During the 2019 playoffs, Ryan Reaves talked about why his game was suitable for the postseason. One thing he didn’t mention was fighting.
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. 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. -Ryan Reaves, 04/19/19
In three seasons with the Golden Knights, Reaves’ fight total has cut in half since his arrival. Overall, fighting in the NHL has dropped significantly. This isn’t new. Player safety and roster management are the biggest reasons behind the decrease. However, it now seems that cutting back on fights may be just the start.
Reports out of Canada are that the OHL is considering banning bodychecks when they return to play. With the continuation of the pandemic, health officials in Ontario determined checking could lead to massive COVID-19 spreading.
It’s highly unlikely the NHL heads down that path any time soon, but they could easily use the pandemic as a way to completely eliminate fighting from the game if they so choose.
While Reaves and the rest of the league drop their gloves less and less, the league continues to reexamine its existence in the sport. With the pandemic looming, and the start of the season nowhere in sight, fighting in hockey may have finally met its match.
2000-01: 0.56 Fights Per Game 2005-06: 0.38 Fights Per Game 2010-11: 0.52 Fights Per Game 2015-16: 0.28 Fights Per Game 2019-20: 0.23 Fights Per Game
Ryan Reaves Fights Per Season 2010-11: 8 NHL, 12 AHL 2011-12: 13 2012-13: 7 2013-14: 10 2014-15: 8 2015-16: 5 2016-17: 6 2017-18: 6 2018-19: 3 2019-20: 3
It’s clear the Golden Knights continue to extend Reaves for other elements to his game. According to Vegas President George McPhee, fighting isn’t necessary in today’s game, but he values a player that skates with a threatening presence.
I think we all enjoy where the game is right now. I don’t care if I ever see another fight again but I like having the threat of a fight in the game to keep people honest… and can sometimes keep the temperature down when you need to keep it down because we’re carrying sticks and it’s a physical game. -George McPhee to Our Line Starts Podcast
The next conversation is how to punish players if they do get into a brawl. It may not look like a fight but sometimes one can break out in other sports. Normally, the players involved are ejected and suspended. That could be a direction the NHL will take. Pandemic or not, fighting was being phased out of the game, but now it’s closer than ever before.
If the NHL believes fighting can lead to infecting other players with coronavirus they’ll cut the chord on dropping the mitts without hesitation. Of course, their main concern is player safety, but with a tight schedule ahead no one can afford cancellations and postponements. With that in mind, the league will find the best measures of protection.
Which means it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if we’ve seen Reaves’ last fight.
In the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Golden Knights were known as the schoolyard bully. Whether it was a big hit by Ryan Reaves, Max Pacioretty slashing Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat late in a game, or Vegas’ bench calling Quinn Hughes a towel boy? The fear tactics worked against those teams, but it won’t make the Dallas Stars flinch.
Vegas may call it playing heavy and physical, but Dallas calls it Stars hockey. They openly invite Vegas to try and bully them around. And by the way, this isn’t a secret to the Golden Knights.
DeBoer's main messages were that this is a different type of team they are playing and the Golden Knights have to figure that out. He says they haven't played a top defensive team and now they are.
Now that Vegas trails the series 1-0 their approach needs to be clearly focused on hockey. With a slumping offense, finishing hits and behind the play antics shouldn’t be a concern. Of course, there will be after the whistle moments but it’s only worth engaging if the Golden Knights are scoring. With Reaves back in the lineup he’ll add some energy and grit but his big physical force won’t impact the outcome against Dallas. Plus, I’m not sure that’s a road Vegas wants to go down. There are no Antoine Roussel’s on the ice out to take frustrations out on. Sure, Corey Perry is a pest but he’s also 6’3″.
The main reason why the Golden Knights should lighten up with the cheapies and chirps is the Stars discipline, or lack thereof. Among the teams remaining in the postseason, Dallas leads in penalty minutes and penalty minutes per game. They’ve spent 183 minutes in the box, and average 10:45 PIMs per game. Sure, Vegas’ PP is struggling but multiple man-advantages a game allows opportunities to break out of their slump and wear down Dallas’ lineup. It’ll pay off eventually if the Stars begin to unravel.
