A year ago, Ryan O’Reilly was a virtual unknown to most Avalanche fans. Now, he’s a key part of the team’s playoff hopes.
A second-round pick in this past June’s Entry Draft, O’Reilly surprised some by earning a spot on Colorado’s opening night roster and has been a constant in the team’s lineup ever since.
O’Reilly recently took a few minutes to sit down with ColoradoAvalanche.com and talk about the stretch run, Colorado’s veteran leadership and the progression of his first NHL campaign.Being that this is your first stretch run in the NHL, are you more nervous or excited as the season winds down?
“It’s a little bit of both. I definitely think it’s a little more exciting to be involved in it and to experience the rush. With how intense every game and every shift is, it’s really exciting hockey. I’ve heard that the playoffs are even more intense and more exciting than this, so hopefully everything goes well in the next few games here and we can get in them.”At this point, it seems like almost every game is labeled a “must-win.” Does that ever drain on you mentally?
“Not really. It’s good to experience that. It puts us in the moment. That’s when you learn the most, by staying in the moment and taking each game like we have to win. Every game you have to play your best game if you want to win, so it’s definitely tough, but it’s a good thing to learn. We’re trying to be as consistent as possible.”Have some of the team’s veteran players, like Adam Foote, Darcy Tucker and Milan Hejduk, been more vocal in the locker room in recent weeks, perhaps giving this young team some advice or direction on how to approach these final games?
“For sure, because the guys who have been in the playoffs know what it takes. This is the time when you really have to listen to them. Hear what they say and try to learn as fast as you can. They’ve been through this, so they can teach you about all different situations.”What specifically do they talk about? Is it more along the lines of pulling individual guys aside to give them advice, or are the talks more team-oriented?
“I’d say it’s more about the team aspect. They tell us about the details you need, taking care of yourself and the details on the ice. Small little things that in the end can make the difference whether you win or lose. You need to take care of the small things and let the big things take care of themselves.”Personally, how different are these games for you when compared to the contests in October or November? Is it a night-and-day difference?
“It’s completely different. Personally for me, back in October I was just trying to make the team and find a spot. Now, I basically know what the coaches expect of me and how I need to perform. It’s amazing that a mindset can change from wanting to prove yourself to wanting to help the team so quickly.”What about the pace and intensity of games? They obviously pick up this time of the year.
“If you look at the beginning of the year, a lot more penalties were being called. Our last couple of games, I would say there haven’t been as many penalties as usual. They’ve been pretty tight games and the referees have been letting a lot go. It’s a much different pace this time of the year.”