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The Handshake Line: “It’s The Hardest Thing To Do.”

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Anyone who has watched playoff hockey has probably imagined being part of a handshake line after a successful series. Walking through as the team that lost though, that’s not one that normally comes up in the childhood dreams.

It’s the hardest thing to do. -Nate Schmidt

After the Golden Knights brutal Game 7 loss in San Jose, the players followed hockey tradition and formed the classic handshake line. Still torn up from last season’s Stanley Cup finals handshake, an animated Schmidt confirmed it’s as miserable as it looks.

The hardest thing I did last year was the handshake line, and the hardest thing I did this year was the handshake line. -Schmidt

For many of the Golden Knights, it’s their fifth handshake line in two years, the last two have been tough to swallow. It’s painful to watch for fans (I bet many of you didn’t even leave the TV on long enough to watch it) and even more painful for the players to go through. No one wants to end their season shaking the hand of the victor, especially after a series as bitter that that one.

It’s hard to win. Just look at all the teams that are out. It’s crazy. It’s a hard league to win, but that doesn’t make it any easier right now. -Schmidt

I’ve never been in a position to basically be forced to shake hands with an enemy, but I imagine I probably couldn’t handle it as well as Nate, Ryan Reaves, and every other Golden Knight.

It doesn’t matter what happens in the series. You go to war with guys who play the same sport as you. No matter what the outcome is, you shake their hand. -Ryan Reaves

Just imagine shaking hands with Evander Kane, Logan Couture, or Joe Thornton after being shoved and slugged for seven games. It would take a lot of sedatives to get me through it. Fortunately, NHL players make enough money (or are just better people) that they quickly forgive dirty elbows and gloved sucker punches after the whistle.

Whether we like each other or not, it was a good, hard fought series and you got to show your respect. -Reaves

These guys are pros, in every sense of the word.

The War Of Words That The Golden Knights Are Winning

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Ryan Reaves has 40 career NHL goals. Sharks center Joe Pavelski has accrued 355 career goals, 38 of them this season. Pavelski averages 12+ more minutes a game and has $40M more in career earnings. Simple numbers alone show the wide gap between the two players. So after dropping their third straight series game, why in the world is the Sharks Captain so concerned with Reaves?

He’s called himself the lion in the jungle. You see what he does, he baits guys in and enjoys when he’s doing it. Give him credit. -Joe Pavelski, Sharks Captain

Reaves gets paid $2.75M and scored nine goals this season. Costing $300,000 per goal, clearly, the Golden Knights aren’t paying their fourth liner to score. Reaves is being paid to get into the heads of highly skilled players in the postseason. And he’s earned every penny against the Sharks.

Reaves is doing his job, he’s got us fired up at times. We’ve played against this guy 5-10 years ago when there were other heavyweights in the lineups and he was just very quiet. Now you see him he starts yapping when Haley’s out. -Joe Pavelski, Sharks forward

After each game in the series, one of the Sharks stars have brought up Reaves. The question is, why? Why are San Jose’s veteran leaders so concerned with a player that averages under ten minutes a game in this series?

Future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton also piped in after Game 3. While Thornton was carrying on about Reaves, the league was getting his suspension papers prepared for the morning.

For a 30-goal scorer, boy he looked good in that fight… He looked like Brett Hull fighting Ryan. It was just tough to see Ryan go down like that versus a 30-goal scorer but hopefully he’ll have better luck next time. -Joe Thornton, Sharks forward

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“So-Called” Fourth Line Having Major Impact Vs. Sharks

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In three playoff games, the Golden Knights top six have been outstanding. Between the two lines they have 11 goals, and 14 assists. However, after a winning night that featured Mark Stone’s hat trick and the second line’s offensive explosion, Gerard Gallant took time to praise a different line. The so-called fourth line.

For me tonight, they were as good as their top line, for the role they play on our hockey team. -Gallant

The trio of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Reaves, and William Carrier averaged 10 minutes of ice time, generated four shots on net, had three takeaways, three blocked shots and won 75% of faceoffs.

They are momentum guys. They finish checks, they take very few penalties and play the game the right way. -Gallant

Playing the game the right way means pushing the puck towards the offensive zone, pouncing on loose pucks and winning board battles. Sure, it’s a bunch of cliches but for anyone that watched Game 3, they noticed the impact the fourth line had in their 10+ minutes played.

