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Golden Knights’ chirp game on display against Canucks

Updated August 24, 2020 - 6:46 pm

Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer admitted he’s bitten his lip a few times this postseason to keep from laughing.

His team never has been afraid to get into oral jousting matches with opponents. And, without fans at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, the Knights’ voices are carrying more than ever.

Fans heard that firsthand Sunday when right wing Ryan Reaves clucked like a chicken from the bench and NBCSN’s broadcast picked it up. The Knights are loud, proud and happy to outtalk their opposition as well as outplay them.

That’s what the Vancouver Canucks learned in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal series. Nothing is likely to change for Game 2 Tuesday.

“They’re witty guys,” DeBoer said. “They’re sharp guys, and they’ve got a good humor to them. They’re engaged. There’s a lot of funny stuff that goes on back there that you obviously try to keep your focus, but we have our moments back there.”

Center William Karlsson said the chirping is nothing new. It’s just a little more noticeable now that there isn’t any crowd noise to cover it up.

Reaves and left wing Jonathan Marchessault, the team’s best trash-talkers, according to Karlsson and defenseman Zach Whitecloud, have been on the team three seasons. They’re experienced at firing up their teammates while knocking their opponents down a peg.

“As far as I can remember, it’s always been kind of rowdy on the bench,” Karlsson said.

What has changed is how important the talk is to keeping the Knights’ energy up. They no longer can count on the T-Mobile Arena crowd going wild after a crunching hit or the start of a power play. They have to try to create that momentum themselves now.

“Obviously, sometimes without fans it’s a little dead,” Marchessault said. “We’re just trying to stay alive on the bench, try to talk to each other between linemates. And when somebody (has) a good hit or a good play, we try to be extra positive.”

All that talk can be used to psych out an opponent, too. Reaves’ most frequent target Sunday was Canucks forward Antoine Roussel. It resulted in Roussel poking Reaves with his stick and giving him a hug early in the third period. That earned Roussel a 10-minute misconduct penalty.

“I was joking with Ryan Reaves last night that I was on the receiving end of that for a couple years in San Jose, so I know what that feels like,” DeBoer said. “While I’ve said before I don’t think the lack of fans makes a difference in the intensity level, the verbal engagement really creates some energy and some momentum for you at key times. Shows your group they’re into it. I think it was great.”

In other words, don’t expect the clucking to stop anytime soon. The Knights’ strong chirp game is just a part of their swagger. Now the whole world is getting a chance to listen.

“That’s what makes the game fun, right?” Whitecloud said. “In the regular season, you hear it happening, but especially in playoffs, this is what you play for. It gets fun out there, and some games emotions get higher and higher. You just got to run with it and have fun with it.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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