Updated May 31, 2021 - 5:17 pm
DENVER — Ryan Reaves skated precariously on the edge of physical and dirty all season, keeping the flies off the honey for the Golden Knights while avoiding the NHL’s long arm of the law.
But the rugged forward crossed the line in Game 1 of the West Division final and paid the price Monday.
Reaves was suspended two games by the NHL’s department of player safety for roughing/unsportsmanlike conduct on Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves during the third period of a 7-1 loss Sunday at Ball Arena.
Reaves was assessed a match penalty and ejected with 11:56 remaining after he used his body weight to force Graves’ head into the ice during a postwhistle scrum and also pulled out a chunk of Graves’ hair during the altercation, according to player safety.
Graves was helped off the ice and missed a couple of shifts to recover before skating two shifts late in the third.
“Reaves and the Golden Knights acknowledge that angered by the earlier hit (on forward Mattias Janmark) he takes this opportunity to send a message to Graves as payback,” player safety said in explaining the suspension. “The totality of Reaves’ actions, combined with the game situation and the retribution involved in the play necessitates supplemental discipline.”
Reaves also was suspended one game for an illegal check to the head on Vancouver’s Tyler Motte during Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals last season, making him a repeat offender under the collective bargaining agreement.
That applies when factoring in how much money a player loses. Reaves’ history also can be considered for determining the length of the suspension.
This is the third time in Reaves’ 11-year career he has been suspended. He was given a three-game penalty in 2016 for boarding and also has been fined by the league twice.
“For me, Ryan Reaves is one of the cleanest tough guys that I’ve seen in the league in my 12, 13 years,” Knights coach Pete DeBoer said Monday before the suspension was announced. “I do know a couple things. His gloves never came off, and nobody was hurt on the play. Whether they’re going to look at what’s between the lines there and think that there’s something that maybe I don’t see, that’s their department, not mine.”
Reaves has more than 900 career penalty minutes and was voted the league’s toughest player in a 2017-18 NHL Players’ Association poll. The Knights signed the 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound Reaves to a two-year, $3.5 million contract last summer to provide an intimidation factor and backed him after each borderline hit he delivered.
“That’s the one play that I just thought was out of the context of the game,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “He’s just got a ruggedness to his game, and it is what it is. But in that situation in the game, I just didn’t like it. That’s my opinion on it.”
Avoided discipline in Game 7 vs. Wild
Reaves avoided supplemental discipline for his unnecessary interference penalty in Game 7 of the first round that caused Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter to smack his face on the goal post.
The department of player safety also opted not to discipline Reaves for his high hit delivered to Arizona’s Jordan Gross in April.
Last season in an exhibition game before the postseason bubble, Reaves delivered a heavy hit on Arizona forward Nick Schmaltz that the Coyotes thought should have been penalized. Schmaltz missed the entire postseason as a result of the check.
The Knights were upset with Graves for his hit on Janmark that knocked the forward out of the game in the second period. Graves was penalized for interference on the play and will not face any supplemental discipline, according to a person familiar with the situation.
After the game, Knights captain Mark Stone called it a “blindside hit” on Janmark. DeBoer did not have an update on Janmark’s availability for Game 2 on Wednesday.
Reaves had one goal and five points in 37 games along with 27 penalty minutes. He missed the final 16 games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury.
Reaves did not play in Game 6 of the first round against Minnesota because of a false positive COVID-19 test result. He has not recorded a point in seven games during this postseason.
Avalanche lead series 1-0
Game 1: Avalanche 7, Knights 1
Game 2: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Denver (NBCSN)
Game 3: 7 p.m. Friday, T-Mobile Arena (NBCSN)
Game 4: 5:30 p.m. Sunday, T-Mobile Arena (NBCSN)
x-Game 5: June 8, Denver, TBD
x-Game 6: June 10, T-Mobile Arena, TBD
x-Game 7: June 12, Denver, TBD