As the Vegas Golden Knights fell one step short of the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight season, there are mixed emotions. Being one of the last four teams left playing at this time of year means you’re ostensibly better than 27 other teams. But the ache of falling short for the second straight season and the questions that dog the VGK remain. As the team faced the media for the final time in the 2020-2021 season, there were more questions than answers.
The facts are easy to see. The power play wasn’t good enough, failing to score in six games against the Montreal Canadiens and only totaling four goals in the entire playoff run. Speaking of offense, even five-on-five was inconsistent at best, and in the series against the Canadiens, it was absent among the top-six forwards entirely.
There are also good things that we saw: scoring from the depth and the defense carried the day more than might have been expected. The goaltenders played at an incredibly high level with very few exceptions. Alex Pietrangelo is worth every penny they paid for him on both ends of the ice.
Head coach Pete DeBoer has been prone to understatement when talking about the problems the Vegas Golden Knights endured throughout the season and playoffs. At his end-of-year press conference, not much changed. But one does get the sense that as far as the organization goes, changes are definitely coming.
“We haven’t done a deep dive into what areas need to get better,” said DeBoer. “Although there are some that jump out.”
DeBoer made an interesting comparison to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and how that team has gone from success to missing the playoffs, a first-round sweep after winning the Presidents Trophy, and then to winning it all last year in the bubble and going back to the Stanley Cup Final again this year. His point in making the comparison was that Vegas could be walking much the same path.
“Unfortunately when you don’t win you’ve gotta tweak and you’ve gotta add and you’ve gotta move pieces around. From a coaching perspective, we’ve gotta overturn some stones and get things better.”
Deboer did say the team took a step forward.
“I felt we were closer (to winning the Stanley Cup) this year than we were in the bubble.”
But at the end of the day, Vegas once again will spend a tortured summer wondering what could have been.
“We’re not quite there yet.”