For the Vegas Golden Knights, they must crack a familiar foe

Pete DeBoer is interwoven into the Vegas Golden Knights's short history. How can they crack the code against their former head coach?
Dallas Stars v Montreal Canadiens
Dallas Stars v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

A major part of the Vegas Golden Knights's short history has revolved around one man. This man has coached for the Golden Knights, leading them to two straight Western Conference finals appearances before being fired in 2022. He's also coached against the Golden Knights, staying at the bench for both the San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars. Who's this mystery man? It's none other than Pete DeBoer.

The Golden Knights have had DeBoer involved in some significant fashion, seeing their former head coach in every single playoff series. When he was with the Golden Knights, he coached 160 games, compiling a record of 98-50-12. But the Stars head coach is more known for his time with the Sharks, where he had a record 198-129-34.

Now? He's behind the bench for Dallas in a pivotal game seven. Keep in mind that DeBoer's record is perfect during such games, with a 7-0 career record. That will place a greater burden on the Golden Knights to finally crack the code of Pete DeBoer.

So how can the defending champions defeat their former head coach and his team? What adjustments should the current head coach, Bruce Cassidy, make so the Golden Knights can shatter DeBoer's immaculate game seven record? The answers might be simpler than initially thought, which can help Vegas advance in the next round.

Control the neutral zone

During game six, Bruce Cassidy made a key adjustment in the neutral zone. This adjustment helped the Vegas Golden Knights win game six. Getting back through the zone with successful entries and playing towards the walls kept Dallas on their heels. As a result, Vegas got the scoring opportunities they desperately needed throughout the series.

Expect Cassidy to employ that same strategy in the final game of the series, where Dallas will look to reclaim such territory. The team that's controlled the middle of the ice has controlled the series, generating more scoring opportunities and high-danger chances. If the Golden Knights get back to basics and play the boards, they can get past DeBoer's neutral zone trap and pepper Jake Oettinger with plenty of shots.

More scoring on other lines

The Vegas Golden Knights have also relied on scoring from their top line, with Jack Eichel leading the scoring efforts (three goals, four assists). Jonathan Marchessault has also chipped in some points, scoring two goals and two assists. Other than some scoring from Noah Hanifin and Brayden McNabb (both with two goals and three assists each), there hasn't been much substance.

That's why Cassidy shuffled the lineup around throughout the series. The hope for an offensive spark coincides with figuring out DeBoer's neutral zone trap. How can the Golden Knights score goals if only their top line is getting past the neutral zone? That's what Vegas must ask themselves as they head into game seven.

Of course, Oettinger's also involved in the equation. He's been excellent throughout the series, with a GA/G of 2.10 and a save percentage of .921. Part of that is because of DeBoer's defensive setup, where the Stars take away the middle of the ice. However, the Stars goaltender has also been weaker at home, with a regular season save percentage of .898 and GA/G of 2.78 at American Airlines Center. The Vegas Golden Knights can crack Oettinger on Sunday. It's a matter of other lines aside from Eichel's line picking up the slack.