Ryan Reaves will make his second appearance of the series in game 3. His last appearance was in game 2 vs Chicago. Since then he has been replaced by Steve Ott. Was it coincidence that the return of one of hockey's most feared enforcers also marked the Blues first win of the series?
It could be strictly coincidence. Steve Ott has a single assist in the playoffs after playing in 6 games. Reaves has 0 points in 3 games. During the regular season Ott had 0 goals and 2 assists in 21 games. Reaves had 3 goals and 1 assist in 64 games. Neither player is an offensive dynamo. So how could swapping out the bottom forward on the 4th line make a difference?
Here's how. Steve Ott is a pest. He is one of the better pests in the league. You can remember the hatred thrown at him by the Wild fans last season. He was the rodeo clown. Ott is a physically grinding player. The only thing that grinds more than his legs are his mouth. He never stops talking. I've seen him try kissing other players on the ice, and even giving someone a wet willy while he laid on top of them (It was behind the play and off camera). Pests try to get in a players head and off of their game. Ott leans on the physical side of the pest spectrum. While he is also annoying to play against, he also tries to anger other players by hitting as frequently as possible. When you think of a pest, look no further than Roussel. At their best, pests make good players on the other team drop their gloves. This takes a talented player for the opposing team off the ice, while your team only loses their pest. At their worst they are Roussel in game 2. He had 0 points and 3 penalties. His final penalty lead to the game winning goal in overtime. When the other team doesn't bite, the pest is just a body on the ice.
Ryan Reaves is not a pest. Ryan Reaves is an enforcer. The enforcer is a role that has fallen out of favor in modern hockey. Fighting isn't as prevalent and even the fourth liners usually have some skill at shooting the puck. I once read a quote on Reaves saying he hits the puck really hard, but doesn't always know where it will go. What he brings is his ability to intimidate and wear down opponents. Dallas is a very fast team. If you've been on SLGT leading up to this series you will have heard the saying "you can't hit what you can't catch" more than a few times. This seemed to be the case in game 1. The Blues appeared to never have a good angle to lay a big hit. Game 2 was slightly different. Enter Ryan Reaves. As magnificent as Tarasenko is on the wrist shot, Reaves is on the check. He rarely takes a bad angle and rarely checks his way out of the play. He is far and away better at laying hits than anyone on the team. Few things pump up a team or a crowd more than a huge hit. Steve Ott stands 6 feet weighing in at 190. At only an inch taller, Reaves weighs in at 230. There is 40 more pounds of man coming at you on a check from Reaves. A simple physics lesson will tell you that leads to a much greater impact when skating at the same speeds.
So if our game play is to lay as much hurt on a Dallas team that isn't built to play physical, maybe our best option is the enforcer and not the pest. An enforcer helped the Blues to a win in game 2, but the true tale is a pest lost it for Dallas. Steve Ott is a leader in the locker room, and played a big role in keeping the team together during the Chicago series. The truth is, this isn't Chicago. We don't have that extra weight on our shoulders. We need a player who has spent his entire career hitting fast moving targets. That player is Ryan Reaves.