Ryan Reaves has earned the opportunity to play Game 1 for the Leafs

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Alberga
9 days ago
When the Leafs open up their first round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Boston on Saturday night, it’s probably a good bet to assume that Ryan Reaves will be in the lineup for Sheldon Keefe and company.
And quite frankly, the 37-year-old tough guy has earned every last bit of the opportunity to dress for Game 1. Seriously, that snipe in the regular season finale against Tampa was the exclamation mark on what’s proven to be an incredible turnaround.
Any way you slice it, what seemingly felt like a pipe dream over the first half of the season has turned into a reality —much to the chagrin of the calculator community, of course. Reaves deserves a lot of credit. So does Keefe and general manager Brad Treliving. Even when things looked super bleak and the veteran forward was virtually unplayable, everyone remained super calm.  It all worked out, and most importantly, he’s no longer a liability out there —or at least as big as the one he was earlier in the campaign.
Against a team like Boston, it’s imperative to set a tone early, and who better than one of the toughest guys in the league to lead the charge on that front. He won’t play a lot, but when he does, it’s important that Reaves continues to play the style that has consistently kept him in the lineup for the better part of the past two months or so. For Reaves, it should be a pretty simple mindset: Finish your checks, stir things up, stay disciplined, and don’t get scored on. Yes, that’s easier said than done against a well-coached team like the Bruins, but it shouldn’t be looked at as an impossible task. The fourth line has been money in the bank recently, and weirdly, if they could chip in with a goal or two here and there, they could prove to be a a big-time x-factor in the postseason.
Having said all that, it’s all about adjustments this time of year. While there’s no question Reaves has earned the Game 1 nod, what happens after that will undoubtedly be up to him. If he continues to make a difference, he’ll remain in the lineup. If he doesn’t, he’ll get the hook quicker than a Blue Jays pitcher tossing a shutout in an important playoff game.
Moral of the story: There’s no need to big brain this operation.

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