When you cause turnovers, when you’re skating hard that’s a big part of it… I’ve talked about forecheck for a year and a half, two years. When we’re forechecking well and moving our feet well we’re a good team. -Gallant

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Ryan Reaves Is Ready For The Playoffs; Where He Thinks His Game Plays Best

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Ryan Reaves is well aware of the line. The line that he doesn’t cross often. Sure we just watched him serve a goofy 10-minute jousting misconduct with Joe Thornton but overall as a Golden Knight he’s been disciplined. This season Reaves played the second most games (80) in his career and had the second least penalty minutes (74). And, of those 74 minutes, just 24 came on minor penalties, meaning Reaves is rarely the reason for an opposing power play. But, can he amp up the physicality in the playoffs and continue to stay out of the sin bin?

I know how to do that. That’s a big reason why I’m still in this league. I play physical but I know how to stay within the limits of the game and not take penalties and hurt the team. Otherwise, I think I’d be out of the league by now. -Ryan Reaves

In the postseason, checking gets questionably cleaner but definitely more impactful. Reaves can become more valuable in the postseason by his forward pressure. If #75 can stay clean and remain out of the box, it’ll allow more offensively skilled teammates the ability to clean up his line’s forechecking crumbs.

I think it’s a little of both. Penalties aren’t called as much but at the same time penalties are magnified. You need to know when to pick your spots and make those clean hits. The ones that are maybe a little bit from behind you don’t go for those ones. Those might be called for boarding. One penalty can change the momentum of the series really quickly. -Reaves

Another way Reaves can impact a series is his continuous wearing down of opponents. In a long series his vicious body checks, out-muscling players, and bruising puck battles along the boards will eventually start to add up.

It’s definitely not going to slow down. This is exactly what I live for. This is the type of game I live for. These physical games that you play a team over and over and those physical games can wear on a team. You keep running their d-men, well they’re going to get sore eventually. I expect it to amp up if anything. -Reaves

In 46 career postseason games, Reaves has accrued only 41 PIMs. Last year, Reaves’ PIM number ballooned in the playoffs as he spent 18 minutes off the ice. However, 10 of them came from a misconduct call with less than a minute left in a Cup Final game the Golden Knights trailed by 4.

It’s tough to stay in the league and it’s tough to stay in the lineup, especially in the playoffs if you’re taking a bunch of penalties. Especially, when you’re not a top goal scorer. -Reaves

While it’s a cute, made for TV type storyline, Reaves will not be circling the ice searching for Brent Burns or Evander Kane’s blood. Nor is he told to protect his team from a physical guy like Michael Haley, should he play. No, Reaves is prepared to effectively check any opponent off the puck, create turnovers and hopefully score. He is told to play his game.

And in Reaves’ mind, his game is made for the postseason.

Fourth Line Could Be Key For Both Teams In First Round

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

Whenever you attempt to analyze any playoff series in any sport, you’re going to be looking for certain intangibles, the little things that could make the difference between winning and losing.

As the Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks prepare to renew acquaintances in the postseason beginning Wednesday at the SAP Center, this time in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there’s a couple of words to ponder:

One is “depth.”

The other is “balance.”

Both teams have sufficient quantities of each. The Sharks have managed to compete without Erik Karlsson, their all-star defenseman, for a couple of stretches this season. But he’s back and his presence will undoubtedly be felt.

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San Jose also has the ability to hurt you with all four of its lines. And with that in mind, we are examining the bottom-six depth of both teams’ forwards and the fourth line in particular.

Interestingly, there are a few similarities. The Knights have used different wingers on the left side to work with center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and right wing Ryan Reaves. And whether it has been Ryan Carpenter, William Carrier or Tomas Nosek, the Vegas fourth line hardly misses a beat.

I think everyone’s comfortable with each other. We talk on the ice and on the bench and everyone is on the same page. -Bellemare

The Sharks have also used different people on their fourth line. According to our good friend Sheng Peng who covers the Sharks for FearTheFin.com, Peter DeBoer has used a mix of Barclay Goodrow, Melker Karlsson, Micheal Haley and have also used Joonas Donskoi, Lukas Radil and Dylan Gambrell though it’s doubtful the last two will see action. If Timo Meier’s injured left wrist has improved enough for him to play, he’s likely to be in the mix as well.

