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Rattled By Thatcher Demko?

Following their Western Conference Final loss, Pete DeBoer made a puzzling comment about his team’s mentality.

There’s no doubt that the last couple of games in the Vancouver series against Demko probably rattled our confidence a little bit. -DeBoer

DeBoer casually revealed one of the reasons Vegas struggled to score on Dallas was a rookie backup goaltender from a previous series living inside of his players’ heads.

We’ve heard coaches reference past series to account for injuries or even style of play differences, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard one admit his team was psychologically fractured by an individual performance in a prior round. We applaud the honesty, but what is he saying about his team… or maybe even his own coaching job?

Another learning lesson for our guys at this time of year; fighting through, persevering, finding a way to get yourself out of a slump. Getting your confidence back quicker. -DeBoer

What happened to the mentality this team had?(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

These are all things the Golden Knights clearly did not do well inside of the bubble, that they must improve upon if they are to hoist the Cup in the future. But one has to wonder about the fragility of the locker room if they did indeed allow the ghost of Thatcher Demko to ruin their chances to win a completely new series.

What happened to “one game at a time?” To “I’m not worried about the offense?” To “the worst thing we can do is change?”

DeBoer seems to think all of that was rendered ineffective because his guys weren’t ever able to regain their confidence.

Honestly, up to that point I thought we were creating a ton of offense, we were scoring a lot of goals. It was never an issue… There really were no signs of it up until the end of the Vancouver series. -DeBoer

Then when there were “signs,” they couldn’t adapt and the stated reason is a lack of confidence due to a goalie in series past.

We reached out to a New England area college coach asking if DeBoer’s quotes stood out as odd.

I kind of think he was actually complimenting his guys for getting past Vancouver and Demko without coming out and saying it. This whole playoff is an outlier. -NCAA coach

He went on to say it’s hard to pick apart statements made by coaches or players after spending months in a bubble and that they deserve a little more leniency than in any other playoff season.

That seems perfectly fair and maybe time will change how the Golden Knights view their run in Edmonton. But during their stay, it was clear the back end of the Vancouver series shook them a lot harder than anyone could have imagined. What appeared to be a moment of overcoming adversity by exorcising the five-minute penalty demon and hanging on to a 3-1 series lead instead created a crash in confidence that doomed the Golden Knights against a team they matched up well against on paper.

If outstanding goaltending can affect the team’s focus, you have to wonder what else rattled this team. (I’ll let you fill in the blanks as to what I’m referencing there. Here’s a hint though.)

Nonetheless, Dallas deserves a lot of credit for shutting down Vegas’ offense, but apparently they should thank Vancouver for serving up a wounded opponent.

Meanwhile, Vegas needs to figure out how and why that happened because simply put, if they ever plan on winning a Stanley Cup, they’ll have to overcome much bigger obstacles than three great games by Thatcher Demko.


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  1. Dean

    I think the team was rattled by having to play with a goalie that he the rest of the team didn’t believe in. Not sure if DeBoer is just too stupid to realize this or if this is his best effort to cover that fact up (if it is, it’s not very good…just like the rest of his coaching job)

  2. Tiki Owl

    Gallant is criticized for not being able to coach his team to get past a 5 minute major late in Game 7, Will DeBoer be criticized for not being able to coach his team past a hot goalie in 3 straight gams or in 7 out of 8 if you include the Dallas failure.

  3. Tim

    You lose every game by one goal and two games in overtime thats a tough pill to swallow. Seems to me our PK went south at the wrong time and our PP which went 3 -23 didn’t help. All this talk of Alex Pietrangelo sounds great when he’s 30 but over 8 million a year for 7 years seems to be a real gamble since he’ll be under contract until he’s 37. If I thought he’d put us over the top is one thing but he won’t. What do you think on that deal Ken? I believe overall we have a good team but were very weak at the center position. If they get Pietrangelo then I’d say Stansty would have to be traded. Squeeze as much out of losing Flower as you can whether it’s a buyout but preferably a trade. Hopefully Cody Glass can be our #2 center to cover the loss of Stantsy. Nick Hague was up then went down not sure what DeBoer thinks of him. I’m really interested in seeing Krebs and Dugan at camp both are scorers but can they do it at the NHL level. It’s going to be a fun time watching all this unfold.

