Stars vs. Oilers series prediction: NHL Playoff odds, picks, bets

We all know the key ingredient to any Stanley Cup champion is goaltending.

If you want to have a chance at winning four best-of-seven series, your goaltender is almost required to be your best player.

That’s been the case for the Dallas Stars and Jake Oettinger, who return to their second consecutive Western Conference Final after conquering the past two Cup winners.

It was clear Oettinger had the juice for playoff success when he recorded 64 saves in the Stars’ first-round Game 7 defeat to the Flames two years ago.

He’s only padded his résumé ever since and currently leads all remaining playoff goaltenders in goals against average while ranking second overall in save percentage. 

After watching Stuart Skinner and Calvin Pickard chase each other in and out of the net for the last two weeks, it’s hard to say the same for the Edmonton Oilers heading into Game 1 in Dallas on Thursday.

Edmonton used its strong transitional game to overtake the Canucks in back-to-back elimination contests. In the meantime, Skinner and Pickard combined for an .866 save percentage in the series. 

The talent up front can turn water to wine in terms of creating scoring chances off the rush; Edmonton led the NHL in expected goals rate in all situations throughout the regular season. 

But don’t let this statistic fool you.

The Oilers spend a lot of time on offense — so much so, that it helps prevent the frequency in which opposing teams gain entry into their zone.

When Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm aren’t on the ice, the Oilers are significantly more susceptible to scoring chances against.

We’ve seen issues with players getting caught out of their position and puck-watching in their zone all season and — in tandem with it’s offensive potency — it’s a contributing factor to why Edmonton produces some of the league’s most volatile scores.  

I’ll give credit where it’s due: Edmonton has boosted itself to the No. 1 playoff team on both the power play and penalty kill. It ranked No. 15 overall on the kill in the regular season.


Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) shown during Game Seven of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs between the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks on May 20, 2024, at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C.
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) shown during Game Seven of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs between the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks on May 20, 2024, at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dallas averages about five penalty minutes a game, though. 

The problems with Edmonton lie within allowing net-front chances at even strength where Skinner hasn’t come up with the extra save. 

Dallas may not have a Connor McDavid — the best transitional player in the world who will bob-and-weave his way through three zones — but it does present four lines that can score and jump on gaps in defensive structure. 

The Stars are the antithesis of how the Oilers play. They’re a low-tempo, patient team that also can strike via the aggression they use to pressure the opposition in their own end. 

Aside from Oettinger, Dallas’ projected success comes from its versatility and depth up-and-down the lineup.


Betting on the NHL?


Every night features a different player stepping in the clutch from Jamie Benn to Wyatt Johnston and Matt Duchene. 

I’ve seen models that reflect Edmonton winning this series; its offensive potential is as lethal as they come, rostering the top four names in points scored throughout the playoffs.

However, while I think this will be much more of a dogfight than the sweep the Oilers suffered to the Avalanche in the 2022 Western Conference Final, the more grounded team in Dallas should prevail.

The Stars are rightfully favored.

After dropping back-to-back Game 1s, they’ve shown their ability to adapt. And with Oettinger in net, they are the safe play to advance.

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