Bruins

Brett Ritchie ready to bring a little more brute force to the Bruins

Brett Ritchie ready to bring a little more brute force to the Bruins

Brett Ritchie might just be exactly what the Bruins were looking for last season.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder isn’t going to be a 30-goal scorer, of course, and it’s still very much in question whether he’d be able to consistently handle the top-6 right wing spot where the Bruins have a big opening headed into this year.

But Ritchie is going to bring added size, strength and toughness as a 26-year-old forward that just a couple of seasons ago scored 16 goals for the Dallas Stars. He’s brawled with big, bad skaters like Colton Parayko and Tom Wilson and he very clearly brings the kind of size/strength combo that the Bruins just haven’t done a good job of developing among their forwards.

Ritchie was excited to sign with the Bruins in free agency on July 1 because he believes that his rough and tumble game will translate into exactly what’s traditionally been the Black and Gold style over the years.

“There’s definitely a size and strength aspect that’s still there in the league even though it’s getting faster,” said Ritchie. “It’s more skilled, but you definitely need that presence. I think I’m a well-rounded guy but I can definitely bring that physical side. St. Louis was in our division and I’ve played against those big and physical teams for my entire career.

“You grow seeing and thinking of the Big, Bad Bruins and [Boston] is a bigger market than I’m used to in Dallas. The winning culture [of the Bruins] is the feel you get playing against them all the time, so it’s definitely exciting.”

Sure, the Bruins still have Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and David Backes on their roster for size, strength and toughness, but those players absolutely needed more help, particularly among the forward group. The lack of true size, strength and NHL nastiness was on display in the Stanley Cup Final when the B’s were pushed around by the St. Louis Blues, and ultimately wore down against the Blues over the course of a long, physical seven-game playoff series.

The brute physicality is something Bruins fans clearly didn’t get enough of last season as attested to by the 29 percent of Bruins fans in the 2019 New England Sports Survey that thought the B’s needed bigger, stronger and tougher players on their roster. Hopefully Ritchie can help in that area a bit and perhaps Trent Frederic as well if the physical bottom-6 center can stick with the Bruins this season after getting a cup of coffee, and his first NHL fight, at the NHL level last season.

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NHL Power Rankings: Big shakeup in the Top 10 this week

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NHL Power Rankings: Big shakeup in the Top 10 this week

Sure, the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs are months away, but it's never too soon to look ahead, right?

The competition for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference could be tight, as several teams have surged forward recently, including the Flyers, Panthers and Canadiens — all of which missed the playoffs a season ago.

The picture is also crowded out West, where not many teams have started to separate from the pack as of yet.

How are the Bruins stacking up after a four-game losing streak? And which teams are making leaps forward?

Click here for Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings.>>>>>>

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David Pastrnak should be a lock in Bruins' shootout lineup going forward

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USA TODAY Sports

David Pastrnak should be a lock in Bruins' shootout lineup going forward

The shootout is a problem for the Boston Bruins, and already this season it has cost them three points. Now, that might not sound like a lot, but in a very competitive Atlantic Division that's shaping up to include five playoff-caliber teams, those points are quite valuable.

The Bruins blew a four-goal third-period lead Tuesday night and ultimately lost 5-4 in a shootout to the Florida Panthers at TD Garden. Charlie Coyle extended the shootout with a third-round goal, but it's Boston's only tally in 11 shootout attempts this season. Only three of the 26 teams that have taken part in at least one shootout have a worst shooting percentage than Boston. 

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy's shootout lineup was a real head-scratcher. Here's a look at the skaters chosen:

Chris Wagner: No goal
Brad Marchand: No goal
Charlie Coyle: Goal
Charlie McAvoy: No goal

The lack of speed and creativity with the puck made Panthers goalie Sam Montembeault's job too easy. Take a look for yourself in the highlights below:

The most curious absence from the above list is David Pastrnak, who leads the league with 16 goals and is tied for second place in scoring with 31 points. Pastrnak is just 3-for-19 in shootouts for his career, but despite this lack of success, he absolutely should be one of the first two shooters in this format, especially when the opposing team has its backup goalie in net, as was the case Wednesday night. The most talented players should be on the ice with the game on the line, and Pastrnak is without question the B's most skilled offensive player. 

Cassidy explained after why Pastrnak wasn't involved in his team's latest shootout loss.

"(Bruins goalie coach) Bob (Essensa) has information on that," Cassidy told reporters. "One thing Bob suggested -- we were going to use Wagner. There was maybe more shooters than dekers against this goalie coming in, but Charlie (Coyle) scored in the shootout shooting. You know, we put Coyle in and recommended shooting. Pasta tends to like to deke, so that’s why we went away from him. He’s been a little bit cold lately in the shootout, so give some other guys an opportunity that we feel can finish. Charlie McAvoy definitely has but didn’t happen."

Pastrnak has shot in two of the three shootouts this season. Jake DeBrusk has taken part in only one. David Krejci didn't shoot in the one game he's played in that ended with a shootout. Patrice Bergeron has zero shootout attempts despite scoring 70 goals over his last 147 games. Bergeron's nine shootout goals are tied for the team lead with Marchand since the beginning of 2012-13. Even defenseman Zdeno Chara deserves a look in the shootout with his powerful slap shot.

Let's be clear: shootouts aren't a new problem for the Bruins.

They actually ranked as the third-best shootout team during the 2011-12 season with 19 goals on 38 attempts, but it's been all downhill since then. The Bruins are dead last in the league with a 20.7 shooting percentage (49-for-237) in shootouts over the last eight seasons, including the current campaign.

We can complain all day about the shootout and say it's a gimmick, and that might be true, but the fact remains it's a very important part of today's NHL. The Bruins' lack of success in the shootout won't hurt them in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it could end up costing them the most desirable seed if the current trend isn't reversed soon. Consistently putting the most skilled offensive players on the ice would be a good way to remedy the situation.

Joe Haggerty: The root causes of this alarming Bruins skid>>>

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