  4. Mike StG

    Jason, really good article. I think the Demko reason is bogus. They struggled against Demko because they didn’t adjust to the style of defense Vancouver adopted midway thru the series, allowing Vegas the possession but defending the middle. Dallas basically did the same thing. The cycle offense that DeBoer implemented is ineffective against this type of defense without good netfront players who can generate deflection and rebound goals (which Vegas lacks). They need to add those types of players in the offseason if they intend to continue playing a cycle offense instead of transition with speed.

    • Howard

      << This guy understands hockey while sadly, most VGK fans do not. The scheme also involved packing 5 because VGK's insistence of way too many blueline type shots. Instead, the adjustment should have been for dmen to shoot the corners, break net stack by forcing forecheck and scrum it from behind net. If you going to play a possession game, then make sure you keep that puck in opposing teams zone and create net crash opps. Dmen shooting on goal continually with opposing team stacking 5 is playing right into their hands. Honestly,. I think Deboer teaches strong structure, but is a poor in game to game to game coach – he just never makes adjustments.

  5. The biggest problem las Vegas had was their stupid ass coach,he was playing a goalie who could not stop a beach ball when he needed to make one save,look at how many shots he stopped in the over time ga Me ,,0 lost on the first shot second overtime 2,when the game was on the line he couldn’t stop shit,even when it wasn’t overtime,look how many games they lost in the tournament in the third period or overtime when he was in goal,I still have no idea why they hired a loser of a coach!

  6. Jason – keen eye – this coach PDB is not the Vegas solution and l do believe the distractions which occurred certainly had a bearing on all. Dallas wasn’t the better team but what they lacked in potential they compensated for with a greater desire to win. Vegas is not the PDB style team nor am l certain they should be. I noticed Smith referenced “magic” or lack there of which as you well recall their initial season had players with everything to prove to themselves and others – that’s possibly the magic Smith has to be referring to. The team was probably more Vegas because of the tragity which happened as in some remote regard they experienced the same thing.

    • DeeAnn Barker

      The reality was the team was playing without Fluery and with him, they have more confidence and rhythm. Don’t know what the problem was behind the scenes, but he should played Fluery more.

    • Collims

      Let’s see how the finals play out before you claim the dallas wasn’t the better team.

      • Daryl

        I still think VGK was the better team but DAL had more desire and a better game plan. VGK played the same game from the beginning of the playoffs, it didn’t work then and it didn’t work now (against DAL). If VAN was a good team they would have outed VGK. I blame the coach for that and think if he tried something a little different VGK would have looked much different

  7. Daryl

    Sorry but I have to call BS. Thankfully VAN wasn’t a very good team or we would have lost to them. The reason why we lost is because we did not adjust our offensive style of play. We continue to take shots from the outside without setting players up in front of the goalie so he’s able to see almost every shot. We scored on transition if it wasn’t for that we would never scored in that series. We don’t have the right players to play the style that PDB wants to play but even so players like Stone and Reaves can play in front of the net yet we never set them up to. We continue to play from the outside

  8. Outside shots on a 3 on 5 man advantage. Powerplay was horrible. Quick short passes near net doesn’t seem to be something the staff doesn’t practice. So u get lots of shots no goals. Stasnty must go.

  9. Buckeye63

    Makes you wonder if life inside of the bubble played a part in it also. No home crowd to cheer you on or get in the visiting teams head. Yep, the Golden Knights definitely let things get to them and it showed. Would the outcome have been different under normal conditions? We’ll never know.

  10. Coach really NEEDS to rethink his decision making in our goalie! Why fix something that isn’t broken?? Fleury took the Knights to the Stanley cup play offs right?!?!?! So why bench him? You don’t think that played A BIG PART on the whole team who grew together FROM DAY ONE? Duh Yes Lehner had a couple shut outs but not enough to bench Fleury OUR FIRST STRING GOALIE. Lehner shocked in OT Plus look at shots on goal compared to the other teams! We shouldn’t have lost!

  11. Arlyne

    I think the Demko thing is a cop out. Deboer needs to take credit. With this last years knucklehead moves they sucked the heart right out of the players. If anything got in their heads was the all the bonehead changes and pressure to win the cup. As a fan I’m disappointed.

  12. B Maxwell

    Could all of you pseudo coaches and DeBoer haters just go golfing for awhile. The season is over. I want to look forward to 20-21 with optimism.

