Pete DeBoer isn’t pressing the right buttons with this Vegas Golden Knights team.
The hockey world was shocked on Jan. 15, when the Vegas Golden Knights sacked Head Coach Gerard Gallant and replaced him with DeBoer, who had been fired by loathed rivals the San Jose Sharks earlier in the year.
It was a stunning move given that Gallant had led an expansion team to the postseason in consecutive years, including to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural year.
Plus, while inconsistent during the first-half of the 2019-20 season, the Golden Knights were still on course to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs under Gallant.
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But the front office wanted more than that.
After all, they had thrown all of their chips into the middle of the table to win now, pulling off huge trades for superstars in Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty and locking up their core to long-term deals.
As a result, they wasted little time in bringing DeBoer who took both the New Jersey Devils and the San Jose Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year behind the bench.
In other words, DeBoer knows what buttons to press to get his teams to the promised land and that’s exactly why he was hired by the Golden Knights.
And, boy, do they need him to start pressing those buttons right now.
Trailing 3-1 to the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final, the Golden Knights face a win-or-go home scenario in Game 5 tonight.
Lose and the Stanley Cup dream is over for another year.
It would be a second consecutive year where this team has failed to live up to expectations, which seems a crazy thing to say when covering a third-year expansion team.
However, that’s the hefty price you pay when you go all in and construct a team built to contend for multiple championships.
But, should the Golden Knights leave The Bubble this week, then they will have only themselves to blame.
What was considered a potent offense has dried up with only six goals in this series, and 10 goals in their last seven games.
That won’t get the job done.
While the Golden Knights have dominated most metrics, including the shot board, against the Stars, they have struggled to generate real quality high-danger chances.
Yes, they have come up against an incredibly hot goalie in Anton Khudobin but they aren’t getting enough traffic to the net, they aren’t setting screens and they are struggling to break down this stubborn defense.
It is all well and good generating 40 plus shots on goal a game, but it doesn’t count if you can’t finish your chances.
And this is where DeBoer comes in.
Speaking on a Zoom Media Conference in the wake of Game 4, DeBoer stressed the following:
“The worst thing we can do is change our game.”
Let’s hope that is just coach talk.
Because, while you can make the argument that eventually Khudobin will cool off and the Knights’ dominance will eventually pay off, we’ve said that after each loss in this series.
How does the old saying go?
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
This style of play isn’t working and it has led to losses in three of Vegas’ last four games and five of the last seven.
Dallas has figured out the Golden Knights and they will be licking their lips if nothing changes for Game 5.
They have a red hot goalie, they know how to take traffic away from the net, they can clog up the slot and they are happy to sit back and strike at the perfect time.
The Golden Knights have to make the Stars think now. They have to spring the element of surprise on their opponent.
Play like they have and it will be Goodnight Vienna.
It is already going to be a tough task given that the 2000 New Jersey Devils are the only team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Conference Final. They went on to beat the Stars in the Stanley Cup Final, by the way.
And, teams are 34-1 when holding a 3-1 series lead since the Conference Final was introduced in 1982.
So, rather than stick to his guns, DeBoer now has to do what he was hired to do and that’s get into this team, push as many buttons as he needs to and make sure they do whatever it takes to stay alive in this series by winning Game 5.
Even if it means deviating from the game plan.