DETROIT - Although Reilly and Brendan Smith never played hockey together growing up in Mimico, Ontario, the two brothers have become familiar opponents in their young NHL careers.
“It was a little weird the first couple times but you kind of forget about it after you start playing,” Reilly said. “You spend so much time just trying to focus on your own game and help your own team win that it kind of gets thrown in the back of your mind, you don’t think about it as much.”
Reilly, a forward for the Boston Bruins, and Brendan, a Red Wings defenseman, have faced off five times in the NHL. Through those five matchups, Brendan holds a 3-2 advantage over his younger brother, who has played parts of three seasons in the league with both Boston and the Dallas Stars.
“It’s been really impressive to see Reilly,” Brendan said. “He’s done great in Boston. That line is scary with (Brad) Marchand and (Patrice) Bergeron on it. Kind of interested to watch it and for me to follow it as my little brother.”
On July 4, 2013, Reilly was part of a deal between the Bruins and Stars in which Boston traded Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button to Dallas for Reilly, Loui Ericsson, Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser.
The 23-year-old, who wasn’t one of the trade’s main pieces, has found success in Boston, earning 19 goals and 29 assists through 75 games this season.
“I think he’s been the most shock and awe factor in that trade, that nobody saw that to happen,” Brendan said. “We did, as a family. A lot of people that have seen Reilly previous years in college and St. Mike’s, they knew what Reilly was. He never really got that great a chance with Dallas on the fourth line. It’s hard to produce when you’re a skilled player but once he got into a system where he’s starting to play with high-production players obviously he jumped off the page. That was a huge pick-up for them.”
Boston head coach Claude Julien couldn’t agree more.
“We had no expectations, actually,” Julien said of Reilly. “He came in and had to earn his spot on the team. He wasn’t even a shoo-in. His training camp was so good he earned that spot. He started out on the third line, his production was very, very good and then he got moved to the second line with the concussions to Loui Eriksson. He’s been there ever since.”
Although Reilly credits the Bruins for giving him an opportunity to be successful within the organization, the forward also had to acknowledge one of his biggest childhood role models for his success: his older brother Brendan.
“He was probably one of my biggest role models growing up,” Reilly explained. “He was a really good hockey player so it was something I could easily watch him and pick up a lot of things, a lot of tidbits to make my game better. He’s a pretty easy guy to get along with and he’s pretty vocal so he’s always been there to help out pretty much since I started playing hockey.”
And he still does. Although their NHL schedules keep the brothers busy, Reilly and Brendan make time to talk and share advice with each other on a daily basis.
“Every day I talk to him about things, things that are going wrong with him if he’s on a cold streak,” Brendan said. “We can both help each other. We’re always talking. I think it’s good for both of us. We understand, we’re both in the same profession, we know what it’s like in a day in, day out basis. We can help each other. Maybe if things aren’t going well, crack a smile on each other. So it’s a good relationship.”
But Reilly wasn’t as quick to admit that Brendan appreciates the younger brother’s advice.
“He doesn’t take too much advice from me, it’s kind of a one way street on that,” Reilly said with a laugh.
One thing the brothers do agree on is the growing likelihood that the two Original Six organizations will be paired up in the Stanley Cup playoffs if the Wings advance to the postseason.
“Oh yeah, he told me he doesn’t want to see that in the first round because he thinks we play really well against them,” Brendan said. “I think we do match-up well against Boston, or we have. I think we match-up better against them than Pittsburgh. He said, ‘Start winning some games, get 7 (seed).’ We just throw little jabs here and there. But yeah, that’s a high possibility.”
Banter between the two brothers, who are only two years apart, is very common, and Reilly said they even place wagers leading up to important games. If they do meet in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s no doubt it will result in their biggest wager yet.
“Oh for sure, there will be a lot on the line,” Reilly said, laughing.
“I went out to dinner with my family and my brothers last night and that obviously came up because it kind of seems like we’re pretty close to being one of those pairs,” Reilly continued. “It’ll be interesting if that ends up happening I think my parents don’t really want it to happen that soon. It’ll be exciting but I don’t think there will be a lot of love lost.”
Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea