When describing the current situation of former Blue Ryan Reaves, it’s hard not to get sentimentally bittersweet. On one hand, you feel incredibly proud of a guy who went from being a fighter to a full-fledged hockey player. On the other hand, you wish he was tasting the Stanley Cup Finals as a member of the St. Louis Blues.
Then again, Blues fans can’t have nice things, so I digress.
I hope Ryan Reaves raises the immortal chalice in a couple of weeks. I hope he gets to the promised land with his Vegas Golden Knights teammates. While the pain of seeing him do it in black and gold won’t go down easy, I’m proud of the dude.
The truth is I’ve been a Reaves honk since he first strapped on the Blue Note and kicked someone’s ass back in the 2010-11 season. He played in 28 games and accumulated 78 penalty minutes. He took numbers, jumped on the ice, and punched guys in the face frequently. It was a thing of beauty. The guy threw his weight around like a fucking bull for the first few seasons, but things changed in 2016-17. Reaves became something more.
While he put up 12 points in the 2014-15 season, Reaves didn’t entirely change his game that season. He was still a fighter and guy who took a lot of unlawful penalties that hurt his team.
In the 2017-18 season, Reaves formed a league best fourth line with Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall. The three were potent together, giving the other team’s players the hardest of times, providing energy for their teammates, and adding some points as well. Reaves worked on his agility and trimmed weight in the offseason before the 2017 opener. He saw the game changing before his eyes and how clear the expiration tag was on enforcers-so he changed his game.
The unique asset he developed into commanded the attention of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who flipped the Blues a healthy draft pick in Klim Kostin for Reaves during the 2017 draft. The Penguins eventually traded Reaves to Vegas, where he scored the game-winning goal in the Golden Knights’ Western Conference clinching victory Sunday night. It was Reaves’ second career playoff goal, the first in three years.
Reaves celebrated the same way. He kicked his knee up the air and launched into the boards, a giant smile across the face of a Stanley Cup Finals competing player. In seven seasons with the Blues, Reaves had achieved plenty of high marks. Who can forget the kiss blown to the Dallas Stars bench two years ago? There were plenty of highs, but none higher than helping your team punch a ticket to the Stanley Cup.
It was a wicked sequence. The Knights had the puck at the point and Reaves pinched in towards the net. The goal was wristed towards the net and Reaves put a wicked tip on it, redirecting it over the right shoulder of the goaltender and in.
Again, good for him. I hope he wins it. In a postseason stocked full of ex-Blues, Reaves should have been at the top-or at least near-of the list for the Blue most would like to see win a Cup. For me, if it wasn’t David Backes, I wanted Reaves to do it.
Why? He’s a good dude who saw the revolving doors swinging fast on his career and decided to do something about it. Hard work pays off. Adapting provides results. Reaves adapted and he will play for a chance at immortality. For a player, winning a Cup should be at the very top of the list of things to do in your career. Individual awards are nice and ego builders, but a Cup places you in treasured history.
Hold on, I need to pound a shot of Maker’s Mark. Alright, I’m good.
It’s easy to feel angry or divided about Vegas making the Cup Finals. After all, Vegas fans feel the same thing Blues fans did back in 1968, when their team made it to the Cup Finals their first year of existence. It’s an exhilarating feeling. The difference is that there are a LOT more teams in the league these days then there were 50+ years ago, so the Vegas triumph is more impressive.
I don’t feel angry about Ryan Reaves making the finals. People say deserve has got nothing to do with it, and they are right. But in my opinion, Reaves earned this, and that does count for something.
Here’s to Reaves winning it all this month and returning to Enterprise Center next season with the cool, calm demeanor of a Stanley Cup Champion (okay that hurt).
Thanks for reading and buy more bourbon,