Ryan O’Reilly was losing his love for the game. The Buffalo Sabres were losing often and O’Reilly felt the team was becoming okay with that. He was at the lowest point of his career. But then a switch went off.
A trade to the St. Louis Blues.
The Love Came Back
We all remember the trade that brought O’Reilly to the Blues. In fact, no one can ever forget just how little they had to give up in return. We don’t need to go too much into that, but it’s clear to see who won that trade. The biggest factor that came out of that was O’Reilly very clearly found his love for the game of hockey again.
“It’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey,” he says. “(Playoffs) are also the toughest hockey I’ve ever had. But it’s a beautiful time in the game, for sure.”
Is there something in the water in St. Louis? Because players who recently have been traded to the Blues have gone on to have career years. Brayden Schenn went from 59 points to a career high 70 in his first season with the team. And now O’Reilly jumped from a previous career high of 64 points to now finishing his first season with 77 points.
And it’s not just the points that have been big. O’Reilly has been a huge leader on this team. While he does not wear the “A” for the Blues, it is obvious his teammates look to him at times for his leadership.
Many of them attend the “Ryan O’Reilly Hockey School” as Schenn dubbed it. Held after regular practices, players typically work on drills such as hand-eye coordination and shooting. It’s something he has done his whole career.
And remember this as well; O’Reilly had never been past the first round of the playoffs. He had 13 career playoff games to his name in nine NHL seasons. He has played in almost double that just this postseason alone. And he has been the Blues best player.
Playoff O’Reilly is a fun O’Reilly
Aside from the electric Jaden Schwartz, O’Reilly is powering the team through this playoff run. His 18 points are tied for the team lead, tied for second among both the Blues and Bruins. Coming into this series against Boston, O’Reilly had 16 points already.
But you could say he was saving his best moment for a stage such as this.
O’Reilly joined some pretty good company after his two-goal game in the Stanley Cup Final. Only Red Berenson had done it before. And he did that back in 1968, the first of the Blues three consecutive trips to the Final.
This just further shows how long it has been since the Blues were in a moment such as this. And O’Reilly won’t let them go down easy. Those two goals helped the team win their first ever home playoff game. And Craig Berube did not hesitate to praise O’Reilly’s entire game afterwards.
“Day in, day out, there’s not a guy who works harder than him,” Blues Head Coach Craig Berube said after Monday’s 4-2 win against Boston. “He’s always out there, even if practice is optional. I thought he had a heck of a game tonight. Not just the goals, but his approach to the game. I thought he was moving very well, strong on the puck, did some real good things in all facets, power play, penalty killing, everything.”
If the Blues can win two more games, O’Reilly will have been a huge reason. And there’s no doubt he would be one of the first to lift the Blues first ever Stanley Cup if they can make it that far.