(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Welcome to Blue Collar Weekly Playoff Edition where I choose one lucky Blues hockey player to wear the Blue Collar of greatness. This week I based my selection on players’ performances in the Stanley Cup Final vs. the Boston Bruins.
This week, the “Blue-collar” goes to….
By now the hockey world knows the St.Louis Blues are the Stanley Cup Champions, and that Ryan O’Reilly won the Conn Smythe trophy for being the Most Valuable Player in the NHL playoffs! Here’s an interesting fact: in 2009 Ryan O’Reilly was drafted in the second round (No.33) by the Colorado Avalanche. O’Reilly became the first player to be inserted into the NHL in his draft year who wasn’t a first-round selection since the Boston Bruins Patrice Bergeron, and Dan Fritsche of Columbus in 2003-04. It’s ironic that two of those players would finally meet in a showdown in the Stanley Cup Final ten years later.
Here’s a look at his statistics in the seven-game series against the Bruins. (Keep in mind, O’Reilly only had three goals in the entire playoffs before the Boston series, yet he still produced offensively with 14 pts leading up to the Finals.)
Stanley Cup Finals- Home and Away Stats
There are so many reasons to pick Ryan O’Reilly for this “Blue Collar” award, but I can think of one game in particular that stands out in my mind. That just so happens to be Game 7 against Boston. When the Blues went over 16 minutes without a shot on goal, he scores a huge goal on a deflection that went between Rask’s pads and into the net.
Not only did that get the Blues motor going, but it gave them a 1-0 lead while being heavily outplayed in the first period. With that goal, Ryan O’Reilly became the first player with goals in four straight Stanley Cup final games since Wayne Gretzky in 1985. O’Reilly became the third player in NHL history to score his teams opening goal in 4 consecutive games in the Stanley Cup Final. The last two players to match that was Sid Smith in 1951, and Norm Ullman in 1966.
Let’s take a look at a dramatic highlight video with some logical reasons why Ryan O’Reilly won the Conn Smythe trophy and deserved my Blue Collar of greatness!
As I compare his statistics from his first year with the Blues, there are a few things that stand out to me.
The Conn Smythe winner was exceptional this 2018-19 year with his +/- goal differential; he was an astounding +22 which was best on the team. If you look back at his career stats, it shows that Ryan has not been a plus since his rookie year of 2009-10 he had a +4 goal differential.
Even strength goals
In just one year with the Blues, he has more than half of what he had in 3 years with Buffalo. He had 21 even strength goals with St.Louis in one year, compared to 32 in three years with Buffalo.
For only the 3rd time in his ten year career, the two-way center had 90+ takeaways. (94 TA in 2018-19) The last time he had that many TA’S was his final year with the Avalanche when he had 98. This goes to show how important he is on the penalty kill for the Blues. He is also capitalizing on shorthanded opportunities because he has 3 points(1 goal two assists) in those situations this year.
So looking back on the trade that landed the talented Ryan O’Reilly here in the Gateway City. It’s hard not to be just blown away by the results with such a hard-working player. Not only has set an example for the rest of the team by coming to practice early and staying late. He is always signing autographs and taking time to help those in need. It’s been refreshing to hear how O’Reilly has found so many positive ways of implementing his hard work, all while becoming one of the most efficient players in the entire NHL.
So if there’s one word that comes to mind when I think of Ryan O’Reilly it’s “advantageous,” because by working so hard and staying completely focused, he is always giving his team the advantage. He has presently put his team in a favorable position and will continue to spread this into the future of the organization. The leadership that was shining in his game spread like wildfire throughout the entire team. Every player realized they all needed to be leaders and play their roles as well. In turn, the St.Louis Blues have won their first Stanley Cup Championship.
Hockey quote for this week:
“Hockey is not a one-man show; it’s a team effort. If you don’t work as a team – even if one or two guys aren’t working – you’re not going to win. That’s the way it is.” Guy Lafleur