NHL Odds, Picks and Predictions: Dallas Stars vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights Preview (Monday, August 3)
Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Shea Theodore.
Dallas Stars vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights
|Stars Odds||+113 [BET NOW]|
|Golden Knights Odds||-130 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||5.5 (-125/+104) [BET NOW]|
|Time||Monday, 6:30 p.m. ET|
The Dallas Stars often prioritize defense at the expense of offense. But does defense win championships, as a hockey adage goes? During the last decade, hockey intelligentsia has debated whether the most natural display of a strong defense is a team that spends most of its time on offense.
The Stars’ first opponent in the round robin is a franchise that employs this tactic. During the 2019-20 regular season, the Vegas Golden Knights had the best possession numbers in the NHL and the top expected goals rate at 5v5, suggesting a squad that has more agency than maybe any other team in the NHL playoff field.
The Stars’ raison d’être is keeping the puck out of their net. Rather than wage an offensive attack where the forward pressure relieves the tension on the defense, the Stars play a defensive structure with the intent of turning each game into a slog. In a very concrete sense, they succeeded during the abbreviated regular season, finishing second in the NHL in goals against.
At the very least, one needs to credit the Stars for staying true to themselves, even if they have unapologetically turned entertainment into the banal. Viewers show up expecting a blockbuster flick and find out the feature is as dry as a documentary on the tax code.
The Stars’ model is poised to run aground for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they rely heavily on platooning goaltenders. Ben Bishop is likely going to get the initial nod, even though Anton Khudobin has a better Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) and even-strength save percentage than Bishop. Without an indisputable number one option, the Stars may choose the worse option.
While Bishop may be worse, I am skeptical Khudobin is the answer either, as the Kazakh native has bounced around to five different teams and mostly exhibited in his NHL career that he is a capable backup. What is undeniable is that the goaltending duo were successful during the regular season, combining for an NHL best .929 save percentage at even strength.
But it is not like the Stars’ defense made life so easy for them. Dallas ranked 15th in the NHL in shot against per 60 minutes and were 13th in high-danger chances per hour. That is fine but hardly suffocating.
I am worried that the goaltenders played above their heads and helped mask a pedestrian defense. Exacerbating these concerns is that they will be running into a Golden Knights’ offensive buzzsaw.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.
Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.
xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.
Las Vegas Golden Knights
In expected goals for per 60 minutes, the Golden Knights led the NHL. Vegas also led the league in high-danger chances in the span of an hour.
The tip of the spear will be the Max Pacioretty-William Karlsson-Mark Stone line. In 100 minutes together, their numbers are insane. They posted a 66.32% expected goals rate. They registered a 61.06% in shots for percentage. They created nearly triple as many high-danger chances as their foes.
Stars’ coach Rick Bowness may try to stifle them with a checking line of Andrew Cogliano-Radek Faksa-Blake Comeau, but it is a big ask.
If the Stars are playing prevent defense and the Golden Knights are running the Air Raid offense, hammer Vegas, right? One warning must be mulled over before making your wager. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have been the marquee stars for Dallas, and although both players this season suffered bouts of bad puck luck, they could see their fortunes gravitate toward the mean.
From 2016-17 to 2018-19, Benn had an even-strength shooting percentage of 12.55. In 2019-20 that percentage fell to 8.66%. Seguin saw his shooting percentage drop from 9.41 to 7.57 during that same interval. Both players are immensely talented, and there is always a possibility either could catch fire and swing the outcome of a game.
Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) is an advanced statistic that measures a goaltender’s performance against the quality of scoring chances he faced. It is a better catch-all metric compared to save percentage because every SV% counts every saved shot and goal the same, while GSAx weights shots by the quality of the scoring chance.
GSAx numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.
Seguin and Benn are potential bogeymen lurking in this wager. But Vegas has a mobile, skilled defensive group and coach Peter DeBoer can utilize either Brayden McNabb and Nate Schmidt or Alec Martinez and Shea Theodore and feel assured with either pairing’s execution against the Stars’ top-six forwards.
At -130 on DraftKings I think it is worth tethering oneself to possibly the best team in the West. I would be comfortable at up to -140. Therefore, the price and a bet on the Golden Knights make sense to me.