As good as any Stanley Cup Playoff game without a doubt is, there is also time for evaluation and improvement.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Boston Bruins after they took a 4-3 overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday afternoon in the Toronto bubble at the Scotiabank Arena, and it will not give the Bruins’ coaching staff much time to break things down. The biggest decision will be who to join between the pipes – Tuukka Rask in a back-to-back situation or backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
There are good reasons to go with any of them already up 1-0 over Carolina in the best-of-seven series.
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But there are other decisions to be made, and one that the Bruins should follow starting in Thursday̵
Ritchie came into this season as a real question mark after playing a little more than a handful of games for the Bruins after coming to the trade deadline from Anaheim in exchange for Danton Heinen.
In theory, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Ritchie would give the necessary physical thump to the Boston lineup and play the power forward game on the wing along with the big, strong third-line center Charlie Coyle. But Ritchie simply played as a weak link in Boston’s overtime victory over the Hurricanes in his first real playoff experience with Black and Gold.
Krejci lines dominate & other takeaways from game 1
The 24-year-old Ritchie finished without a shot online 12:50 of the ice age with the Bruins on Wednesday and had four hits while sometimes taking his body against the hurricanes. But he was not nearly a large enough physical presence, and even worse, played a key role in a couple of goals against for the Bruins while making both mental and physical mistakes at crucial moments.
Bruin’s head coach Bruce Cassidy did not intend to hammer anyone for it after a playoff victory, but Ritchie’s underperformance really did not go unnoticed.
“I think [the young guys] looked after his own game. I think only one line was on the ice for a couple of goals and this is Björk’s first playoff game with us, Ritchie, “said Cassidy, referring to the third line being on the ice for a couple of goals against as well as Charlie Coyle’s second period goal for Boston. . “[The veteran guys] was like “hey, listen things happen.” Let’s make sure we tighten up next time. Keep playing your game. They got a big goal for us too, so there is a bit of that communication to the new guys.
“We talked to Lauzy [Jeremy Lauzon]. Charlie [McAvoy] had to go to the locker room for a second so Lauzy got some extra shifts. You just fight and play. I think you need to get the first pair [of playoff games] under your belt. Nobody’s tearing anyone down here. This is not the time of year to do it. We try to motivate and encourage guys for sure, but the players are good that way. That’s why they are winners. [Ondrej] Kase is another guy, first game. I thought he was amazing. He’s on pucks all night, played his game. Had a little nice. A nice game [David] Krejci’s goal. That line was without a doubt – you always look at the band, no matter the band after and they are probably our most dangerous line tonight. So that’s something we talked about. Secondary points. Get a goal from Charlie Coyle, third row. “
During the first period, Ritchie gave up on a play along the boards and drifted away from Warren Foegele as the entire unit of the Brown’s defenders puck-watched rather than work to get the puck out of the zone. Eventually, it turned into a Joel Edmundson point shot from the climax that Ritchie could not put a body in front on the way to the net. But the bigger issue was that Ritchie simply gave up a game when he was closest to being able to provide defensive support on a game that ended up going bad.
It was Ritchie again in the third period who lost a battle along the boards to the much smaller Martin Necas who increased Carolina possession and finally ended up with Haydn Fleury getting points on a point blow with a shown Tuukka Rask in front.
In both cases, board fights that ended with pucks in the back of the Boston net disappeared. And if Ritchie is not even going to win the board battles, what’s the point of his size and strength leading to the table?
Wednesday’s game was physical to be safe as a playoff, but it was not too nasty to the point where you need Ritchie for scary purposes. The Bruins would be much better off going with the fast, two-way play by Karson Kuhlman in Game 2 on the third line while pushing Anders Bjork to his natural left spot on the third line. That would give the Bruins a much faster third line that could better combat the speed and pressure that hurricanes bring to the table against blacks and gold.
Maybe a healthy scraper would also send a message that there is no place for him in the lineup if he does not resolutely win his physical battles and play up to the size / strength he was blessed with as a hockey player. Either way, the Bruins should learn from some of the mistakes that didn’t end up costing them permanently in Game 1, and Ritchie did too many of them to stay in the Boston lineup.