Since the Bruins returned to action, there have been plenty of mysteries to keep us all busy.
Who’s going to join the informal skate today? Which player is unfit now? What did David Pastrnak do?
At this point, the mysteries above have been solved. “Unfitness” will continue, but the roster is set and we found out that Pastrnak skated in Malden to earn himself the rare double quarantine.
But over the past week or so, a new mystery has emerged: where is Nick Ritchie?
Acquired to add some size and snarl, Ritchie was expected to be a key contributor come playoff time. And while the world has completely fallen apart since those March days, it’s reasonable to assume the Bruins still envisioned Ritchie playing a key role in their middle-six as games resume.
However, he’s kind of just...not around.
When Pastrnak was deemed unfit, there were breathless updates every day on what he could have done, where he was, etc.
With Ritchie, it’s fair to say that his absence doesn’t warrant the level of panic of Pastrnak’s, it’s still pretty weird how there’s really been nothing said, asked, or discovered.
The team confirmed that Ritchie flew with the rest of the playoff roster (excluding Ondrej Kase) to Toronto on Sunday. Other than that...crickets.
Ritchie first missed practice back on July 18 (a Saturday), but returned just a couple of days later (on Monday). He sat out again that Thursday, and hasn’t been seen since.
While it could just be because he hasn’t been asked about it much, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy hasn’t really offered much insight into what’s going on with the big winger.
This is from yesterday:
Pre-practice updates from Bruce Cassidy:— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) July 28, 2020
Pasta "looked great...I'd give him an excellent grade" for Monday's session.
Zdeno Chara is scheduled to return to the ice this afternoon.
Nick Ritchie is not expected to skate.#NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/Cjd1f2AVvD
He didn’t skate again today, and the team didn’t offer much else in the way of updates. He also hasn’t been slated for any media availabilities/Zoom conferences, so it would appear that he’s simply unfit.
Of course, now that this has been posted, he’ll probably start practicing again on Thursday.
Still, the long-term absences of Pastrnak and Kase always seemed like they were related to COVID/travel/quarantine type things, and while guys have rotated in and out of the “unfit” group, it’s usually only for a day or two.
With Ritchie seemingly on the shelf for the better part of a week now, it’s worth wondering if he’s dealing with some kind of injury. It could have been something tweaked during practice after the long layoff, or could have been an aggravation of an existing injury.
It fits with the NHL’s new Cone of Silence™ regarding injuries to players, but the lack of anything concrete is just weird.
It seems unlikely now that Ritchie gets into tomorrow’s exhibition game, and without a few days of practice between now and the weekend, he might miss the round-robin games too.
While his absence wouldn’t cripple the Bruins, it’d certainly shake up the forward lines. Ritchie was brought in almost solely to play a style of game that the Bruins were expecting to encounter in the playoffs, so any extended absence will throw a wrench into the plan that was executed back in March.
Ideally, Ritchie is dealing with something minor and the team doesn’t feel the need to get him back up to speed for the exhibition game (or even the first round robin).
However, if he’s out for a while, the Bruins’ plan to fight physicality with physicality might end up going out the window.