The Boston Bruins’ next opponent is to be determined, but the team they’re matched up with could determine how much of Nick Ritchie we see in the second round.
Ritchie was healthy scratched for the final games of the Bruins’ 3-1 series win over the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But the Bruins will run into either the New York Islanders or Tampa Bay Lightning next round, and against a team like the Bolts, Ritchie’s physical presence could have an impact.
Cam Neely appeared pretty confident Ritchie would get back into the lineup at some point this postseason, and Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy wouldn’t close the door on that possibility, either.
“Well first let?s get our opponent,” Cassidy said Friday over Zoom. “We typically will want to play our best lineup but we also want to keep in mind who are we playing. Carolina had defensemen that like to get up the ice, you saw that with their goal totals, I think they got whatever it was four, five goals from their D-men. And so they would try to beat you up the ice after a turnover, so we needed a little more speed in the lineup to counter that, and that’s where (Anders) Bjork and Jack (Studnicka) got a look, (Sean) Kuraly moved up.
“But if it’s Tampa with bigger guys like (Victor) Hedman and (Mikhail) Sergachev and (Zach) Bogosian back there, certainly they’ll get up the ice, not so much Bogosian, but you know (Erik) Cernak?s a big guy, you might need bigger bodies in the offensive zone to get inside against that group. I thought we were able to get inside against Carolina?s D, I don’t know if that will be the case against Tampa. The Islanders play more of a stifling game, so that’s where Nick could become an asset for us. Still got to keep this pace up, still got to be good on “o-zone puck possession, but might become a better option.
“So let’s see who our opponent is. I’m assuming it’s going to be one of those — obviously one of those two teams. If it’s Tampa you’re probably going to see Nick. They’ve got some bigger heavier forwards as well that he could match up well against too, so just a better overall matchup for him. He?ll probably play with (Charlie) Coyle, and then we?d look at the right side who?s the best fit, is it a Björk, is it Jack. We tried Kuraly back over there, we tried that in training camp, didn’t work out that well for us, they didn’t find the chemistry, so probably not a route we?d go unless we were forced to.”
So, a lot to take in there from Cassidy.
It’s worth mentioning that in the few games Ritchie has played with Boston since arriving at the February trade deadline, his best performances have come against the Lightning — and that includes the B’s round-robin loss to Tampa.
Assuming Ritchie is back in the fold, the likely result is the Bruins could scratch Par Lindholm, move Kuraly back to the fourth line, then either Bjork, Studnicka or Karson Kuhlman would get the other spot on the third line wing, joining Ritchie and Coyle.