As blueprints go, the Stars feel pretty good about where they stand in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Yes, the Edmonton Oilers are one of the most dangerous teams in the NHL and the hottest team since new head coach Kris Knoblauch took over in November. But the Stars just dispatched the Colorado Avalanche, the most dangerous offensive team in the entire regular season and First Round of the playoffs.

In beating Colorado and Vegas, the Stars gained a great deal of confidence and a great deal of experience in playing against top-tier talent.

So while Edmonton has two of the league’s scoring leaders in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Dallas has already dealt with Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar of Colorado, as well as Jack Eichel of Vegas.

“We’ve faced some great players here, but you’ve got to do it again,” Stars head coach Pete DeBoer said. “Whatever you’ve done in the past is great and has gotten us to this point, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to do the same thing to Connor McDavid. You’ve got to go out and do it all over again and do it at another level than you’ve done it prior.”

Pete DeBoer speaks to the media on the off day

Since coming into the league in 2015, McDavid is averaging 1.52 points per game and is plus-149. He has won the Hart Trophy three times as league MVP and the Art Ross Trophy five times as the NHL’s leading scorer. He is generally considered the “best player in the world.” That said, the Stars have been one of the best defensive teams in the playoffs at 2.38 goals against per game and allowed three goals in three road games against the Avalanche, the NHL’s top home team.

They did that by playing great team defense and getting great goaltending from Jake Oettinger – and that seems like a plan that can work against the Oilers, as well.

In 21 career games against the Stars, McDavid has 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists), but the Stars have a long history of finding ways to beat the Oilers even when he is playing well. Dallas was 2-0-1 against Edmonton this season, including a 5-0 win in the most recent meeting on April 3. So the key is good team play and building on what they have already done in the playoffs.

“There’s different aspects of those teams that you will definitely see at this time of the year,” said Stars forward Joe Pavelski. “So our game plan can’t really change . . . our structure, we’ve talked about it. The players haven’t shied away from what our goal is. Coming down the end of the year, we wanted to create Stanley Cup habits and do things the right way. You do that, and guys have bought in.”

Suter and Pavelski speak to media before West Final

As good as goalie Oettinger and the defense have played, the forward group has dug in as well. Jason Robertson has been blocking shots and making hits, Wyatt Johnston and Logan Stankoven have been hunting pucks, and the fourth line has at times been one of the best lines on the team.

“I think why we’ve been successful this season is everybody has bought in,” said defenseman Ryan Suter. “Everyone plays the right way defensively and everyone has been contributing offensively, so you have five guys on the ice together defending.”

And that is a huge reason for the success so far. The Stars also have been disciplined and smart, and that’s huge against an Oilers team that has the best power play in the playoffs. Edmonton is hitting at 37.5 percent on the man advantage in the postseason with 15 power play goals in 12 games.

The Stars’ penalty kill rate in the playoffs leaves something to be desired at 69.2 percent, but the Stars had the fewest penalty minutes in the NHL this season and have the second fewest PIM per game among playoff teams. That is a big part of the strategy to control the Oilers. DeBoer said team discipline overall is a big reason why the Stars can handle great offensive teams.

“It’s not beating yourself,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “How do you beat yourself in the playoffs? It’s usually penalties. We’re the least penalized team in the league in the regular season and the playoffs, one or two. Puck management, that was something that has been a work in progress all year, but we’ve found that line where we know when to try to make a play and when not to. Playing with the league and shutting down when you have that opportunity. All of those things.”

DeBoer & Nill speak to the media before Western Final

And that’s what the Stars are hoping will be key against the high-flying Oilers. Play smart, stay disciplined, wait for your chances; it worked against Vegas and Colorado, so it could work again.

“I think we’re a confident group and a deep team, and now it’s on us to do something with that,” said captain Jamie Benn. “But we’re going up against a great opponent that’s very dangerous and we’re going to have to play our best hockey.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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