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Stars to clamp down on McDavid in Game 1

Sam Hodde / Getty Images Sport / Getty

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Game 1 of the Western Conference Final begins Thursday night. Let's dive into a couple of the best ways to attack the series opener.

Wyatt Johnston: Over 0.5 points

With Roope Hintz' status for Game 1 in doubt, Johnston will get even more favorable usage than usual.

He's been skating between Jason Robertson and Logan Stankoven as the team's top-line center. During the regular season, Johnston averaged 3.67 points per 60 minutes with Stankoven on his line at five-on-five and nearly 3.30 points per 60 with Robertson. Those are truly elite rates.

Johnston is arguably the Stars' biggest threat at even strength. He's also skating on the top power-play unit, meaning he's getting big minutes in all situations alongside the team's best players.

Although the Oilers have defended well in these playoffs, they haven't faced a team as good as Dallas. They also have a shaky goaltender in Stuart Skinner, who's only managed a .880 save percentage through 10 playoff games.

There should be some goals on the table for the Stars in this game and series as a whole. Look for Johnston to get involved.

If Hintz does play, I'd still back Johnston to pick up a point. He'd shift down the lineup and face softer matchups. Any boost lost from playing with Robertson would be regained by spending less time against the Oilers' best players.

Odds: -135 (playable to -150)

Parlay: McDavid under 3.5 shots with Stars +1.5

Is Connor McDavid dealing with some form of injury? It sure seems that way. His shot outputs have dropped off a cliff in recent weeks.

The league's best player averaged 2.7 shots and just 4.5 attempts per game over his last 15. Those are noticeably lower totals than the 3.4 shots he averaged on nearly six attempts over the course of the entire season.

I don't think McDavid's drop-off - despite his average ice time increasing - can just be attributed to things tightening up in the playoffs. Even if that were the case, his task certainly won't get easier against the stingy Stars.

The Stars allowed only 28 shots per game in the regular season. They've shrunk that number further, giving up just 25.5 per contest in the playoffs.

Pete DeBoer teams are always very structured and stable defensively. Having defenders like Miro Heiskanen, Chris Tanev, and Thomas Harley allows the Stars to take things to another level.

Simply put, they're well-equipped to continue clamping down on McDavid and keep his shot volume in check.

I like parlaying McDavid's shots with the Stars on an alternate puck line of +1.5 goals.

The Stars are the best and most balanced team remaining in the playoffs. They're at home, they're extremely good defensively, and they tend to keep things tight even in defeat. I think the Stars will win outright, so I'm comfortable adding backing to keep things within two goals.

Odds: +100

Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on X at @ToddCordell.

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