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Penguins

Penguins Prediction Rewind: Ryan Reaves found a few willing dance partners

Jonathan Bombulie
| Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, 5:03 a.m.
The Penguins’ Ryan Reaves connects with the Predators’ Austin Watson in the second period Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Ryan Reaves connects with the Predators’ Austin Watson in the second period Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.

Note: Last summer, beat writer Jonathan Bombulie made a series of predictions leading up to the start of the 2017-18 season. Some of them were hilariously off the mark. In this series, Bombulie will explain what he was thinking and where his logic went off course.

THE PREDICTION

Newly acquired heavyweight Ryan Reaves will record fewer fighting majors than the six he picked up with St. Louis last season.

THE RATIONALE

— Players just don’t drop the gloves as much as they used to. Reaves has noticed that too, of course, and oftentimes, he sends a message with a 225-pound bodycheck rather than a right or a left.

— Reaves just isn’t going to find many customers. Only the most big, skilled and brave heavyweights will even try him on for size. Outside of perhaps Washington’s Tom Wilson, there might not be a player in the Metropolitan Division who is truly in Reaves’ weight class.

— Only nine Eastern Conference players had more than six fights last season, and there’s no reason to believe that number will rise.

READER REACTION

Fifty-six percent of voters in a Twitter poll thought Reaves would have fewer than seven fights. A sample of Facebook comments:

— “Reaves and Wilson will square off at some point and Reaves will crack this egghead. Reaves is a punishing fighter. Like I said, Wilson is just a big PUNK.”

— “I really hope that he sticks with the Penguins and shows leadership and grit; but it doesn’t look like he plays Sullivan’s style, so that is very doubtful.”

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED

The prediction was wrong, but not laughably so. Reaves had six fights again last season, matching his total from his final season with the Blues. A late-season trade might have saved the prediction from being more wrong.

Whether Wilson is truly in Reaves’ weight class remains open for debate. Wilson fought 13 times last season, but he famously turned down a chance to fight Reaves in the regular season and passed on the opportunity to tangle with Jamie Oleksiak in the playoffs.

Only two Eastern Conference players – Wilson and Florida’s Micheal Haley with 22 – had more than six fights last season.

THE FLAWS IN THE LOGIC

The underlying principles behind the prediction ring true. There are fewer fights than ever before and even fewer players who can be considered heavyweights.

The flaw in the logic is that there are still a few young players in the league – Washington’s Liam O’Brien and Columbus’ Lukas Sedlak, for example, to pick two of Reaves’ opponents from last year – who are either too enthusiastic or too inexperienced to know that fighting Reaves is a bad idea. That’s enough to get a heavyweight’s fight total up to the meager total of six for a season.

LESSONS LEARNED

No matter the odds, there will always be people who look danger in the eye and think, for whatever reason, that the worst won’t happen to them.

Keep up with the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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