By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
It remains to be seen whether Nick Ritchie is any better overall than Danton Heinen. But he’s certainly different. And those differences look like more of what the Bruins’ lineup needed.
Ritchie flashed some qualities in his Bruins debut on Tuesday that the team could have used last summer, and have needed more of for two years, really. He’s built like a beefier Kevan Miller, a moose’s moose at 6-foot-2 and 234 pounds. He threw his body around with a team-leading seven hits. He won the battle of physics in a collision with Milan Lucic and saw right through Matthew Tkachuk’s yapping. He battled reasonably well in the corners. He’s hard to knock off the puck and a wall for an opposing puck carrier.
Tuesday obviously wasn’t the result the Bruins wanted, a 5-2 defeat in a lackluster performance that Brad Marchand described as “sleepy, at times.” But Ritchie certainly gave glimpses of why Don Sweeney swapped out Heinen for him at the trade deadline.
“There were a couple positives, maybe, but I think just the team game and how we played wasn’t what we wanted,” said Ritchie. “I think it will come as we go here.”
Head coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t going to gush over Ritchie, whose line was on the ice for Tkachuk’s goal that broke the scoreless tie. Not when pretty much the whole team struggled to get their legs under them for most of the night. And especially not when Ritchie just landed at Logan on Monday.
“I thought [Ritchie] was fine,” said Cassidy. “I’m not going to judge him on a — he flew in here yesterday. He’s trying to get acclimated. There has to be a decent amount of period before we see what we got, and then go from there. I’d rather not, I’d rather watch some tape and see if, did he finish checks, did he get inside? Some of the details he’s going to bring to us.
“Rather look at the whole group, and we just did not have our — the guys we rely on to play, play well, had a tougher time tonight. And it kind of showed up in the end.”
Cassidy wasn’t afraid to give Ritchie real opportunities. The big left wing got a look on the second power play for the final 12 seconds of the Bruins’ only man advantage of the game. After starting on Charlie Coyle’s left wing, Ritchie moved up to David Krejci’s line in the second period. It wasn’t a promotion for Ritchie so much as a demotion for Jake DeBrusk, who has now gone eight straight games without a point. Cassidy said he shook the lines up to awaken both from an off night.
What’s certain with Ritchie’s addition to the lineup is that the Bruins will not be muscled off the puck so easily. He even came close to producing some offense at times. He made a backhand feed from behind the net to Charlie Coyle that couldn’t quite connect, and at one point corralled a puck from the corner and burst toward the net-front area for a chance.
Like the rest of the team, Ritchie was a little off in these moments. He’s not going to transform the entire lineup. But in just a few glimpses on Tuesday night he showed what his heavy presence can provide.
These kinds of additions haven’t been perfect for Sweeney, but with Ritchie he’s off to a decent start.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.