THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM CONTINUES: GOLDEN KNIGHTS ADVANCE TO STANLEY CUP FINALS
If you had Ryan Reaves as the prop bet for “player who scores the winning goal that put the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup finals,” you love longshots.
Reaves doesn’t strike fear in opponents for his finesse. He’s more of a bull on skates.
But there he was Sunday, breaking the heart of his hometown after deflecting the puck past Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck for a 2-1 victory in clinching the best-of-seven Western Conference series. Reaves was the latest improbable hero in the Golden Knights’ magical season. Edmonton had the NHL’s second-best record in the regular season.
It was Reaves’only goal since joining the Golden Knights in a Feb. 23 trade with the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, 58 games into the season.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had another standout game, stopping 31 of 32 shots. He allowed only 10 goals in the five-game series, continuing to make a case for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the post-season. He has a 2.02 goals against average and .938 save percentage.
The Golden Knights traded for the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Reaves to put opposing teams on notice: play rough and expect payback.
In 2017, the Penguins gave up a lot in getting Reaves to protect All-Star captain Sidney Crosby. They surrendered a first-round picked (No. 31 in 2017) and 23-year-old project center Oskar Sundqvist. The Penguins also got the Blues’ second-round pick (No. 51 in 2017).
Reaves has built a commanding presence during his nine years in the NHL. He was selected by the Blues for his muscle in the fifth round (156th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He has scored an average of 3.8 goals per season.
Reaves inherited his toughness from his father, Willard Reaves, a former All-American running back at Northern Arizona in Flagstaff.
He was inducted into the Big Sky Conference school’s Hall of Fame in 1992 after being named a first team All-American in 1979 and 1980 and second team in 1981. Born in Flagstaff, he was the Lumberjacks first non-senior to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season.
He was signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and led them to their first Grey Cup title since 1962. In 1983 he received the Canadian Football Western Rookie of the Year after leading the Western Division in rushing. A year later he was named the most outstanding player in the Canadian Football League.
He was in the crowd on Sunday with family members.