The Western Conference Final is over, and the Vegas Golden Knights are moving on to play for the Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars are headed home despite showing some decent resilience after facing a 3-0 deficit.
One of the Golden Knights' biggest weapons is their depth, and that was on full display in this series. Everyone from the first line to the fourth line chipped in, and the bottom six pulled its weight and then some when Jack Eichel and Mark Stone were held off the board.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the series was Adin Hill. The Vegas netminder outdueled Jake Oettinger to get his team to the Stanley Cup Final. Not bad for a guy who was buried on the depth chart earlier this season.
This loss will be tough to swallow for the Stars, but that's especially the case for captain Jamie Benn. Not only did he lost his temper and get a two-game suspension in Game 3, but he also missed his chance to make up for it when he returned in Game 6.
Let's take a look at three key takeaways from this conference final between the Golden Knights and the Stars.
Golden Knights dominate with depth
The Golden Knights are one of the deeper teams in the NHL, and that depth came up huge in the Western Conference Final. Even when the big guns weren't lighting the lamp, Vegas found ways to create offense and get the puck behind Jake Oettinger.
If you had told me before the series started that Jack Eichel and Mark Stone would combine for one goal, I would have felt even better about my Dallas Stars prediction. Alas, other players stepped up and carried the offensive load for the Golden Knights. The entire team did, from top to bottom. Literally.
With points from Nic Hague and Michael Amadio in Game 6, every player who suited up for Vegas in this series recorded a point.
- Jonathan Marchessault continued his Conn Smythe surge with his ninth goal in 10 games.
- William Karlsson notched a pair of Game 6 goals to bring his playoff total to 10.
- Nicolas Roy was a key distributor with five assists in the series.
- The Golden Knights' fourth line combined for five points in Game 6.
Not only did all four Vegas lines play well on offense in this series, but they also played strong team defense to hold the Stars' big guns in check. Jason Robertson did score five goals in the series, but Roope Hintz, Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and Tyler Seguin combined for four goals.
The Golden Knights probably need Eichel and Stone to find their scoring touch in order to beat the Panthers and hoist the Stanley Cup, but their depth will certainly be an advantage in the series.
No redemption arc for Jamie Benn
When Jamie Benn thrust his stick into the chiclets of Mark Stone in Game 3, it appeared as though the series had effectively ended then and there. Benn, the captain, lost his cool and took a major penalty that resulted in a two-game suspension. It was a bleak situation for Dallas, but the rest of the team picked up the slack and bailed out Benn. The Stars won the next two games and forced a Game 6 at home, where Benn would make his return to the lineup.
Benn had the chance to atone for his mistakes on Monday night. Instead he played perhaps his worst game of the series, and that includes the game where he tried to decapitate another player. Much like the rest of the Stars, Benn was stuck in neutral, except he should have been the most well-rested player on either bench.
- With Benn on the ice at five-on-five, the Stars had a minus-2 goal differential and controlled just 29.2% of the expected goals, per Natural Stat Trick.
- The Dallas captain only managed to get one shot on net.
Perhaps it's a little unfair to single out one player on a night when the entire team was underwhelming, but Benn's situation is different. Just three games earlier, he made a critical error that put his team on the edge of elimination. He then watched from afar as the Stars clawed their way back into the series.
Benn had the chance to repay the favor to his team and put them on his shoulders in Game 6, but he squandered that chance, and Vegas rolled to the Cup Final.
Adin Hill is ready for primetime
The reason I have picked against the Golden Knights in every single round is because their goaltending situation hasn't been ideal. That stops now. Adin Hill has been sensational for Vegas, and he deserves a ton of credit for getting his team to the Stanley Cup Final.
Logan Thompson and Laurent Brossoit have battled injury, leaving a postseason workload to Hill, who had never played a second in the NHL playoffs. As it turned out, that lack of prior experience didn't mean much. Hill has dominated since taking over the crease in Vegas.
- Hill posted a pair of shutouts and a .949 save percentage in the Western Conference Final.
- Hill is second in the NHL with 10.4 goals saved above average in the postseason
Until now, Hill hasn't gotten the chance to show what he can do on a big stage. For the first five seasons of his NHL career, He played a backup role on bad teams in Arizona and San Jose. Even though he did put up some solid numbers in small sample sizes, it took a trade and a couple of injuries for him to be a full-time starter in the playoffs.
Now Hill, a former third-round pick, is thriving as his team prepares to play in the Stanley Cup Final. He'll face off against Sergei Bobrovsky in a battle of two goalies who have made the most out of their postseason runs.