(HockeyStL) – In only nine games this season, Ryan Reaves has matched his goal total from last season at a big, whopping two, including one against Anaheim in the Blues 2-0 victory Thursday night.
“Thanks for pointing that out. I appreciate it,” Reaves said after Thursday’s game, “I found somebody’s mitts and they’re working for me now.”
Reaves continued to joke, saying he’s taken tips for teammate Vladimir Tarasenko, to elevate his scoring game. But it’s been no secret that the era of enforcers in the NHL has changed. Teams are looking for more points from their fourth line players instead of just protection for the star players.
To illustrate the differences between what is expected of Reaves compare him to past Blues enforcers like Kelly Chase and Tony Twist. Chase and Twist weren’t scoring threats with 17 and 10 goals respectively in their 10-plus seasons in the NHL. Reaves has 13 goals in his 5 NHL seasons.
However, the biggest difference comes in their career penalty minutes. Reaves has only 411 penalty minutes in five season compared to Chase’s 2017 minutes in 12 seasons. Reaves is projected to have only 41 minutes this season compared to 126 during the 2013-2014 season.
And Reaves said that his fourth line teammates have had multiple meetings this season to talk about their offensive production.
“We talked about helping out a little bit,” he explained, “I think we were putting too much of the load on the top, upper lines. They wanted us to produce a little offense for the boys, changing a couple of things up that can play into our strengths, not really running around, being more patient.
“The games we get in trouble, we’re running around looking for hits and trying to create energy like that. I just try to simplify the game and be patient.”
Reaves first goal came last Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks. Reaves and line-mate Max Lapierre drove hard to the net after a pass from Steve Ott and powered the puck over the line. Lapierre has earned assists on both of Reaves’ goals. Overall, head coach Ken Hitchcock credits the line with playing better as a whole when they have more time in the offensive zone with the opposing team already back on their heels.
“I think they’re a better line that comes out on the fly,” Hitchcock said, “They’re able to play with energy.”
And Hitchcock gave more praise to the fourth line center, Lapierre.
“[He’s] playing with more composure now, less jittery, in and around the puck” Hitchcock added, “He’s calmed down and played his position, not tried to do too much. He’s becoming effective because of it.”
Lapierre played just under 20 minutes of Thursday’s game on 25 shifts. He spent 3:19 of that time on the penalty kill, including in the final minutes of the game as he kept one puck from crossing the goal line.
“[Lapierre] and Ott played a really good game,” Reaves said, “at the end of [the third] period with the power plays, blocking shots and getting the pucks out.”
Reaves and Lapierre have 4 of the Blues 62 points (goals and assists) through the first nine games which quadruples their output for the same time last season.