Like Gerard Gallant, DeBoer is blessed with some options for his fourth line. For Gallant, he’ll let the players decide who plays.

“‘ve always said that — the players determine who plays, not the coach. Whoever is playing the best will be in the lineup. -Gallant

That’s not going to be as easy as it sounds. Carpenter has played very well. Same for Nosek. Carrier has been his usual self since he came back a couple of weeks ago, throwing his body around and using his speed to help on the forecheck.

We have a great group of guys. Nobody’s going to complain about who plays and who doesn’t. It’s all about winning. -Carpenter.

Of course, Reaves is in the spotlight. When the two teams met on March 30 at SAP Center, he was right in the middle of everything. He will be Public Enemy No. 1 with the Sharks’ fans. But if you think he’s going to be dropping the gloves every game, guess again.

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The Perfect Golden Knights Lineup

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As we head towards the playoffs the composition of the Golden Knights “perfect” lineup is going to become a major topic of discussion. Assuming full health, and it appears the Golden Knights should have it barring any new injuries, the top six should be locked in as it was prior to Max Pacioretty’s injury. It looks like this:

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone

The next obvious pair of pieces are on the third line. Those are center Cody Eakin and right-wing Alex Tuch. Meaning the lineup now looks like this:

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone
XXX-Eakin-Tuch

The final obvious piece is the fourth line center, that’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Thus, we’ve got this:

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone
XXX-Eakin-Tuch
XXX-Bellemare-XXX

That leaves six players to fill just three spots. Those players are Brandon Pirri, Tomas Nosek, Ryan Reaves, Ryan Carpenter, William Carrier, and Valentin Zykov.

To me, because there are two slots open on one line and only one on the other, the focus should be on creating the best fourth line possible and then using the leftover player to fill out what already should be a promising line of Eakin and Tuch.

Because the Golden Knights prefer to roster a fairly standard fourth line (meaning it’s much more of a checking/possession/don’t give up goals line) Pirri and Zykov aren’t great fits. They’ll come back into play when we consider the final piece on the third line.

Rather than give my opinion on how it should line up, I’d rather use numbers. So, using NaturalStatTrick.com’s “Line Tool,” I’ve gone through each potential option to see how they’ve performed as a trio when together.

LineTOIGFGACorsi %SC%PDO
40/41/7576:033365.2265.71.965
40/41/289:011257.1457.14.914
40/41/925:250062.5040.001.00
92/41/75123:033453.7155.56.979
92/41/75 (17-18)85:461046.2740.981.033
92/41/2818:301068.4270.001.067
92/41/28 (17-18)151:076550.0051.411.025
28/41/75344:3410955.4657.140.993

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The Vegas Golden Knights All-Hair Team

Since the NHLPA came out with their player polls from around the league I figured I’d add another category. One that I may add is vital. After polling only myself, here is this season’s Golden Knights All-Hair team.

Center: William Karlsson

There’s not much to explain. Of course Karlsson has the nicest hair on the Golden Knights. He’s a Swedish blonde, do I need to say more. My wife already says enough. Karlsson has the true definition of a hockey flow. His hair graciously flows while he glides up the ice on the way to embarrassing another goaltender. Karlsson obviously goes to a premier salon and uses high-end conditioners but like his talent, he was born with a beautiful head of hair. Bottom line is chicks dig it.

Forward: Ryan Reaves

It’s as tight as a low fade can get. Reaves must get his hair touched up daily or every other day. Short on top, lined up in front, and sometimes a carved side part. A sleek tapered cut for the NHL. Reaves has that charming badass look that the Vegas Strip has been waiting for since Mike Tyson.

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Former Reaves Foe: A Lot Of Players Were Pushed Out, Reaves Was Not One Of Them

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Growing up watching hockey in Boston you understood early on what an NHL enforcer was. It wasn’t ‘when will the Bruins enforcer step up?’ It was, ‘which Bruins enforcer will step up?’

If you can play, the fact that you can fight shouldn’t take away from the fact that you can play. -Shawn Thornton, Former NHL Enforcer

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Times have changed and “goon” hockey has tailed off. These days holding a roster spot for a one-dimensional enforcer doesn’t make sense for a competing club. In reality, the “Mike Tyson-on-skates” type players I watched as a kid would have a hard time finding full-time NHL jobs today.

