Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights – Western Conference Final Game 5 (Dallas leads series 3-1)
This is a playoff series that clearly identifies hockey as a sport where you need the breaks and luck to go your way in order to win games every bit as much as you need to play well. It’s not that every other sport isn’t that way also, but I find it’s much more pronounced in hockey. The Vegas Golden Knights clearly deserve a better fate in this series than currently being down 3-1. Vegas has outplayed Dallas for most of the series in every major category you can find including shots on goal, scoring chances, puck possession, and offensive zone time.
However, in this sport, none of that matters if you can’t find a way to ultimately score goals and put the puck in the net. The Golden Knights unfortunately haven’t been able to find the back of the net with any sort of regularity. Dallas has defended quite well in their own zone despite allowing a lot of shots because they are keeping Vegas from getting to the front of the net for loose pucks and rebounds after their initial shots. More than anything, Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin is playing the best hockey of his lifetime in net. He has been a brick wall in between the pipes in this series turning aside 99 shots in the last three games combined. In those last three games, the Golden Knights have outshot the Stars by a whopping margin of 105-67 and yet Vegas is trailing 3-1 in the series facing elimination here in Game 5.
I criticized Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn in a recent preview article earlier in the series talking about how he was not making any sort of significant impact on the ice for his team but Benn has started to awake from his slumber in the last two games chipping in goals in back-to-back games including the game winning goal in Game 4 and also three points in the last two games combined. He has been far more noticeable on the ice making big plays, scoring big goals and playing with that intensity and physical edge that makes him a tough top line forward to play against. When Benn uses his size advantage against the opposition to possess the puck and make it difficult to retrieve it from him, he has the capability of becoming a force. We didn’t see enough of that from him earlier in the playoffs but he has turned up his level of play in the last couple games for the Stars. Dallas still needs Tyler Seguin to follow suit and he continues to be mired in an extensive slump as he’s gone without a goal in the last eight games while only mustering a point during that span.
Dallas has taken a few injury hits in this series up front. They were already without Roope Hintz and now one of their depth centers Radek Faksa is also out due to a left hand injury. Faksa hasn’t provided Dallas with much in the way of offense since the early portion of the second round series against Colorado but he is a very solid checking, defensive minded center that plays a lot of important minutes including on the penalty kill which is a role where he has excelled for the Stars.
The expected goals for (xGF) in each of the last three games of this series indicate Vegas should be scoring more goals than they actually have. Vegas leads Dallas 30-22 in high danger scoring chances in the last three games of this series combined but were victorious in only one of those games. Khudobin has played better than he’s played at any previous time in his career but I have to believe with Vegas collective backs against the wall facing elimination that the Golden Knights will go on an all out assault and attack offensively against the Dallas Stars net and Khudobin in an attempt to try and find a way to put the puck in the net. Vegas scored 3 goals on 36 shots the last time they faced elimination in Game 7 against Vancouver and IMO this team is overdue to finally reach that number of goals in a game or higher. On the other side, Dallas is talking about trying to gain more offensive zone time, scoring chances and goal scoring production of their own heading into Game 5 realizing that they have been relying way too much on their goaltender in the last few games to help them win. The Stars have only scored one power play goal in this series and that should be due for an improvement.
This series is a perfect 4-0 to the under so far with one low scoring game after another. I’ve cashed a couple unders in this series along the way. However, we are now seeing our first total of 5 in this series after the total was lined at 5.5 for each of the first four games of this series. I think this is the ideal spot and price to shift gears, look the other way and expect our first over of the series here in Game 5 on Monday night with the Vegas Golden Knights facing elimination. The biggest factor I like most about the over is the elimination game angle knowing that if Vegas is trailing in the 3rd Period, there will be lots of time with an empty net in the latter stages and the potential for a late goal scoring explosion. Elimination games in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are just about always an automatic Over the total betting situation for me especially with a total sitting as low as the 5 we are seeing here. Even in what has been a low scoring series to this point, I’m comfortable taking a shot with betting the over here in Game 5 at a reduced, value laden number.
Dallas/Vegas Over 5 -125