Ryan Reaves is about to establish himself with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The large framed fourth-liner adds confidence to a team which was repeatedly assaulted over the past few years, and he adds character to the Penguins locker room which lost a figurative metric ton of character in the offseason. He has fit in quite nicely. However, his first big test looms Friday night in Washington: Tom Wilson.
Ryan Reaves’ role with the Penguins may be one of the most misunderstood things among the Pittsburgh fan base. Many say he’s the new “fighter”, and with that designation comes the near dogmatic evaluation, “he’s not good at hockey.”
Wrong. Way wrong.
Reaves has gone through an adjustment period with his new team. He came from the Ken Hitchcock system in St. Louis (even if Mike Yeo finished last year) to the fast and forward–always skating forward–Penguins system. On the ice, the Penguins system must be a large culture shock for Reaves, which has contributed to the Penguins fourth line struggle to find consistency.
In fact, the Penguins fourth line has shown slightly less chemistry than a pair of Oscars presenters handed the ever witty repartee just moments before going on stage. But, that doesn’t mean Reaves isn’t good at hockey, his role or filling a most valuable role inside the Penguins room.
Part of his role takes place inside the Penguins room. Last week, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a story piece about Reaves’ playful shenanigans–have a read here. It’s great stuff.
The Penguins said goodbye to the beloved and well-respected clown prince Marc-Andre Fleury, but it appears Reaves is their new locker room mood lifter. Such players are vital to success. They bring the room closer together and hold things together during adversity. Really, who else could get away with this shirt?
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 5, 2017
And Reaves’ Halloween prank on Phil Kessel, and video is an instant classic
— Ryan Reaves (@rreaves75) October 27, 2017
Reaves and Phil Kessel are quickly becoming the Butch and Sundance of the Penguins room. Character often comes from characters, and that is Ryan Reaves.
Make no mistake, the bulk of Reaves’ role is to play hockey. To repeat for emphasis, the bulk of Reaves’ role is to play hockey. His hockey role includes the need to be heavy against opposing defensemen on the forecheck. Occasionally add some offense. Be defensively responsible. And lastly, his role includes the responsibility to politely explain the consequences of unruly behavior to serial offenders…or punch them in the head until they get the message.
Too many fans focus on the final responsibility, yet don’t give credit for the hockey portion. That should change. However, Friday night will not be that time.
Friday, the Penguins will visit the
Verizon Capital One Center to play the Capitals. On October 11, the Penguins beat the Capitals, 3-2. Tom Wilson missed that game while serving a four-game suspension for boarding St. Louis Blues minor leaguer Sam Blais…in the preseason! (Seriously, what did Blais ever do to anyone?)
Wilson will be ever present, Friday. In 17 career games against the Penguins, Wilson has tallied one goal, 15 shots, 39 penalty minutes and countless players who would wish harm upon him.
That harm is Ryan Reaves. Reaves has three fighting majors this season, and according to HockeyFights.com, has resoundingly won all three. Wilson, also according to HockeyFights.com, has four scraps this season. He bested Blake Coleman (NJD) and Luke Schenn (ARI), danced to a draw with Jake McCabe (BUF) but was parked by Erik Gudbranson (VAN).
Wilson is one of the primary reasons the Penguins handed over prospect Oskar Sundqvist and traded down in the draft to get Reaves. The ever-present “agitating” physical play–legal and otherwise–has been a thorn to the Penguins.
It is Reaves first big test. He has earned his place in the locker room and made it a better place. His play has progressed this season. Now, we will find out just what it means to have Ryan Reaves in a Metropolitan Division statement game. It’s a test Reaves will more likely to enjoy than the Wilson. And that will also have the Penguins smiling.
PHN’s quest for legitimate media standing took a large step forward, yesterday. I am now a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA). I don’t know if its a big deal to others, but it is to me. It’s nice to be formalized, at least by my (currently former and hopefully soon to be current) peers who cover the Penguins.
We would like to extend a large thank you to Rob Rossi (@real_robrossi). Since I’m terrible (OK, utterly atrocious) with social customs, I’m not sure if a fruit basket or cheese wheel is the proper thank you, but I’d like to point out that he is national quality in Pittsburgh. And sometimes that means a controversial column or ruffling some feathers. It takes real courage to do that job.
Rob is part of the new wave of great Penguins coverage. It’s never been better, and the group of writers covering the Pens, from Jason Mackey, Jonathan Bombulie, Josh Yohe, Matt Gajtka and Rob, are some of the smartest hockey journos I’ve been around. And each brings a very different flavor.
As someone who made a living having beat writers from every city as guests on a national radio show, I can’t tell you how lucky Pens fans are to have that stable of talent. I’ll take that roster over any Canadian city. Really.
AND while we’re dishing praise–We’d like to thank our unofficial local photographer, Michael Miller. Many of the photos you see are courtesy of his love and passion for his craft. Here is a link to his Twitter Feed! @PensRyourDaddy