Both Chicago and Vancouver were comprised of smaller, inexperienced players that were admittedly scared of Vegas’ heavy hitters and shocked by their level of chattiness. As the series went on, the Canucks ignored the after school playground crap and went out and won three games. None of that will exist against the Stars. If it does, it could be the other way around.
There’s no doubting Dallas is a tough team, and tonight Vegas will have to play smart to even up the series. By no means was the physical element the reason why the Golden Knights lost Game 1, it was their offense. Fixing that will change the entire series. Staying composed and taking advantage of Dallas’ undisciplined play will help Vegas get points on the board.
But I’d advise Nick Cousins not to yell a Findlay Chevy “Woooo” the next time he drops Dallas captain Jamie Benn to the ice.
Because of @ThomasDrance I know Vegas is one of the louder, cockier teams in the bubble. And you could see that with how Cousins reacted with a loud "woooo" in Benn's face after the hit.
When a team is in complete control of a game like the Golden Knights were Sunday, it allows a coach to balance his players’ minutes a bit more evenly.
It was a luxury coach Pete DeBoer was given when his team held a multiple-goal lead for most of Game 1. He wasn’t forced to utilize Theodore for 28 minutes like he had in the past with Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. DeBoer also balanced his forwards, using player’s like Ryan Reaves and William Carrier more than their season average. In fact, Reaves played the third-most minutes he had all season and hit the ice more than Max Pacioretty in Game 1.
Take a look at how DeBoer was able to roll his guys out in a dominant Game 1 compared to the rest of the playoffs and regular season.
Shea Theodore Game 1: 19:40 TOI Season Average: 22:14 TOI Postseason Average: 22:57 TOI
Mark Stone Game 1: 16:00 TOI Season Average: 19:25 TOI Postseason Average: 18:44 TOI
William Karlsson Game 1: 16:21 TOI Season Average: 18:52 TOI Postseason Average: 19:13 TOI
Max Pacioretty Game 1: 14:38 TOI Season Average: 17:55 TOI Postseason Average: 16:42 TOI
Ryan Reaves Game 1: 14:50 TOI Season Average: 10:09 TOI Postseason Average: 10:04 TOI
Thanks to Antoine Roussel, Reaves was needed more than normal but it wasn’t just “to keep the flies off the honey.” Extra minutes for Reaves and Carrier equates to less postseason wear and tear on the top-six. Being that it was Game 1, DeBoer should have some well-rested stars for tonight’s matchup.
Going forward, if the Golden Knights and Canucks go deep in their second round series, or games go into overtime, DeBoer should have a bench full of fresh legs. Hopefully, the Golden Knights won’t be forced into a four or five overtime period game, but if they do, the advantage goes to the team that spread their minutes out in earlier games.
If the Golden Knights are able to perform as they did in Game 1, I’d expect DeBoer to deploy the same strategy again tonight. Any situation that has Vegas up by multiple goals, the bottom six, and the fourth line specifically, should see more ice time. But chances are the Canucks will permit that by sending Roussel on the ice to create his typical havoc.
Remember, Reilly Smith said this about Roussel and his antics.
"He's running around out there but I don't think he's distracting anyone but himself." -Smith on Roussel
Blackhawks captain Jonathon Toews uses “heavy” to describe two things. Vegas’ size, and their ability to hold the puck once they possess it. It’s no secret, the Golden Knights are big and most of their players are hard to bump off the puck. Which was apparent right from the start of the series.
Mark Stone is 6’4″, 219 pounds but also has the puck super glued on his stick. Alex Tuch is 6’4″ as well, and his skill, speed, and size make it difficult for a defender to strip the puck. Max Pacioretty is 6’2, with the lethal combination of power and a rocket shot. These are examples of being a heavy team, and playing like one.
