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Examining The Ryan Reaves Hits/Penalties

The end of the second game on back to back nights with the Los Angeles Kings got a bit out of hand, and the man in the middle of all of it was newly acquired Ryan Reaves.

With Vegas trailing by two and less than 10 minutes to go, Reaves was called with two penalties, made two other strong hits, and indirectly caused Gerard Gallant to be charged with a bench minor.

Here are the hits, the calls, the rules, and where I come in on each play.

Penalty 1 – 12:20 – Boarding

41.1 Boarding – A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously. -NHL Rule Book

Analysis: By the letter of the law, this is essentially textbook boarding. Reaves checks the player, who is absolutely defenseless, in such a manner that causes the opponent to impact the boards violently.

The puck is absolutely out of the play and the intent of Reaves is not hockey-oriented, instead, it is to finish a hit.

This being said, I’m completely aware of how often calls like this are not made. Boarding can be called on a lot of checks in the NHL. However, this one has two factors that made it even more likely for it to be called. First, Reaves loads up on the check. He brings his shoulder back to try and completely demolish the Kings player. The second is who is committing the infraction, Ryan Reaves. He is known for this type of behavior and referees have a tighter eye on him.

Could it have been let go, sure, but this is boarding.

Penalty 2 – 16:37 – Roughing

51.1 Roughing – Roughing is a punching motion with the hand or fist, with or without the glove on the hand, normally directed at the head or face of an opponent. -NHL Rule Book

Analysis: This one is much closer than the last one. There is technically a punching motion directed at the back of the head of the Kings player, however, Reaves’ hand is on the stick and the contact does not appear to be enough to have drawn the penalty.

Referees are allowed discretion to decide when a call should or should not be made. By rule, many penalties could be called in the course of a game, but refs choose not to for various reasons. Reaves’ action did not effect the play, it did not hurt the player, and it probably didn’t even lean cleanly.

This is a case of the referee seeing that Reaves needs to be stopped, so he makes a call to try and get him off the ice. Understandably, Reaves had turned into a wild man, but to make this call is harsh. Then, the referee doubled down by handing out a bench minor to Gallant for being upset over it. With the call being so tight, the ref has to use better judgment to allow Gallant to challenge the call verbally without drawing a second penalty.

No Call – Extra Hits that could be have been ruled charging

42.1 Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice. -NHL Rule Book

The first one is a clean check that is a hockey play. Reaves is challenging for the puck and impacts the player to attempt to change the play. No call should have been made, no call was.

The second one is charging. Reaves travels an extended distance to deliver a violent check to a player well after the puck is gone. It was let go, which is also a potential reason why the roughing penalty may have been called later.




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  1. Mark

    Just get Neal back so Reaves goes to the bench. That was not Golden Knight hockey last night. And even his teammates tried to play like him. I am all for finishing so checks, but VEgas appeared to be purposely looking for hits, and missing chances to turn up ice.

    Play your game !!!!!!

  2. Blake

    Wait for the playoffs…they will allow a lot of these close calls in the playoffs.

  3. Scooter

    Excellent analysis, Ken. Couldn’t agree more on all of it.

  4. Michael V Smith

    A few years ago these would’ve never been called. In today’s hockey I agree these calls disrupted our game. But we weren’t playing VGK hockey all game. Reaves didn’t help, but the onus belongs on the team as a whole. The game as a whole is regressing from it’s roots. I do enjoy a faster game, but the majority of the players and die-hard fans miss a more physical game. Great analysis.

  5. Bent Hermit

    I don’t think Reaves should be playing when the team is healthy. Everything that happened the last 2 nights cannot be blamed on him. The team let the Kings dictate the type of game that was going to be played. The team and everyone that thinks the team needs to be playing “heavy” in the playoffs should watch the Pens in the last 2 cup playoffs. During the playoffs the Pens were out hit every game. They didn’t deviate from their game. The days of having to be big and physical to win a cup are over. The Pens have shown that a small, fast and skilled team can win the cup. Just ask the Caps how being big and physical has worked for them the last 2 years.

    • RJ

      I don’t think Reaves will be playing in the playoffs if everyone is healthy normally. I think he’ll be a roster scratch that can be brought into a game if we are in a series that we are being pushed around in. I’m imagining a series against a physical team like the Ducks or Jets where we are down 2 games to 1 and we have spent 3 games getting pushed around the ice. Now, Gallant can bring Reaves in to game 4 to play on those terms, and hopefully free up our skill players to play their game.

  6. A Fan

    On the boarding call, Reaves & #24 are both coming in on the puck. Less than 1 second after #24 hits the puck Reaves checks him. #24 was up off the ice in exactly 1 second, he wasn’t hurt. “…that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously.” So that hit was violently or dangerously, #24 was up in 1 second, unhurt. I personally think it was a good idea to ‘load up’ his shoulder on the hit, look at the position #24 body is in when he gets hit, his body is leaning back toward Reaves. It would require more ‘force’ to make the check effective imo.

    And it looks like LA was trying to do the same thing trading for Dion Phaneuf (see link below) 2 weeks ago as we were with Reaves. It appears we got the harder hitter. I understand some people are of the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ idea. I have a feeling that George McPhee probably knows more about the game than any of us on this website. If Reaves ends up not working I’m sure he won’t be played or played much. We have replacements for him. It’s a bit early as some are saying to get rid of Reaves after only 2 games, and those 2 games were against a known hard hitting LA team. McPhee & Coach just wanted to let them know we had something similar for them. Time will tell as it always does if Reaves was a good fit or not. Give it some time.

  7. Vgk4life

    I see a lot of people are either new to hockey or have no idea what rivalries and playoffs will be like. Not to mention when the night before the kings “tough guy” elbows a defenseless Lindberg. Now also take into account the game was pretty much done by the time Reaves tried to change momentum.

    We couldn’t score against Quick the night before and this night Jack Campbell looks like Marty Brodeur. This of course says nothing of the fact that Lagace turned in yet another .867 save percentage performance. We can’t win them all, and chances are we will be seeing LA in the future. This is the time of season where messages are sent. Reaves did his job period. Watch more hockey folks.

    • Vgk4life

      Oh and analyzing the hits in slow motion is completely unfair. Reaves was doing his job. Clifford injuries one of ours and refuses to step up, his teammates pay the price. Sure it’s not 1990 anymore but playoff hockey is still playoff hockey. You’re fooling yourself if you think the game has changed this much.

  8. Bob

    The big issue is inconsistency in the officiating, it would appear Reaves is being singled out because of past behavior (bad penalties/hits). Old enforcers would claim the quality and meaning of fights has changed from team to team regulation to the point where most bouts are more wrestling in an attempt to draw a higher skilled player into a major or get an the PP advantage of an instigation minor added on. For better or worse the game has changed (any stick contact to the hands comes to mind), luckily for hockey fans the sport has yet to reflect our kinder, gentler, safe space society completely. While I agree that a late hit on another teams captain/superstar should be responded to, but because Kopitar is not a Gretzky type at 6’3″ 220 or a crybaby like Crosby, I would prefer to see the response come from Clifford/Brown/Muzzin/Doughty on a cleanly lined up hit followed by good round of fisticuffs.

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