MONTREAL — Maybe this will prove the perfect situation for Ryan Reaves, his greatest rival’s former coach now directing the Golden Knights.
I mean, who would have more inside information on Evander Kane than Peter DeBoer?
Few in the Vegas room would have had similar thoughts as Reaves when it was announced that DeBoer would be replacing the fired Gerard Gallant this week, that instant our body’s electricity is short circuited.
“I think my heart stopped,” Reaves said.
One of hockey’s better antagonistic duos the last few seasons has been Reaves against Kane of the San Jose Sharks, the team from which DeBoer was fired as coach in December.
Twitter taunts. Playoff tussles.
Taking shots while officiating a wedding.
Do you know the Muffin Man?
Reaves-Kane had been building for years.
It eventually took off in the most entertaining of ways.
Hockey needs more of it, these back-and-forth skirmishes of words and fists between players, but how DeBoer would respond to the one who most successfully got into the head of his top line forward in San Jose was anyone’s guess.
Talk about a bizarre switching of sides.
“Things get heated with a rivalry and you tend to hate that team a little bit more and you hate everyone in that organization a little bit more,” Reaves said. “But (DeBoer) is not there any more. He’s a Vegas Golden Knight now. He’s the captain of the ship and we’ll follow him.”
Vegas opened the DeBoer Era by beating Ottawa 4-2 and now face the Canadiens on Saturday night at Bell Centre, where the Knights practiced for the first time under their coach Friday.
There were new drills to master and more board work than seen at a Knights practice in some time, DeBoer learning his team and it him.
Do you remember the scene in “Miracle,” when Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks was drawing plays on the glass, his rapid speech talking about things like boom, boom, boom and opening up options and having four of them on one play?
And then one kid turns to the other and says, “What is he talking about?”
And his teammate responds, “No clue.”
It wasn’t like that Friday, but it was a whole lot of fresh ideas.
One thing that likely won’t change is DeBoer’s fondness for a heavy fourth line, which he seemingly always had in San Jose and Reaves at a forward has helped anchor since being traded to Vegas during its expansion season.
“I love the fourth line identity of this team and what those guys in particular bring down there,” DeBoer said. “Every year, they have gotten better. Ryan is a very good player. Underrated.
“That’s playoff hockey. You have to have depth that can beat you a bunch of different ways, with a goal or to set the table physically for the next line going over the boards. It’s a great option for me to have as coach.”
It was Reaves who scored against the Senators on Thursday and then presented DeBoer with the puck from the victory, after which the player offered his coach a celebratory hug.
“I had to,” Reaves said. “I didn’t know where we stood.”
DeBoer politely declined his sweat-soaked fourth liner.
Enjoying a beer
Perhaps there is another way for the two to break any lingering proverbial ice from those intense, emotionally filled games between Vegas and San Jose.
What if Reaves and DeBoer shared some of the best beer from the player’s 7FiveBrewing company?
“No hugs, but I will take that,” DeBoer said.
Mostly, this is just sports. Be it a player or coach or even general manager, new faces almost always mean change. Those from DeBoer will likely begin as small. Vegas certainly isn’t a team in need of any major overhaul.
And down on the fourth line, a guy who didn’t miss a chance to needle and challenge any and all San Jose Sharks in recent times — especially one named Kane — wonders if the coach now in charge of the Knights has put any hard feelings behind him.
“I would hope so,” Reaves said. “I would assume so. I’ve played with guys that I’ve had beefs with on the ice and gone out for beers with guys I’ve fought. It’s just part of the game, especially when it’s a rivalry.”
Come on. Pour ol’ DeBoer a cold one from the 7Five.
Nothing says newfound friendship like that.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.