They play a different game then the Oilers. They’re a very structured, simple team. They play a heavy game. You got to tip your hat sometimes, they play well as a squad. -Calvin de Haan, CHI Defenseman
Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan used the word to describe differences between the Golden Knights and a faster, skill-based team like the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton has Connor McDavid, but what they didn’t have was the team structure and physicality Vegas has. The Golden Knights get scoring from multiple players, not just two, they defend, and rarely veer from their gameplan.
We know they’re an excellent team. They’re a heavy team, they get on the forcheck and try and hold you down… We gave them some easy ones, easy chances. They score 3-1 and during that stretch we just weren’t very good.-Jeremy Colliton, CHI coach
Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton called the Golden Knights a heavy team after three of the five games. Again, it wasn’t just their size, it was Vegas’ forecheck. When the Golden Knights push the puck with pressure they make teams feel like they’re being weighed down. All twelve forwards have that ability allowing Vegas the fortune to use all four lines.
The early going of any series is going to come with what is commonly referred to as a “feeling out process.” Teams usually play pretty close to the vest, not revealing their entire game plan for the series and it tends to lead to slow-moving hockey. It doesn’t always go that way, but there’s no better way to characterize the opening frame of Game 1 between the Golden Knights and Blackhawks.
Not only did neither team score in the 1st, there weren’t even many great chances. Between the two teams, there was a total of five-shot attempts from inside the “house” in the entire 1st period. Most chances came from far away and both teams did well to thwart the opposing team’s attack.
I thought they played hard and were pretty hard defensively. You could tell they were trying not to give up much either. -Pete DeBoer
As the game went on though, the Golden Knights took what was already a slow game and made it even slower. In the 1st period, they were looking to strike quickly when in the offensive zone, and with Chicago’s commitment to defend it led to short offensive possessions. In the 2nd, that started to change and the game did with it.
I think we did a better job controlling the puck in the offensive zone in the 2nd period and on. They’re a rush team, so we don’t want to get into a track meet with them. Once we can get them to stop in the d-zone we can control the game a little bit more. It all came from offensive zone time and holding on to the puck behind the net. -Reilly Smith
Instead of playing the brand of fast transition hockey that helped carry the 2017-18 Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final, these Golden Knights slowed the game down, controlling the puck with more purpose, and methodically broke down the Chicago defense.
All four Vegas lines followed the same pattern as the game went on, defaulting to more of a cycle game than we’re used to seeing. Where Chicago’s defense preferred to collapse into the dangerous ice in the 1st period, the controlled offense from the Golden Knights forced them to open up in the 2nd and 3rd. Playing from under the goal line drug Blackhawks defensemen to the puck opening up shot lanes from the point and half-wall.
Over the past two and a half seasons since Ryan Reaves was acquired via trade he’s become one of the most popular, recognizable, and marketable members on the Golden Knights.
From the water commercials to the beer company to his unmistakable style on and off the ice, Reaves is one-of-a-kind in today’s NHL.
He’s become a real valuable player to our team, he’s well-respected across the league by both teammates and opponents. He’s not cheap, he’s honest, he’s tough, he’s hard, and he’s a really intelligent player. The coaching staff really appreciates what he does for our team. We’re excited to have him remain in our organization. -Kelly McCrimmon
It’s been clear for some time that both sides wanted to get a deal done and Monday it became official as Reaves signed a two-year contract with an AAV of $1.75 million.
The number is perfectly fair for a player with his offensive production, taking into account the intangibles he brings and his consistent availability having missed just two games since joining the Golden Knights. But the question that must be asked about this contract is one of leverage in negotiations, which was clearly on the side of the team yet didn’t appear to be taken advantage of.
I don’t think it’s a secret that I love it here and that I wanted to stay. I’ve heard people say they could have gotten me cheaper because I have the business thing but at the end of the day hockey comes first for me. The hockey business decision had to be before the beer business or whatever else I do in the community. The hockey had to come first but it had to make sense for me and my family. -Reaves
The “people he’s heard” are me. And they should be anyone else who is concerned with the Golden Knights salary cap too.
