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Reaves Applies Muscle as Penguins Rebound – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Reaves Applies Muscle as Penguins Rebound

Few moves in recent Penguins history earned more criticism, or drew a more divided reaction among the fan base, than GM Jim Rutherford’s acquisition of Ryan Reaves over the summer. While it remains to be seen whether the heavyweight forward can measure up, he went a long way toward proving his worth last night.

Determined to make a statement, Reaves gave a clear demonstration of what he brings to the table. At his body-thumping best, the burly right wing dished out a game-high seven hits during the Pens’ 4-0 victory over a chippy Nashville squad at PPG Paints Arena.

Dropping the gloves not once but twice, he scored unanimous decisions over Predators toughies Austin Watson and Cody McLeod. When old nemesis Scott Hartnell had the temerity to high stick Sidney Crosby, No. 75 challenged him, too.

Reaves even contributed on the scoreboard. Midway through the contest he deflected a rising Olli Maatta blast past Predators goalie Juuse Saros to make the score 3-0 and provide a little breathing room.

In fact, it’s safe to say that no Penguin aside from Sid (two assists) and goalie Matt Murray had a bigger hand in the victory. Or in Reaves case, two hands. All packed into a modest 6:23 of ice time.

Accordingly, the husky newcomer earned the game’s No. 1 star, not to mention the undying respect of his new teammates.

Give Murray a ton of credit, too. Two nights after yielding six goals during a humiliating loss to Blackhawks, the 23-year-old netminder regrouped to post a shutout. It was his third-consecutive whitewashing of the Predators, dating back to last spring’s Cup Final.

Unlike the debacle in Chicago, he had a little help from his friends. Heeding Mike Sullivan’s instruction, the locals checked with more fervor, limiting the Preds to 26 shots on goal and a fairly modest 55 shot attempts.

“We were playing in their face all night,” Murray said. “We didn’t give them any time and space. That’s key for us. I don’t think we gave them a chance tonight. We were just dominant.”

Remarkably, the Pens accomplished the feat with only five defensemen. While killing a penalty to Brian Dumoulin late in the first period, Ian Cole took a puck squarely in the mouth and did not return. Afterward Sullivan said the gritty defenseman lost some teeth and will likely be out for a while.

Cole’s injury aside, he liked what he saw.

“I just think we were harder to play against,” Sullivan said. “As long as we’re playing the right way, we believe we have a good group.”

Puckpourri

Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Maatta also scored for the Pens. Malkin beat Saros with a 60-foot blast from center point at 1:06 of the opening period to stake the black and goal to an early lead. Guentzel barreled into the slot to swat home a rebound midway through the first period. Maatta capped the scoring on the opening shift of the third period with a rocket from the left point. Olli leads the club with two goals.

Sullivan juggled his line combinations, shifting Bryan Rust (two assists) to the top unit and dropping Conor Sheary to the third line with Greg McKegg and Scott Wilson. Carl Hagelin, slotted alongside Malkin and Phil Kessel, assisted on the game-opening goal.

Around the League

The Vegas Golden Knights won their second game in a row, defeating Arizona 2-1 in overtime. Once again former Pens led the way, as James Neal scored the game-winner thanks to a nifty setup by David Perron. Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves.

Alex Ovechkin scored four goals to pace the surprising Capitals to a 6-1 rout of Montreal. “The Great Eight,” who has seven goals in two games, became the first player in NHL history to open the season with back-to-back hat tricks.

Chicago continued its hot hand, whipping Columbus, 5-1.

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7 Comments

  1. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    October 8, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    I really hope I was wrong to challenge the idea of getting Reaves. I really do. That should mean a 3-peat if I am wrong. The bruising RW surely was in his element last night. Nashville played to his strengths. I am not all that sure that the rest or even most of the league will be so accommodating.

    Chicago showed that they would rather Penguin the Penguins than fight them. They skating rings around them rather than challenge them physically.

    Hunwick on the other hand still had a pathetic CORSI 33.33%, that’s horrible. However, that happens a lot when protecting a lead and the Pens never trailed. SO over-all, this was a great response to the whipping they received Thursday.

    My question though is why does this team need adversity, Cole getting injured in the first half of the first period, for them to rally?

    Let’s not forget Murray in our accolades last night, 9 straight scoreless periods against the Preds. When the team gives him any level of support, instead of letting opposing teams take shooting practice on him, he always turns in gems. (getting to my point about Price and Murray after Thusday’s drubbing).

    Let’s take baby steps here though. Let’s try and keep focused and repeat this performance this Wed and Thur, Back-to-Back series number two. The third and fourth lines need to play about 115 and 10 minutes respectively. The Caps may try and play the way the Preds did, but I would think TB will try and play closer to Penguins Hockey and skate, and they will be on the back end of that back-to-back series.

