For the second straight season, the Dallas Stars will play for a berth in the Stanley Cup Final after dispatching the Colorado Avalanche in six games in their Western Conference second-round series. Matt Duchene was the hero at Ball Arena in Game 6, scoring the double overtime game-winning goal to send his team to the Final Four.

After drawing the defending champion Vegas Golden Knights in Round 1 of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs — and losing the first two games at home — Dallas found a new gear, dispatching the Knights in a thrilling Game 7 before taking care of the Avalanche in another excellent series. And with that, the Stars have knocked out the last two clubs to capture Lord Stanley. It was a terrific regular-season for the conference-leading Stars, and it's been very clear watching this team play that nothing less than a championship will suffice come June.

Stars have beaten last 2 Stanley Cup champions

Members of the Dallas Stars following a double overtime period win against the Colorado Avalanche in game six of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The hockey world knew this Stars team was for real after they were able to climb out of an 0-2 hole against the defending champions. Many wrote them off after dropping Games 1 and 2 at American Airlines Center, but a resilient Dallas team won four of the next five games to ensure there would be a new champion in 2024.

And against a fantastic Avalanche roster, the Stars were again able to prevail, although they didn't make it easy after failing to close out a 3-1 series lead at home in Game 5. But Duchene's heroics were enough to send Dallas to their second straight West Final a few nights later, and it won't be Vegas in the way this time around — it'll be Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

The Stars and Oilers are no strangers to postseason meetings, having matched up eight times already in Stanley Cup Playoff history. Here are a few bold predictions ahead of another behemoth of a Western Conference Final in 2024.

Wyatt Johnston continues breakout, leads Stars in goals

With a team-leading seven goals through 13 games, sophomore Wyatt Johnston continues to lead the charge offensively for the Stars, and he's putting together a legitimate Conn Smythe case. The just-turned 21-year-old is third on the team with 11 points, and he's played himself into a top-line center role with Roope Hintz on the shelf.

Projected to line up with Jason Robertson and Logan Stankoven for Game 1 against the Oilers on Thursday night — if Hintz remains out — he's emerged into a key contributor for an already potent offense. He's also a key piece on the top powerplay unit along with Robertson, Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and Miro Heiskanen. Johnston was excellent against two very solid defensive cores in the Golden Knights and Avalanche, and there's no reason to believe he can't continue producing offensively against Edmonton.

Let's say Johnston will lead the Stars in goals in the series while skating upwards of 20 minutes a night.

“Just fantastic, fantastic young hockey player that's going to be a cornerstone,” head coach Pete DeBoer said recently of Johnston.

Jake Oettinger records over .920 save percentage

The Stars have a deep offensive unit and one of the better blue lines in the league, and they're a tough team to beat if they get great goaltending. And in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Jake Oettinger has stepped up to the plate. He's won all eight games for the Stars, posting a solid 2.09 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in that span.

He was especially good at the tail end of Round 2, allowing just a single goal in three of the last four games against the Avalanche. Facing a potent Colorado offense, Oettinger shut the door, and it provides confidence that he can do the same against a couple of the best players in the world. Although the Oilers undoubtedly have an electric offense, expect the 25-year-old to continue his exceptional play into Round 3.

Stars continue terrific run, beat Oilers in 6 games

Although the Oilers were able to squeak by the Canucks in a thrilling Game 7, they'll only have two days of rest before Game 1 against the Stars at the American Airlines Center on Thursday night. Dallas has been off since beating Colorado last Friday, and have the home-ice advantage as the Western Conference's best regular-season team.

That could work for or against the Stars, but likely they'll have some more gas in the tank the longer the series goes. It's going to be a phenomenal matchup between two teams that are desperate to win a Stanley Cup with the current core. Dallas advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, but lost in six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning — the first of two straight championships for the Bolts. For Edmonton, a Western Conference Final appearance in 2022 ended in a sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Avalanche.

This is a series that could go either way; the Stars are deeper at all three positions, but the Oilers boast the raw superstar talent their counterparts just don't have. McDavid and Drasaitl can change a game, but they'll be facing probably the best blue line still in the playoffs. In the end, I expect Dallas' advantage in net and ability to roll four better forward lines will give them the edge, and help them return to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in four years.