  13. Gallant referred to PDB as a clown – probably not a good description as clowns are funny and this guy is plain ( fill in the blank) your guess is as good as mine. I am disappointed he is not man enough to stand up and say l screwed up. Maybe he did say it when he made reference to given the keys to a Porsche and should have added without a driving lesson or two. Not sure why he even got the job – perhaps he knows something. What ever the reason apparently has a 4 yr contact which is a scary thought given he screwed thing up in a short time. I know contacts can be broken but why put the organization in that position . If they axed Gallent and essential Fluery l guess they can do likewise. IMO they certainly didn’t get what they bargained for then again maybe they did swords cut both ways. I know its business and the heck with whatever but being a West Point guy and all that took place l would think Honor would be very important to Foley and probably not real happy.

  14. LJ

    Not That I know a lot about playing Hockey. First game I ever watched was in April 2018. In all sports team chemistry goes a long way, especially in the play offs. It seems to me they lost chemistry when Gallant was fired and Fleury was benched. Athletes have hearts. If so, it’s a management problem. Arrogance.

  15. Richard Santomauro

    My opinion. It would have been easier to fix the misfit style of play with Gallant, rather than panicking and bringing in DeBoer and Lehner. VGK never recovered from that 5 minute major. Since then it has been one bad decision after another.

    • Tim

      Richard I have to agree with your comments. It’s just hard seeing DeBoer on our bench I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that. Yes many bad decisions after year one and it’s kind of taken the gloss off our shinning star.

    • Neither DeBoer or Lehner are the Vegas solutions and it will probably get worse before it gets better. I know there are many who visit this site that don’t think that is the case which if fine time will tell. In many regards they were addressing a problem that didn’t exist. I do think things got a little out of hand with Gallant but it appeared to me he was well on the way to fixing that. Like people have said they couldn’t can the entire team for that lack luster play so they needed a fall guy (normally the coach) to hopefully change things for the better – they apparently are slow learners based on their choices of both D and L. Kelly referred to Lehner as an Elite goalie – elite and available don’t go together . People keep saying these negatives are because you don’t like the guy that is not the case it is just addressing the situation. We will see what transpires in a reality short time I would think.

      • Cody

        Lehner’s GSAA was close to 0 for the playoffs. Let that sink in. His save percentage after the “contract” details leaked? 0-3, .860 save percentage. #elite

  16. Paul.

    Spot on analysis. I can see doubts in our forwards when they’re reaching the puck for the shot. However, there are other factors too. Rotating players, goalie and tactics may works well if the opponent outsmarts your own game. VGK should be as creative as the Vegas shows. What happened to the initial plan to rotate goalie? Flower brings lots of luck to the team. Dallas has that charm now.

  17. Joseph Dylan Biase

    What the Vegas Golden Knights must do for next season:
    1. Fire FeBoer
    2. Acquire size/toughness for their defense (signing UFA Joe Finley or trading a defenseman to Detroit for Trevor Daley would be a good start)
    The New York Rangers winning the NHL 2020 first overall draft pick was a good thing! I just wish that my 2nd favorite team, the Vegas Golden Knights, defeated the Dallas Stars and was in the Stanley Cup finals now. Thanks for your time and God Bless you all.

  18. tom mccarthy

    Get rid of De Boer . LEHNER IS GOOD BUT HAS 5 HOLE PROBLEMS. They should work things out with both of the.
    Other players havent performed well under De Boer.

  19. Cody

    Whether it psyched the team out for an entire series following or not, Demko’s play was some of the best goaltending I’ve ever seen in decades of watching.

    • Daryl

      Not to take away from what he did but a majority of the shots he faced were unobstructed and right at him. He did make some great saves especially on some of the scrambled and he made an average team look good. I just wonder what he might have looked like if we actually got players in front of him to give him at least a little screen

  20. It was wierd to me, the whole collapse. We were awesome in the round robin and up until we were up 3 to 1 against the Canucks. I mean we rocked !! Out of nowhere, we stopped scoring goals. Everyone looked a little tired and both oppossing goalies looked like Hall of Famers. Very few rebound opportunities and when they occurred, it was always a blast into the oppossing goalies chest, dead center. Stone looked off, I know he was hurting, but he looked sluggish. Guys disappeared for long periods of time. It seemed we got bullied a little, just pushed around which never happened before. Saying it was a Goalie problem shows me many here are way off. Nobody can win when we only score 1 goal a game. It seems Fluery is out, that hurts us all. PDB has sided with Lehner. Glass, Kolosar, Krebs, Hague, Whitecloud, our next backup goalie is the key to moving to the next level. Our core is set, we need our younger guys to fire on all cylinders. I heard a joke, it goes that, “I want to hire The Golden Knights to be my ballbearer, so they can let me down one more time”. Well, we are spoiled for sure, we can challenge again next year for sure, let’s be thankful for our short history.

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