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Graney: Knights-Stars creating rivalry that should last for years

DALLAS — Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy is right. A rivalry needs some history to it. Good or bad, it needs to breathe a little over time.

Which is exactly what we’re getting between the Knights and Dallas Stars.

It is becoming a Western Conference rivalry this time of year. The most important time. The time players and coaches point to all season long. The time for which everyone competes.

The Knights and Dallas are at it again, having opened a best-of-seven playoff series Monday night at American Airlines Center. The Knights won 4-3 in Game 1 and have already stolen home-ice advantage from the Stars.

Game 2 is Wednesday in Dallas.

“We have some history with them now, and we’re going to have more history,” Cassidy said. “I could see it becoming one of the top Western Conference rivalries. It might happen again next year and the year after that. A real rivalry starts when you meet somewhere in the playoffs every year. So yeah, I can absolutely see it happening.”

Sky not falling

Cassidy and Dallas coach Pete DeBoer made the same point this week — that these matchups aren’t going away any time soon. Each team has too much talent to believe either franchise will fall on hard times in the foreseeable future.

This isn’t a San Jose situation. The sky isn’t close to falling.

The Knights and Stars are here to stay for a while.

“This is what playoff hockey does,” Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “We’ve played each other a bunch, right? We know each other well. It’s pretty much the same thing going at it here. They know how good we are. We know how good they are. Now it just comes down to execution.”

It began in the bubble of 2020. The Stars defeated the Knights 4-1 in the Western Conference Final to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It continued last season. The Knights prevailed in six games in the Western Conference Final on their way to their first championship.

Now, it’s a first-round matchup between top-seeded Dallas and the No. 8 seed in the Knights.

Cassidy’s team, however, is hardly a typical wild-card team. We saw that in Game 1. The Knights are every bit as good as anyone else in these playoffs.

Think about it: They scored four goals and won a road playoff game Monday on just 15 shots, which tells you how dangerous they can be even on an off night offensively. They’re going to be a tough out.

“I think any time you’re playing multiple times in the playoffs year after year — there are obviously connections between the two franchises,” said DeBoer, who coached the Knights from 2020-22. “I think it’s a great rivalry. You have two passionate fan bases. Both rinks are rocking. It’s a great time of year.”

Emotions sell it

Rivalries can get testy. It happened last postseason when Stars captain Jamie Benn was suspended two games for cross-checking Knights captain Mark Stone.

Sometimes you need such nastiness to fuel the fire. It tends to get the best (or worst) out of everyone. Nothing speaks to a rivalry like the emotions around it. Nothing creates a better one than a little controversy.

“It’s one for sure now,” Dallas center Tyler Seguin said. “I don’t think you would have thought about the bubble too much until they beat us last year. Maybe they’re feeling a certain way now this year. Just two great teams going at it. On paper, their roster has only gotten better since last season. It’s a huge challenge for us.”

Rivalries usually are.

That’s what we have now between the Knights and Stars.

And it’s not going away any time soon.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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