Nick Ritchie didn't play well in his Boston Bruins debut Tuesday night, but to be fair, most of his teammates gave a similarly lackluster performance against the Calgary Flames.
Ritchie did not score a goal, tally an assist or register a shot on goal in 14:17 of ice time. The Bruins were out shot 11-4 and outscored 2-0 during 5-on-5 play when Ritchie was on the ice. The physical forward did have seven hits, but that was more of an indication that the Bruins were chasing the play when he was in the game.
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Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was not shy about calling out his players following a 5-2 loss at TD Garden, but he wisely wants to see more of Ritchie before giving a real critique of his game.
"I thought he was fine," Cassidy told reporters when asked about Ritchie's debut. "I’m not going to judge him on a... he flew in here yesterday. He’s trying to get acclimated. There has to be a decent amount of period before we see what we got, and then go from there. I’d rather not, I’d rather watch some tape and see if, did he finish checks, did he get inside?
"Some of the details he’s going to bring to us. Rather look at the whole group, and we just did not have our — the guys we rely on to play, play well, had a tougher time tonight. And it kind of showed up in the end."
Cassidy made the decision to give Ritchie the first shift of the game, and the chance to develop some chemistry on the third line alongside Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork. The Flames held a 5-1 edge in shot attempts, a 3-0 advantage in shots on goal and a 1-0 lead in goals scored against the Ritchie-Coyle-Bjork line at 5-on-5. This Bruins line also created zero 5-on-5 scoring chances in 4:57 of ice time together.
"Listen, you give him a chance to start. He’s going to get on the ice eventually anyway," Cassidy said. "That was, they just had (Matthew) Tkachuk and (Milan) Lucic, so you put him out there in case if they want — I think Looch is more about being a body, playing here than anything. But if they want to play that type of game early, then we want to be prepared for it and have (Zdeno Chara) back there as well and be ready to bang.
"But that was the thinking there, certain matchups you’re looking for throughout the game. To be honest with you, I don’t know that we ever truly got them tonight where they were in our favor."
Ritchie doesn't have to score goals to be effective. He's doing his job if he's aggressive on the forecheck, winning puck battles to maintain possession and getting to the front of the net where he can screen the opposing goalie. We didn't see much of those things from Ritchie against the Flames, but fortunately for him and the Bruins, they'll be right back on Garden ice Thursday night against another Western Conference contender in the Dallas Stars.