This past Saturday we witnessed one of the most blatant occurences of a captain doing what captains are paid to do. When a single player can put the entire team on his back and thrive, we must address it. Ryan O’Reilly is the staple for lead by example and “Do as I do not as I say”. Let’s take a break from critiquing the Blues’ peaks and valleys, and take a look at what Ryan O’Reilly means to this team. After his performance Saturday, it’s time to address what #90 truly means to the Blues and why his attitude and compete level should be modeled by any level of any sport.
O’Reilly, 30, has been in the league since 2009 when he broke in with Colorado as an 18 year old. Fast forward past having perpetually limited success, being offer-sheeted at age 21, and almost losing love for the game while in Buffalo, and he is thrust into St. Louis in 2018 in a blockbuster trade (shoutout Doug Armstrong). O’Reilly has, and always will be, known for his exceptional two-way play and ability to push teams’ top forwards to the brink, which we saw no shortage of immediately. The center pushed the Blues into a playoff spot, then went on to win the Conn Smythe as the Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP en route to a 2019 Stanley Cup Championship. Since then it has a been a steady incline for O’Reilly, garnering the hardest assignments every night and meeting his match with soaring results. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better…
April 24th, 2021: The Blues are reeling and are in total crunch time to make a playoff push. Facing the Colorado Avalanche, arguably the most complete team in the NHL, and in a must win situation. St. Louis goes down 2-0 early in the first and the game seems out of reach before we even sat down after the anthem. The boys on the bench look defeated and flat, but O’Reilly in a rage screams at the bench in what we can only believe was exactly what we were all thinking, “Does anybody else understand we HAVE to win this game?”. Following the 2-0 deficit, O’Reilly proceeds to score 2 goals in less than 3 minutes to tie the game, with goal number 1 coming on the heels of taking the puck off of superstar Nathan Mackinnon and quite literally willing the puck into the net. 90’s two goals start a push and then he closes the game out in the end with an empty net goal, completing the hat trick and a Blues 5-3 win.
You may be asking many questions as to why I have pointed this one game out above others? Honestly this game is a microcosm in O’Reilly’s stay in St. Louis and shouldn’t be surprising but yet we still get shocked by his determination and will to win. Since 2018, the Blues have not been the most consistent team, but Ryan O’Reilly has been. As a captain, you have many duties; Speaking to the media, addressing the locker room, but above all it’s about leading by example and being a role model. Ryan is, in my eyes, the poster-child for leadership and leading by example. When the chips are down and the guys aren’t up to the task, he will quite literally drag teammates into a game and pull them out of the depths. We have not witnessed a captain with this exceptional leadership in franchise history, and we need to start appreciating his time here. Any young athlete who wants to know what does it take to lead a team, needs to observe Ryan O’Reilly and his work ethic, habits and willingness to never quit and pursue a win no matter the odds.
If any kind of playoff hopes are alive in St. Louis, they live and die with the captain and how long he can pull the rope. We as a fan base are blessed to watch this guy play night in and night out and are praying this kind of performance we saw on Saturday repeats itself or even rubs off (I bet Tarasenko doesn’t know what that means) on his teammates. Here’s to a playoff push. Let’s….Go…Blues.
Photo Credit: NBC Sports