On a micro-scale, last night was a big spot for the Golden Knights to get back in the win column after losing two straight and going 4-5-1 in their last ten games. On a macro-scale, it was a monumental night for head coach Peter DeBoer, earning his 500th career regular-season coaching win.
In his so far 14 year NHL career, DeBoer has been at the helm of the Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils, San Jose Sharks, and now the Vegas Golden Knights since being hired by the club in January 2020.
Success has been something DeBoer has had plenty of across his different coaching stops. In 2012 he led the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the LA Kings and accomplished the same feat in 2016 leading the Sharks to a finals loss at the hands of the Penguins. Since being hired by Vegas, he has coached the team to back-to-back conference final appearances.
Considering what happened with DeBoer and San Jose bouncing Vegas from the playoffs in a very controversial fashion the year prior and the rivalry and distaste that devolved from it, DeBoer was a very curious hire in the eyes of fans.
It was also a strange scenario because of the fact that the Golden Knights weren’t doing too terribly bad under Gerrard Galant at the time, but a short streak of foul play and the fact that a coach of DeBoer’s caliber was on the open market lead to the Golden Knights front office moving on from Galant and hiring DeBoer. Many believe they took this opportunity to jump at DeBoer before another interested team could. It had only been a month since the Sharks let him go.
Fast forward to now, and time plus success has led Golden Knights fans to take a liking to the head coach, and the players seem to always respond well to his message and tactics. It’s been a great partnership.
Having been in hockey for as long as DeBoer has (close to 40 years and 14 NHL seasons), DeBoer can look back and think about much more than just the games that have led to his very respectable 500-368-119 NHL record.
“What you remember when you’re talking about numbers like that are the people, the players you got to coach over that time, the trainers you get to work with, the other coaching staffs that you’ve had,” DeBoer said in his post-game presser. “You remember the laughs you had along the way, enjoying those wins after games.”
While DeBoer took time in his presser to remember the past, he knows that to have success in this league, you have to focus on what’s next and can’t be content with anything. “I think when you’re in the middle of this, you don’t reflect on anything, you don’t reflect on last week,” said DeBoer. “Really 500 is in the rearview mirror. We probably won’t talk about it again. We’re onto the next game, we’re in a dogfight here to the end.”
He’s spot-on with that statement as the Pacific Division, and Western Conference playoff races get more interesting by the day. The Kings and Flames are two of the league’s hottest teams at the moment, which has catapulted them past the Golden Knights atop the Pacific Division standings. The Oilers are a new team under their new coach and are back within a point of Vegas for third, the Ducks continue to be a serious threat, and the Canucks aren’t far behind trying to make a late playoff surge. Insert Dallas and Nashville in the wildcard race, and the West playoff picture is absolute mayhem.
Last night’s start wasn’t ideal for Vegas, but they looked better and more confident as the game progressed and completely controlled the game. The next test is when the Bruins come into town Thursday night.
Boston has been very strong as of late and has found success having split up the trio of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak, which has created more depth scoring. They will also be hungry for a win, having lost heartbreakingly with under a minute to play in Anaheim Tuesday night.
Having said all this, the Golden Knights will be in tough and will need an effort similar to the one they saw in the second half of Tuesday’s game.
It will also be important for a healthy Lehner to build on a solid outing and build some confidence heading down the stretch. He should get the start once again.