Bruins

Wednesday, July 6: Larsson not enough of a return for Taylor Hall

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Wednesday, July 6: Larsson not enough of a return for Taylor Hall

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while finding a way to beat the heat on what’s expected to be a scorching hot July afternoon. 
 
-- Travis Yost says that one-dimensional defenseman Adam Larsson wasn’t enough of a return for Taylor Hall. 
 
-- Here are a few minutes from Vancouver sports radio, where they’re expecting Loui Eriksson to play “an integral leadership role” for the Canucks. My take: Eriksson is a fine two-way forward and will be good playing with the Sedins, but he's not a leader. He’s a perfectly good guy in the room and somebody that will have some very good games for the Canucks, but not the kind of guy that’s going to help whip an underachieving team into shape.  

-- Down Goes Brown puts the spotlight on the offseason for all of the NHL clubs, and what the 30 franchise had been up to over the last few weeks. 

 -- Lars Eller is beginning to make himself at home in Washington after getting dealt away from the Montreal Canadiens. 

 -- PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the Chicago Blackhawks signing energy guy Jordin Tootoo to a one-year contract. 

-- Where is Theo Fleury these days? He’s outspoken about substance abuse and trying his hand as a country music singer
 
-- You might be shocked to see this, but the Boston Bruins aren't listed among the five most improved teams in the Eastern Conference
 
-- For something completely different: The Blade Runner from South Africa is sentenced to six years for murder
 

Sorry, Bruins fans: bigger doesn't always mean better

Sorry, Bruins fans: bigger doesn't always mean better

Before we begin: No, I have never gotten my ass kicked.

Celtics fans have a reputation for being sheep, but man, when it comes to predictability there isn’t a group of dummies easier to impress than Bruins fans.

Still haven't gotten my ass kicked. Probably getting closer, though.

All you have to do to win over the Bruin brigade is get someone tall and/or "physical." No one will be more willing to overlook actual effectiveness than B's fans. This is especially the case when swapping out a “softer” (though perhaps better) player.

Reilly Smith for Jimmy Hayes? Downgrade, but fans were ecstatic.

Use Loui Eriksson’s money to sign David Backes? Downgrade, catastrophic move, but fans were ecstatic.

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We got another installment this week on deadline day when the Bruins traded Danton Heinen to the Ducks for Nick Ritchie in a swap of disappointing 24-year-old left wings.  

The national reaction was not kind to Ritchie. The NHL Network's panel was particularly brutal in calling him in an overweight underachiever. 

But around here? Hoo boy, what a coup! We saw 6-foot-2, 234 pounds, 10th overall pick and a bunch of penalty minutes and dusted off Milan Lucic's 2011 jersey. 

I'll admit that as soon as I heard the Bruins traded for Nick Ritchie, I was confused. I remembered his name from the draft, but was unaware that he'd become a good player. And if he was a good player, why was he being traded? He was surely still young, unless I'd misremembered. 

Nope. He was drafted in 2014, same as Heinen. Had 14 goals as a rookie, but hasn't come close to that since. He does have eight goals in 41 games this season, but his shooting percentage this season is an absolute outlier for his career (11.4; his career shooting percentage prior was 8.3). His 19 points are aided by a four-point showing in his final game with the Ducks, the only multi-point game he's had this season. 

He does have 78 penalty minutes, but none of them are from fights. Just misconducts and tripping players who skate past him because they're faster. 

He was fifth on the Ducks in hits per 60, if you want to bring that up, but you shouldn't.  

The same people who like the "hits" stat are often the ones who discredit possession metrics. But "hits" is unquestionably a possession metric. It means you don't have the puck. There is a reason that eight of the top 15 teams in the league in hits are non-playoff teams. They are chasing the play. 

(And by the way, the Bruins are eighth in the league in hits. They absolutely don't need to "hit" more.)

So that's Ritchie in a nutshell; a not-so-good player, but I'm rooting for him. If his acquisition were met with an "eh, maybe he'll uncover something in Boston he hasn't been able to find before," this pretentious-ass column wouldn't be required.

But it wasn't, and here we are. 

And I'll say that I was totally cool with moving Heinen. That guy's arrow was pointing in the wrong direction after an impressive rookie year and so-so sophomore campaign.

So I would have traded Heinen and some combination of picks and prospects for a sure thing. If Nick Ritchie and some cap savings (which you could get anyway by trading Heinen in the offseason) was the best I could do, I would have probably passed. Heinen is not much of a loss (not the way he's played this season, anyway), but Ritchie isn't much of a gain. 

Maybe Ritchie does find new life in Boston. Maybe he becomes a good third-liner. Hell, maybe he scores early in Game 7 of the Cup Final when the other team's goalie is an absolute mess. That was the real reason the Bruins didn't win last year, not because they weren't tough enough. 

Nick Ritchie set to make Bruins debut tonight; Ondrej Kase sitting out

Nick Ritchie set to make Bruins debut tonight; Ondrej Kase sitting out

BRIGHTON, Mass. — The Bruins will get a look at one-half of the two new players brought in at the trade deadline as big, physical winger Nick Ritchie will be in the B’s lineup against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

Ritchie got into Boston around 10 p.m. last night after a coast-to-coast flight from California and will play on the left wing alongside big-bodied Charlie Coyle and speedy Anders Bjork in a new-look third line.

The pairing of the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Ritchie with the equally big-bodied Coyle gives the third line a bruising, heavy dimension that they haven’t had as of late, and brings some interesting options to the table for Bruce Cassidy's club.

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“He’s a big-bodied guy that’s played in the league. He should be able to come in and contribute with a net-front presence, a good shot and better hands than he’s maybe gotten credit for,” said Cassidy of Ritchie, who scored two goals and four points in a Sunday night game against the Golden Knights. “We had some discussions with people in Anaheim about what he can bring and his best attributes, and we’ll try to get that out of him. He’s a tough guy, so he certainly takes care of that part of the game.”

While Ritchie is going to play in his first chance with the Black and Gold, right winger Ondrej Kase is going to sit out Tuesday night in favor of Karson Kuhlman as he continues to recover from a suspected concussion that’s had him out of the lineup since Feb. 7.

Kase may get back into the lineup on Thursday night in a tilt against the Dallas Stars, but Cassidy wanted the skilled 24-year-old to get into a few practices before suiting up for game action.

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Flames based on Tuesday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena:

PROJECTED LINES

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk David Krejci Karson Kuhlman
Nick Ritchie Charlie Coyle Anders Bjork
Sean Kuraly Par Lindholm Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk Jeremy Lauzon

STARTING GOALIE

Tuukka Rask