“The elimination game, the biggest game of my coaching career and we had a meeting, and nobody could find Larry,” DeBoer said of then-Devils assistant Larry Robinson. . “’Where’s Larry? Where is Larry?’ They had pregame entertainment rehearsing on the ice, and he was sitting on the bench watching them.
“When you have 10 rings (from the Stanley Cup), you can have this type of attitude that you’ll just relax and go with the flow. But you learn something from that, and I think what I learned from Larry is that, you can twist yourself in the knots during those times and the prep for the game and all those things, at the end of the day you’ve got your team ready, they’re ready, you really give them the keys at such times, and they have to take it and go.”
The Dallas Stars coach was able to release his share of serenity throughout these Stanley Cup playoffs. Now let’s see if that continues with the Stars advancing to the Western Conference Finals, where they will face the Vegas Golden Knights, who DeBoer coached from 2019-22. Game 1 will take place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Friday (8:30 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS).
DeBoer said Monday “there was a lot to unpack” regarding the Golden Knights, who fired him on May 16, 2022, and he wanted to focus on the Stars’ 2-1 win over the Seattle Kraken in Game 7. of the second round of the Western Conference. .
On Tuesday, he was ready to open the suitcase.
“Obviously there’s no hiding the fact that it means a bit more,” he said. “It would be for anyone in that situation. It happens all the time in the world, right? You quit one job and move on to the next job, except now we’re playing with each other on of the conference final immediately after.
“What’s important to me here, though, is the hockey and the focus on the players. It’s not about Pete DeBoer and his history with Vegas. I have tremendous respect for the players in this game. room. There are a lot of guys there I loved to coach.
“It’s going to be a good test for us, but I’m a star in Dallas now, I like our group and I think we’re getting better as the playoffs go down here and should be a hell of a series. “
[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Stars series coverage]
The Golden Knights aren’t surprised that DeBoer has continued to enjoy success.
“He’s just smart. He’s a good coach. Likeable,” Vegas center Chandler Stephenson said. “I would say he’s that fine line of player coaches, but he’s also demanding. He expects a lot from everyone, he understands his players and the different roles they bring. I think that’s huge .”
DeBoer is 560-400-137 in 1,097 NHL games with the Florida Panthers, Devils, San Jose Sharks, Golden Knights and Stars, and 76-60 in 136 playoff games.
He led four teams, including Dallas, to the conference finals. He coached New Jersey to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012, San Jose to the Western Conference Finals in 2016 and 2019 and did the same with Vegas in 2020 and 2021.
Only one other coach in NHL history has done it more often: Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman has done it five times, with the St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.
DeBoer is the only man in NHL history to lead a team to the conference finals in his first season as coach four times.
Two of those teams have qualified for the Stanley Cup Finals: the Devils lost to the Kings in six games in the 2012 Finals and the Sharks lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in 2016.
DeBoer is also 7-0 in 7 practice games.
“If your coach is out there panicking, hitting the panic button every time you lose, I think that carries over to the group,” the Stars keeper said. Jake Oettinger said. “He’s the exact opposite of that. He believes in this group of guys and if we do well what he teaches us and what we do as a group, I think if we do that he believes we can win the Cup.
“Belief starts and ends with him and his behavior ripples through the whole group. That’s a pretty cool stat and it’s no shock that he was successful and it has a lot to do with his calmness and his confidence in this group.”
DeBoer has a reputation among players for being an excellent communicator. Dallas Center Tyler Seguin and former NHL defenseman Andy Greene, who played for DeBoer in New Jersey from 2011 to 2015, each described DeBoer’s approach as “black and white.”
“With our team, that was a huge plus,” Greene said. “That’s what I remember most from the start: ‘This is how we want to play, style, execute, this is how we do it.’ That’s what stands out the most. The way he spoke, communicated and treated us was brilliant.”
The Stars have always been a strong defensive team, and that didn’t change when DeBoer was named coach June 22, replacing Rick Bowness, who stepped down May 20 after three seasons in Dallas. The Stars allowed 3.08 goals per game in the playoffs (tied for sixth among playoff teams) after allowing 2.62 per game in the regular season (third).
They found more offense, however, under DeBoer; Dallas has averaged 3.43 goals per game this season, seventh in the NHL. They are fifth among playoff teams, averaging 3.62 goals per game. Last season, the Stars averaged 2.84 goals per game in the regular season (21st in the NHL) and 2.00 in the playoffs (16th and last).
“We’ve opened up, but we’re still emulating a lot of the teachings of (Bowness) this year,” Seguin said. “He’s been great with us and we all have good things to say about him. Pete has obviously brought team speed to our roster. We just know where the puck is going. It took us to the next step.
DeBoer has accomplished a lot as an NHL coach. Will he win that elusive Stanley Cup at some point, maybe even this year?
“I hope so,” Greene said. “I’m obviously a big fan of Pete. I’m always supporting and supporting him. I hope he does well. He deserves it.”
NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen contributed to this report