As he mentioned in his media availability on Tuesday, it was no secret that he wanted to remain in Vegas. He has multiple endorsements, started a budding beer company that has grown immensely in the past 12 months, built a house in Summerlin, and has never done anything but profess his love for the Las Vegas valley.
"It's a real good signing for our organization. He's widely respected around the league by teammates and opponents. He's not cheap, he's honest, he plays hard. The coaching staff really appreciate what he does for our team." -McCrimmon on Reaves
Last night two of the Golden Knights biggest personalities joined Spittin’ Chiclets to sip some brew, talk some trash, and play a little NHL 20.
Schmidty has been nervous about this all week. -Reaves
As usual, Chiclets hosts Ryan Whitney and Paul Bissonnette loosened up their guests and the video chat turned to trash talk, inside jokes and small nuggets of information. The combination podcast/game-watch was close to an hour, and for a guy who doesn’t enjoy watching others play video games, it was very entertaining. Plus, there was one hilarious story involving former Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant.
The two teammates were asked about getting back to work, and if the team has gotten together at all during the pandemic. Reaves mentioned the entire team was in Las Vegas but they haven’t been able to see one another.
Yeah we’re all here, but no you can’t. Yeah but everything is opening up now. I don’t know what’s going to happen.-Reaves
While we assumed most, if not all of the Golden Knights stayed in Las Vegas, Reaves confirmed it. With players from all over the world, you have to wonder if the organization pleaded with the players to stay in town during the coronavirus lockdown or left it up to them. Either way, it makes it easier for the team to fully unite than if they had to wait for other teammates to self-quarantine.
Las Vegas as a potential NHL hub city came up in conversation, and it sure seems like the players know they won’t be getting any advantages.
I was thinking that would be quite a bit of an advantage for the Golden Knights considering they get to stay at home, but that’s not the case. -Paul Bissonnette
Yeah, we still have to go to the hotel and everything.-Reaves
And with no fans, yeah you’re pretty much in the same ballpark. Other than, would you then be able to see your family?-Bissonnette
No. I don’t think so. I think we’re in full lockdown.-Reaves
So it’s clear the Golden Knights have been told some directives regarding the league’s plan to return. With the concern of creating a disadvantage for the other teams, if Vegas is allowed to play in their home city, they really should be looking at it as if they’re on the road.
Schmidt even thinks this could be the toughest Stanley Cup to win for any team.
Don’t you think that if we start up again it’ll actually be even tougher because everyone’s healthy? -Schmidt
Schmidt’s theory has been floating around hockey media and it’s interesting to hear a player talk about how hard it’ll be to hoist the 2020 Stanley Cup.
Okay, okay enough burying the lead. Let’s get to the funniest moment of the entire webcast. Bissonnette and Whitney pushing Reaves to tell the story about the time he took a shot on net and lost the puck in the netting for a delay of game penalty.
Golden Knights power forward Ryan Reaves joined After Hours on Sportsnet this weekend to catch up during the NHL pause and answer some fan questions. Isolating with his family in Summerlin, Reaves fielded a range of topics from staying in shape to Evander Kane.
I got to say my brother now because he plays in the CFL. It would be pretty disrespectful if I said me. When we were younger me and my brother were really good at football, we dominated our league. He was really good at basketball and I was really good at football. He tried playing basketball coming out of college but he couldn’t find work… he’s such an athlete that he was able to jump into the CFL after not playing football since he was fourteen.- Ryan Reaves
Reaves was asked why he doesn’t score more often? For three seasons we’ve seen the big fella come close but he’s usually good for just eight or nine goals a season. However, he’s had some memorable goals in Golden Knights history.
I ask myself that all the time. It’s been ten years asking myself that and I just don’t have an answer for you. I should probably do that a little more often. -Reaves
With gyms, parks, and facilities are closed, walking and jogging around the neighborhood is how people are staying fit during the shutdown. Reaves is making the most of what he has, which includes his swimming pool, some weights, and some hiking in his surrounding area to keep in shape.