Ryan Reaves has entered the chat.
After winning the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, and barely fighting both seasons, General Manager Jim Rutherford went out and got… the best fighter in the game when he traded for Ryan Reaves. The move was short lived as Reaves was traded to Vegas less than a year later. But Reaves’ short time in Pittsburgh was entertaining, that’s for sure.
However, the Cup run officially came to an end in 2017-18. When the Capitals ended the Penguins season in 2018, the Penguins had owned the Cup for 694 straight days. All good things do eventually come to an end. Those were the good old days.
Fighting may be steadily disappearing from today’s game, but it’s still one of the most unique and influential aspects of hockey. Just ask Max Talbot (circa 2009) if fights actually make a difference in a game. Fighting may not be common these days, but they still exist for a reason.
10/7/17 – Ryan Reaves vs Austin Watson
Ryan Reaves got things started this season by doing exactly what he was brought in for. Reaves dropped the gloves three games into his Penguins career, and would end up getting into two fights in this game. First up was Austin Watson.
Watson met Reaves along the blue line and the two immediately knew it was on after making eye contact. Reaves starts off with a overhand club that clocked Watson who never quite recovered and never was on the offense in this fight. After Reaves continues to wail away, Watson finds himself along the boards and the refs bravely break the two sides apart.
It was a clean win for Reaves in his first fight (96.2% of the vote on hockeyfights.com), and it didn’t take long for him to add to his score card with Pittsburgh.
10/7/17 – Ryan Reaves vs Cody McLeod
Early in the 3rd period of the same game, Reaves found himself in another fight against Nashville after drawing a penalty for interference and ensuing misconduct. This time it was Cody McLeod against Reaves, who made lots of money getting beat up every night in the NHL. This fight was another example in a long list of losses for McLeod.
McLeod disagreed with the initial call and didn’t need much reason to have a chance to dance with Reaves, who also is always ready for a fight. McLeod was the aggressor in this one, and it doesn’t take long for Reaves to get the best of him. McLeod tries his best but hardly connects any punches while Reaves hammers away on McLeod, per usual. Not long after this one began, Reaves knocks McLeod to the ground, going 2/2 in fights with the Penguins in this game.
10/24/17 – Ryan Reaves vs Darnell Nurse
Reaves made it 3/3 a few weeks later when Darnell Nurse felt frisky and decided to fight one of the most feared fighters in the league. Nurse learned quickly of his mistake and what makes Reaves so feared when Reaves lands a heavy first right hand before the two lock up and Reaves connects shot after shot while Nurse can only hang on for dear life.
Shortly after this one began, the refs see Nurse clearly finished and once again bravely intervene and separate the two large men. Another one-sided victory with with Reaves receiving 87.7% of the vote.
11/10/17 – Ryan Reaves vs Liam O’Brien
This was one of the most satisfying moments in Reaves’ short time with the Penguins. Reaves must not have approved of a Capitals player desecrating Sidney Crosby’s glorious number by dragging it through the mud in a Capitals sweater.
Reaves runs Liam O’Brien hard into the boards and I’ll give O’Brien a lot of credit for going after Reaves who jumped at the opportunity to take down any Capitals player. O’Brien looked like he was ready for the fight but Reaves quickly takes control by tying O’Brien’s hands up before Reaves unleashes some lightning-quick right hands that send O’Brien crumbling to the ice. Reaves skates away without a scratch and has some words for the Capitals bench on his way to the penalty box.
Yet another convincing win for Reaves with 94.3% of the vote.
12/21/17 – Ryan Reaves vs Lukas Sedlak
Ryan Reaves sends a Blue Jackets crashing into the boards with a monstrous check and Lukas Sedlak instantly stepped to Reaves. Bless his heart. Sedlak never had a prayer and Reaves knew the talent gap between them and made quick work with a flurry of heavy right hands that quickly drop Sedlak to the ice.
Hard to believe, but once again Reaves came away with a clear victory with 89.5% of the vote. I’m not sure what the other 10.5% of voters were thinking; clearly they weren’t voting with their brains or eyes.
This was Reaves’ last fight for the Penguins as Mike Sullivan used Reaves sparingly when he played, and Reaves was a healthy scratch many times towards the end of his tenure with the Penguins. The Penguins traded Reaves to Vegas a few months later in February of 2018.
1/2/18 – Jamie Oleksiak vs Brandon Manning
Ryan Reaves wasn’t the only one who could throw hands for the Penguins. Jamie Oleksiak was much larger than Reaves and was just as willing to drop the gloves.
Brandon Manning didn’t gain many fans from the opposing side when the Flyers came to town. So when Oleksiak and Manning engaged in a fight, it was a delight to see Oleksiak give Manning the business. Oleksiak held Manning at bay with his left hand while unleashing fury with his right hand. Manning turtled the entire time and the refs were quick to jump to his defense after Oleksiak clearly had Manning’s number in this one.
After watching hundreds of these fights, I think this may be the one and only fight I’ve seen without one vote for the clear loser as Oleksiak received 64/65 of the votes with one vote as a draw and zero for Manning. It’s always a good thing when a Flyers player gets zero votes in a fight with a Penguins player.
1/14/18 – Jamie Oleksiak vs Brendan Smith
Ryan Reaves found himself on the other end of a big hit by Brendan Smith of the Rangers, and much to his surprise, someone else jumped in to Reaves’ defense as Oleksiak quickly confronted Smith and challenged him to a fight.
Smith never had much of a chance with Oleksiak towering over him, and he did his best to protect himself, but this fight was once again all Oleksiak. Smith may have gotten a quick shot right off the bat, but Oleksiak uses his size once again to his advantage and holds Smith away while once again connecting over and over again with his right hand before the refs mercifully end this one for Smith.
3/1/18 – Jamie Oleksiak vs Zdeno Chara
In what may go down as the fight with the two largest combatants in the NHL with Oleksiak measured as 6’7” and Zdeno Chara at 6’9”, this one was one to behold. In a tense atmosphere with tensions even more on the rise, Oleksiak found himself in a stare down with Chara, and the two decided the only way to decide who the bigger man is was to have an old fashioned face punching contest.
Chara begins the fight by landing multiple punches to Oleksiak’s head before tiring out and Oleksiak then connects several punches to Chara. The two continue to throw more punches before running out of gas and this fight will go down in the record books in the NHL.
Chara got the voter’s recognition as the winner with 58.5% of the vote over Oleksiak’s 10.8% with 30.8% of votes coming in as a draw.