While most Penguins fans watched the tail end of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft First Round to see which prospect their team would pick, most were greeted with the surprise news that the Penguins made a trade for known tough guy, Ryan Reaves. The reactions to the trade that sent Oskar Sundqvist and the Penguins’ first round pick to the Blues for Reaves and their second round pick were all over the place, but after his first game Reaves is already becoming a favorite of many fans.
With the loss of Chris Kunitz, the Pens lost arguably their best hitter. The Penguins were also without a player that was willing to drop the gloves when needed. Sure they had Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin get in a few scuffles last year, but it isn’t ideal to have your best defenseman and second best forward in the box for five minutes. So with the acquisition of Reaves, the Pens were given a new “hit man” for their team and a very intimidating presence on the ice.
I was fortunate enough to be at this past game, where Reaves made a tremendous impact. In the first period, Reaves laid a few nice hits, and even gave Scott Hartnell the business in a corner battle. This led to a near scrap between the two, but Hartnell chose not to take part in the fight after a drawn out act. This is when most fans at the game, and I’m sure at home, realized that Reaves was not here to mess around.
As the game progressed, Nashville forward, Austin Watson, hit Reaves into the Predators bench. Reaves obviously unhappy extended Watson an offer to fight. Watson accepted without hesitation. As Reaves unleashed the ensuing beatdown on Watson, the fans at PPG Paints Arena got a much needed reason to cheer and the place got loud. The Penguins haven’t had a NHL regular who could fight in a long time and the fans rejoiced the moment that signified there was a new enforcer in town.
The fan’s love for Reaves only increased when he notched a beautiful downward tip in front of the net to extend the Penguins lead to 3-0. But Reaves’ historic night didn’t stop there,. He continued to punish the opponent with a few crunching hits throughout the remainder of the game; however, the real height of Reaves’s night came when he and Cody McLeod fought early in the third period. Reaves handed out his second beating of the night and even antagonized McLeod as they sat in the box. The fans at PPG Paints Arena surged with energy as one of the team’s new additions made a name for himself. That was the loudest I had heard a regular season game at PPG Paints Arena in a long time. The “Live Noise Meter” that appeared on the jumbotron even reached 107.3 decibels after Reaves’ second fight.
Unfortunately, Reaves’ night was cut short at roughly the 10-minute mark of the third period. After Hartnell elbowed Sidney Crosby in the head, Reaves’s jumped in to protect the NHL’s best player. Players from each team followed into the scrum but that did not stop Reaves from finding a known enemy of the Penguins in the pile. The ref promptly threw both Hartnell and Reaves out of the game, but the fans were still fired up from the spark Reaves kept providing.
Now, although his night on the ice was technically cut short as a result of Reaves being ejected, it also did not technically end. As the three stars were being announced, almost every Penguins fan was hoping for one particular player to receive the first star honors. So, when Ryan Reaves name was announced as a the first star, the fans leaving and still in their seats roared with appreciation for a new fan favorite player.