The Bruins will be going with a heavier look to start the second-round series against the bigger, tougher Tampa Bay Lightning when they drop the puck for Game 1 on Sunday night.
Big winger Nick Ritchie was scratched midway through the series against the Carolina Hurricanes when the speedy style of play left him a bit behind, and after he’d lost some battles on the walls that led to goals against.
But Ritchie will be back in at his customary spot on the third line to start Game 1 in what’s expected to be a much more intense, physical playoff series.
Ritchie will be joined by Anders Bjork back in the B’s lineup as rookie Jack Studnicka and fourth-line center Par Lindholm will both be scratched for the first game against the Lightning.
“They’ll play as a line [for Game 1] and see how they do. Ritchie, we expect to be a little better on the walls. He’s obviously, with active D for Tampa, as much in the O-zone as anywhere, he has to be aware of his coverage in D-zone. Getting inside, Charlie [Coyle] is a good puck protection guy [and] can separate. Hopefully, Nick can learn to find those soft spots in the O-zone, preferably around the net,” said Cassidy. “Sometimes you can’t always just park yourself in the crease if plays die, then you’re the last guy out of the zone. But, slot, net front [is his area].
“With Anders, it’s capitalizing on some opportunities, obviously he’s had a few. Just a consistent game. Hound pucks. Be a good complimentary player for those guys off the rush. He can certainly get inside ice on his off wing.
"And obviously, defensively like everyone on our team [he needs to] be accountable and block a shot when it’s your turn to block a shot. Get the clear when it’s your turn to get the clear. Skate it out when the opportunity is there. We’ll see how they do.”
Even though Ritchie was largely ineffective and behind the play against Carolina, he did manage to throw the body around a bit and take Hurricanes defenseman Joel Edmundson out of the series after a heavy hit early on. With Ritchie and Bjork flanking Charlie Coyle on the third line, Sean Kuraly will drop back to the fourth line center spot with his usual linemates Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom.
The back end will stay the same with Connor Clifton sticking around the lineup after a strong showing against the Hurricanes where his puck-moving, occasional offense and willingness to agitate was very effective once he spelled Jeremy Lauzon in the lineup.
Otherwise, the group that closes out the Hurricanes in five games will be the same for the B’s as they drop the puck against Tampa in what’s expected to be the marquee matchup in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings for Game 1:
|Brad Marchand||Patrice Bergeron||David Pastrnak|
|Jake DeBrusk||David Krejci||Ondrej Kase|
|Nick Ritchie||Charlie Coyle||Anders Bjork|
|Joakim Nordstrom||Sean Kuraly||Chris Wagner|
|Zdeno Chara||Charlie McAvoy|
|Torey Krug||Brandon Carlo|
|Matt Grzelcyk||Connor Clifton|