    In the mean time, last night certainly returns some hope.

    Go Pens!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      October 8, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Hey Other Rick,

      As you mentioned, Reaves certainly was in his element last night. And it did demonstrate that–against more physical teams–he certainly can have an impact.

      On the flip side (BTW–I loved your “flip” Wilson comments on the previous post), when we play faster teams, Chicago a being a prime example, he’s probably going to have trouble keeping pace.

      Obviously, what makes sense would be to play Reaves against the heavier teams and Josh Archibald against the quicker, skating teams. However, that could raise some issues, given Reaves’ desire to be a complete player and not just hired muscle.

      It’ll be interesting to see how that situation plays out.

      Regarding the team itself, the Pens certainly gave a better account of themselves last night, although I didn’t think Nashville played an especially good game. We’ll see how the Pens fare as the season unfolds.

      They’re still a work in progress, for sure. On the plus side, Maatta looks like he did during his rookie season. That would be huge if he could play at that level.

      On the minus side, it’s going to take the bottom six some time to coalesce. Agree, too, that at this stage, Hunwick looks like a poor fit. I read an article about him that said he got off to a sluggish start with the Leafs last season, then really came on down the stretch and in the playoffs. Let’s hope he finds his comfort zone, preferably sooner than later.

      I’m also concerned that, with the notable exception of Reaves, we have virtually no physicality in our lineup. Losing Cole sure doesn’t help. I fear there may be many more nights when we don’t show the slightest interest in getting physically involved, which could lead to more ugly losses.

      That’s why I’m kind of anxious for Hornqvist to return and for Aston-Reese to make his way back. We need other guys who play with a little sand, especially if Reaves winds up sitting from time to time.

      Rick

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        October 8, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        Rick,

        Great point about Maatta, he has risen to the challenge this year. I hope it continues.

        I wouldn’t mind seeing Tinordi or Pedan getting the call up to add some back end muscle to fill your idea of having back-up for Reaves.

        However, I really don’t want to see the Pens devolve into a 1970s team. The Pens didn’t win 2-Cups playing goon hockey. They won 2-Cups blowing the doors off opponents with lightning fast skating and deadly snipers. How many games last year did this team top 4 goals on less than 30 shots?

        I stat I find very distressing this year is that Crosby is third on the team in PIM. The last thing I want to see is Crosby and Malkin getting caught up in the circus of fighting and whining. I was really enjoying watching them focusing on the real game of hockey, out-scoring their opponent, not Hanson Brothers out fighting their opponent.

        • The Other Rick's Gravatar The Other Rick
          October 8, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

          Sorry typo, A stat I find distressing, not I stat I find distressing.

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          October 8, 2017 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

          Hey Other Rick,

          Agree with your “Hanson Brothers” comment 100 percent.

          Still, you can’t turn a blind eye to protecting your players. I’ve long been an advocate of drafting guys who can play and handle themselves (Aston-Reese is an example). When you have a handful of guys like that on your team, you don’t really need a heavyweight.

          Unfortunately, the Pens virtually turned a blind eye toward drafting players with any type of a physical bent, which pretty much compels them to employ an enforcer.

          FYI, here is a very revealing quote by Rutherford (taken from an article by Adam Gretz at NBC Sports) on the subject. He pretty much echoes your sentiments.

          “I hear year after year how the league and everyone loves how the Penguins play. ‘They play pure hockey and they skate.’ Well, now it’s going to have to change and I feel bad about it, but it’s the only way we can do it. We’re going to have to get one or two guys…and some of these games that should be just good hockey games will turn into a sh—show. We’ll go right back to where we were in the ’70s and it’s really a shame.”

          Rick

          • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
            October 8, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

            Agreed Rick,

            I would prefer to see a liberal sprinkling of players like Aston-Reese into the line-up, players who can play, but will answer the bell when garbage players like Dubinsky, Wilson (Was), Hartnell, Subban, and a hot of others.

            What I find problematic this year is that it appears that the league is cracking down on dangerous plays against every other team, but not Pittsburgh. Is Arvidson going to have a disciplinary hearing for attacking Crosby with the butt-end of his stick? No! The dirt bag is getting away with it. It is plain as day on video, but the league is going to turn a blind eye to it.

            • Jim's Gravatar Jim
              October 8, 2017 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

              Hey Guys
              Got my shut out wish. But as you say, the Preds have some gelling to do too. They certainly are not the 5 man units lead by a quick d corps that drove everyone nuts in the play offs last year.
              Still have some real concerns. Bottom 2 lines are NOT there. I was against Hunwick the day they made the acquisition.
              Hope I am wrong.
              Cheers


            

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