BRIGHTON, Mass. — The emergence of secondary offense has been a big, welcome Bruins storyline over the last couple of games and there is perhaps no bigger example of that than power forward Brett Ritchie stepping up to make plays.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Ritchie played a season-high 13:26 of ice time in the Bruins' 4-2 win over the Leafs on Tuesday night, and also scored the eventual game-winning goal. Jake DeBrusk had a shot deflect off a Toronto defender and the puck bounced right onto the stick of Ritchie, who blasted it home past Michael Hutchinson a little more than six minutes into the third period.
Couple that game-winning strike with an assist in Saturday night’s OT loss to the Leafs, and another pass that could have been a goal had DeBrusk been able to finish a play at the net, and it’s clear that Ritchie’s offense is opening up for the Bruins after a five-game stretch where he went without a point.
“It was coming, you could see it — [Brett] Ritchie’s starting to turn a corner a bit, [Charlie] Coyle and [Jake] DeBrusk, they’ve been closer. They’re on pucks a little better, so I was happy for them to get rewarded,” said Bruce Cassidy of Ritchie, who has skated with Coyle and DeBrusk over the last few games. “Not only that, I thought they did a better job getting out of their end, winning puck battles when it mattered, then it translated in the other end.”
Ritchie is second on the Bruins with 24 registered hits in eight games played, and the big right winger’s ability to control pucks down low in the offensive end and win battles along the side boards has been noticeable. He's even shown an ability to execute passes down low in the O-zone leading to scoring chances. The second effort in those areas has translated into points in each of the last two games and perhaps shows Ritchie’s new team exactly what he’s capable of when his game is in a good place, as it is right now.
“The last few games have been good. I’m always trying to play my game. I’m new to the team so everybody is new to me. I’ve played with Coyle the most of anybody out of the centermen, so I feel like I’m most used to him. But we have four good lines and we are pretty interchangeable. Any one of those lines could be our best line, so where you end up is a pretty good spot,” said Ritchie. “It was a big goal. I’m just glad were able to score and hang on for the win. I’ve had some looks. I was maybe due a little bit. Sometimes they can come in bunches and sometimes they’re spread out, but you take them when you can get them.
“It starts to weigh on guys that you want to score and you want to contribute. I think you get worried if you’re not getting chances to score, but if the chances are there, I think statistics will show they’re eventually going to go in. Pastrnak scores every night, but not every guy is going to score like that.”
With two goals and three points in the first eight games, Ritchie is now on pace for 20 goals and 30 points along with 200-plus hits — and those are numbers the Bruins would gladly take out of him along with his size and strength. It’s certainly helping both Ritchie and the Bruins that he's finding his best game pretty early in his tenure in Boston.
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