Which is why today’s enforcer has to be more like Ryan Reaves, a hybrid of equal parts power forward and sheriff. Being tough isn’t good enough anymore. Teams expect “heavies” to forecheck, create traffic, add points, and knock opponents on their ass.

None of us really love it. We do it because we’re good at it. You work on the other part of the game, because that’s what will keep you around. You work twice, three times as hard on being a better hockey player every single day so you can contribute. -Thornton

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Ryan Reaves Knows How Mark Stone Felt Yesterday At Noon

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In the summer of 2017, the Pittsburgh Penguins reached out to St. Louis Blues and offered a first-round pick for Ryan Reaves, which the Blues couldn’t pass up. Although disappointed to leave St. Louis, Reaves was excited to play for the perennial Cup contending Penguins and be a protective force for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, etc.

Leading up to it, it wasn’t really on my mind. In my head, Pittsburgh traded for me because they were getting beat up in the playoffs all of the time. Playoffs were coming up, and that’s why I was there or so I thought. Wasn’t even thinking about it. -Ryan Reaves

There was chatter around the league that Pittsburgh was concern about being pushed around in the playoffs despite winning two consecutive Stanley Cups.

Only had 6 fights you say? Yes but nobody wanted to fight him. I guarantee the guy that crosschecked Crosby in the face wouldn’t have done so had Reaves been cruising around. Tarasenko, Blues leading scorer and point guy with 39 goals and 36 assists, just loved Reaves around. He’s not a happy camper today with that trade. -Don Cherry, June 2017

So with no inclination that he was being shopped, Reaves continued his normal life in Pittsburgh. However, slowly the signs started to appear and of course the rumors were turning up on social media.

I got scratched. I might’ve been able to read into that because I hadn’t been scratched for a while. I got scratched a couple of days before the deadline and basically I was reading tweets that there was a deal between Ottawa and Pittsburgh. -Reaves

It still hadn’t fully grabbed Reaves attention because his name wasn’t being mentioned in the rumors. But there was something about those tweets.

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Ryan Reaves Wasn’t Always “A Heavy”

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He’s the heavyweight, or as he calls it heavy, champion of the NHL, and just so happens to play for the Golden Knights.

I don’t think I was necessarily considered a heavy until my second or third year in the NHL. I didn’t really come into my size until I was 23. My first fight against a heavy I did pretty well. -Ryan Reaves

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Yep, Ryan Reaves. Numero uno. The undisputed heel of the NHL in the eyes of most fanbases. Reaves is the quintessential player that fans love to hate, but would love to see play for their team.

So, I got into it with the baddest man in the sport and luckily managed to survive his heavy blows.

In my first year, I was skinny. Oh yeah, I was real skinny. My coach saw that I was a physical guy that didn’t like to fight. I wasn’t excited about fighting, and maybe sometimes I shied away from it. -Reaves

Reaves is physically and mentally fit for the role he now fills. It’s fairly common knowledge that he gives his opponents nightmares.

Ryan Reaves chased me around the ice for a good thirty seconds… so I run. I run as fast as I can. -PK Subban, PK Subban’s All-Star Special

But the 6’1, 225lbs. Power Forward/Private Security Guard wasn’t built overnight.

My coach said the way you play, if you want to make it to the NHL you’re going to have to answer the bell, you’re going to have to stand up for your teammates. That’s going to be your role if you want to make it to the next level. -Reaves

So as a form of career survival, Reaves took his coach’s words to heart and got right to work.

I went and boxed that summer. I took boxing lessons, came back and fought everything that moved. I had 14 fights. I was asking everyone to fight, and I got noticed for that. -Reaves

Hockey is a sport built on pride. So respect must be earned. Reaves may be the people’s champion now, but had to prove himself to the rest of the league’s contenders.

I caught Brian McGratton with one, after that I got noticed. I had one against Kyle Clifford, knocked him out. I think that one put me on the map. You gotta work your way up. You can’t just jump into those heavies and think you’re the heavy of the league. -Reaves

And if some small, unknown punk like myself wanted to challenge Reaves on the ice…

Let me put it this way, if you come on the ice and knock me out, people will take notice. And I don’t know, if you knock me out I don’t know who’s coming after you.”-Reaves

You should’ve seen the smile on his face.

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