limit the number of opportunities that the Oilers have to score during power plays, which should be manageable since the Stars entered the postseason with the fewest penalty minutes during the regular season.

Similarly, Dallas comes into this series with a slightly lower postseason power play success rate at 29%, which ranks as the fourth-best rate of all the teams that made the playoffs and the third-best of the remaining teams.

Although the Stars have been efficient during their advantages, the Oilers have also been one of the best defenses when at a disadvantage, with ESPN stating that Edmonton has killed off 32 of 35 penalties against them during their first two series.

While the Oilers were the most effective team at killing off penalties during the postseason, at 91.4%, they finished the regular season killing off just 79.5% of penalties, which ranked them as the 15th-best team in the league.

Taking advantage of these power play opportunities will be crucial for the Stars to take an early series lead in these conference finals.

Shut Down Oilers’ Connor McDavid

In addition to winning minutes during power plays in this series, the Stars must find a way to slow down Oilers center Connor McDavid, who has contributed 21 points during the team’s 12 postseason games through two goals and an amazing 19 assists.

McDavid has been one of the best players in the league at setting his teammates up all season. He finished tied for the most assists in the league during the regular season with 100 while also finishing with the third-most total points after adding 32 goals.

The Stars have had success guarding McDavid in previous games, holding him to a total of 11 points in their last 10 matchups spanning multiple seasons.

Stars goalie Jake Oettinger will be one of the most important components of this series if he can continue the impressive play he demonstrated in the team’s first two series. In those two series, he saved 91.8% of shots sent his way across the 13 games.

Dallas will likely look to keep these games low-scoring due to the threat of Oilers’ McDavid or center Leon Draisaitl opening a game up due to their offensive prowess, with Oettinger likely being tasked with the biggest workload of any Stars defender.

Although controlling power plays and managing the Oilers’ high-scoring offense will not guarantee a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals for the Stars, they will each be crucial to helping them string together wins against their most difficult opponent yet.

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