By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Nick Ritchie summed up 2020 pretty damn perfectly on Wednesday.
“It has been really weird,” Ritchie, who became the latest Bruin to participate in a Zoom video conference with the local media as the NHL continues its self-quarantine, began. “But I guess that’s life.”
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Now, Ritchie’s reasoning is almost certainly than yours and mine, but it’s true all the same. For Ritchie, the weirdness came with the 24-year-old playing meaningless hockey in Anaheim to playing for a Presidents’ Trophy-leading Boston squad to back home at his family’s Ontario horse farm in a span of about two and a half weeks.
“We were just starting to get going and get close to playoffs and [the pandemic] hit,” Ritchie said of the league’s pause, which went into effect on Mar. 12 and has yet to advance to ‘Phase 2’ of its return plan. “It’s been strange.”
While weird times and strangeness are natural feelings (especially during a pandemic), one of the tougher parts of this pause has been Ritchie’s disconnect from the team he called his own for just seven games before COVID-19 melted the TD Garden ice down.
“It’s been tough where we haven’t seen the team or practiced or anything,” Ritchie, who tallied one goal and an assist as a Bruin, noted. “I was there for such a little time that I didn’t get to know everybody like everybody knew everybody with me being one of the few new guys. That kind of sucked that the pause happened.”
It could not have come at a worse time for the 6-foot-2 wing, either, as he was still looking for a home within the Boston lineup at the time of the break.
Splitting his time on line two with David Krejci and on the third line with Charlie Coyle, Ritchie’s ability to utilize his big frame shined with both players, but with mixed results. With Krejci, Ritchie seemed to be a solid net-front presence, but conditioning could have become an issue given some of the heavier nightly totals Krejci’s line logs. With Coyle, Ritchie stayed true to his style, but it didn’t necessarily mesh as well as you would have thought in terms of shot totals and quality looks. (You’re also talking about a massive difference in ice-time with Krejci versus Coyle, too, as Ritchie spent over 65 minutes with Krejci compared to just 15 and change with Coyle. Feels like that’s important to note when bringing up his struggles with Coyle.)
This could become an issue if the Bruins are forced to jump right into postseason action if and when the NHL comes back this season, as Bruce Cassidy may not have the rope he’d like when it comes to finding the still-somewhat-foreign Ritchie’s ideal fit.
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But Ritchie remains hopeful that it’ll work out with either player so long as they’re able to actually get back on the ice.
“Different players, but both smart centermen that like to have the puck and make plays,” said of playing with Coyle and Krejci. “Wasn’t too hard of an adjustment playing with them. Some small sample sizes, but I think there’s been some good things and obviously more chemistry to develop as we start playing here… hopefully.”