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Hockey

What We Saw, What It Felt Like: Stars-Golden Knights, Game 2

It's time to start worrying.
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This scene looks all too familiar. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs are complicated. Each series is its own story, and each game is its own chapter encompassing a dozen moments and plot points. But the playoffs can also be simple. Each of those moments, those plot points, falls into one of two buckets: the things we observe and the emotions they inspire within us. That’s what we’re here to talk about.

What We Saw

The Vegas machine isn’t fully charged, but it’s getting close. 

The Golden Knights came into this series fielding a lineup they’d never used before, and back in Game 1, the defending Stanley Cup champions were effective yet flawed across the board in a game the Stars probably should have won. 

Game 2, however, was Vegas dictating and changing how Dallas played. Vegas defended the blue line better than they had in the opener, turning the Stars into more of a chip-and-chase team. It’s a battle the Stars accepted, but it’s also a battle that Vegas is better suited to win with its personnel on the backend. 

The Golden Knights also continued to focus on clogging and eliminating the slot, particularly when Joe Pavelski was on the ice. That made it an easy night for Vegas goalie Logan Thompson, who looked sharper than he did in Game 1. The rebounds weren’t nearly as juicy, his footing was better, and he read plays better. 

Those were the tactical body blows that Vegas landed before eventually delivering the knockout on the other end thanks to Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchesault. Eichel drives everything for the Golden Knights; his play has been torture for Dallas. He pulls the Stars apart in all three zones, and while his highlight-reel assist will be talked about most, his overall impact just unlocking others can’t be overstated. 

Jake Oettinger, to his credit, had a bounce-back game. He lost, sure, but the goalie looked like prime Oettinger and was both more settled and athletic at the same time. If Dallas is going to come back in this series, it’s probably going to start with that positive, especially with Oettinger’s proclivity for embracing the villain role in opposing buildings. —Sean Shapiro

What It Felt Like

It’s time to get concerned about how the Stars can compete with Vegas tactically. Even with Oettinger playing a great game, plus Wyatt Johnston and Logan Stankoven dominating shifts, it’s hard to get past Bruce Cassidy’s coaching and the roster general manager Kelly McCrimmon has armed him with.

If you’re a Stars fan, Game 2 was your borderline resignation to all that is unfair in the hockey universe. Dallas was the best team in the West when all was said and done, and the reward was a first-round matchup versus the defending Cup champs. There’s no good team to fall 0-2 against, but going 0-2 against the Knights carries an almost cosmic weight: down by two, and now you’re giving them the ability to close out the series in their own raucous theater? And this isn’t even counting the stat about No. 1 seeds being down by two to start the series versus eight-seeds. (Spoiler: since 2010, they’ve all lost.)

So where does that leave us, aside from asking more of Roope Hintz, Matt Duchene, and, for that matter, Pete DeBoer? How’s this for a start: it’s not over. Vegas still needs two wins. Lest we forget, Vegas had three wins over Dallas to begin last year’s series, and they needed six games (plus a Jamie Benn suspension) to close it out.

That’s little consolation, though. Dallas has by no means been dominated, but the Stars also look like a team without a solution to Vegas’ big-bodied blueline. They’re still uncomfortable around Vegas’ forecheck, and just like last year, the Golden Knights are winning the moments that count. 

The Stars are a better team than they were last year. But so is Vegas. That might prove to be the long and short of it. That it hasn’t yet is the only hope Dallas can hold on to. —David Castillo

Authors

Sean Shapiro

Sean Shapiro

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Sean Shapiro covers the Stars for StrongSide. He is a national NHL reporter and writer who previously covered the Dallas…
David Castillo

David Castillo

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David Castillo covers the Stars for StrongSide. He has written for SB Nation and Wrong Side of the Red Line,…
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