It’s been more of the same in Pittsburgh as of late — the Penguins are mired in an emotional series with the Washington Capitals, the physicality is ramping up, and the Pennsylvanian club’s stars are taking a fair dose of contact as they try to claim another Stanley Cup.
After two brutally physical tilts that saw Pittsburgh’s Brian Dumoulin and Zach Aston-Reese knocked out the lineup (Dumoulin returned while Aston-Reese is concussed and requires surgery for a broken jaw) and Washington’s Tom Wilson banned for three games, it’s clear the eventual winner of the two teams’ second-round series isn’t moving on without a few bruises.
But Pittsburgh could’ve helped its own cause had they kept big-bodied Ryan Reaves, according to Don Cherry. The former bench boss pointed specifically to captain Sidney Crosby, who’s taken his fair share of bumps through the series’ four games.
“He is getting knocked around. I mean, he seems to come back but he’s going to get hurt, the way they’re running at him,” Cherry said during Coach’s Corner on Thursday. “Everybody’s taking a shot at him. And I guarantee you nobody would be running at anybody if Ryan Reaves [was there]. … It’s ridiculous.”
Originally acquired by Pittsburgh in June 2017, Reaves suited up for 58 games for the Penguins this season, posting eight points, 84 penalty minutes, 161 hits and six fights. Pittsburgh traded Reaves to the Vegas Golden Knights in February as part of a three-way deal that landed them Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators.
Cherry also took issue with Penguins defender Kris Letang having to defend himself late in Game 4 — the veteran rearguard dropped the gloves with T.J. Oshie after the Capitals winger took a run at him in the waning minutes of the eventual Pittsburgh win.
“Letang, their best defenceman has to fight a little later,” Cherry continued. “You don’t have a guy, the best defenceman, maybe, in the playoffs fighting another guy. You’ve got to have a guy that’s an enforcer, and Reaves would settle everything down.”
The Penguins and Capitals sit level at 2-2 in their series, with a pivotal Game 5 coming Saturday in Washington.