In this week’s edition of Boston Bruins Weekly, the Washington Capitals are officially the Black and Gold’s first-round playoff opponent, Nick Richie wins some hardware, David Pastrank reaches a milestone and more.
Capitals First Round Playoff Opponent
When the Bruins secured a point in Monday night’s 3-2 overtime win over the New York Islanders at the TD Garden, that locked them into the third-seed in the MassMutual East Division and a matchup with the Capitals in the first round of the playoffs that begin Saturday night. With a matchup with Washington comes a matchup with former captain Zdeno Chara, who signed as a free agent in December with the Capitals following 14 seasons in Boston.
This should be a very entertaining series as the two teams have played eight times this season with the teams splitting the matchups. There was also an incident with Capitals forward Tom Wilson, who was suspended for seven games for slamming Brandon Carlo’s head into the glass in a game on March 5 that caused Carlo to suffer a concussion. Washington won Tuesday night’s regular-season final, 2-1, but the Bruins left most of their top players back in Boston and used mostly their taxi squad players and a lot of players from the Providence Bruins, their minor league affiliate, to play the game.
Ritchie Wins 7th Player Award
At the trade deadline in February of 2019, the Bruins acquired Ritchie from the Anaheim Ducks. In seven regular-season games, the 10th overall first-round pick by the Ducks in the 2014 Entry Draft, had one goal and one assist before the season was paused because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the Toronto playoff bubble, things did not go well for Ritchie as he had one goal, a plus/minus of minus-3, and had 16 penalty minutes. With one year left on his contract heading into this season, there was some thought in the offseason if general manager Don Sweeney might try and move him in trade. Good thing he didn’t.
On Saturday, Ritchie was named the Bruins NESN 7th Player Award winner, giving to a Bruins player that goes above and beyond and exceeds everyone’s expectations during the season. The award is voted on by the fans. This season, Ritchie certainly meets that criteria for the award. He is the only Bruin to play in all 56 games, with a career-high 15 goals and 11 assists. He has been a big part of the Bruins’ top power play unit this season with five goals and four assists. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound left wing began the season on the second line with David Krejci, but following the acquisition of Taylor Hall from the Buffalo Sabres, Ritchie has been on the third and fourth lines.
Without a doubt, Ritchie is deserving of the award. In the absence of Pastrnak at the beginning of the season, Ritchie had four power play goals in the first eight Bruins games and was a big reason why Boston began the season at 10-1-2 in their first 13 games.
Pastrnak Scores Milestone Goal
In Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the New York Rangers, Pastrnak scored his 200th career regular-season goal, making him the first player from the 2014 Entry Draft to reach the milestone. The goal was also Pastrnak’s 20th of the season and gives the 2019-20 Maurice Rocket Richard co-winner with Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals his fifth consecutive 20-goal season.
Pastrnak became the third active player in the NHL to score 200 career regular-season goals and 20 playoff goals before the age of 25. The other two players to also do it is Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It is an impressive feat for Pastrnak to reach considering he missed the first seven games of the season recovering from offseason hip surgery.
Kase Returns to the Lineup
After missing nearly four months because of an upper-body injury suffered on Jan. 16 against the New Jersey Devils, Ondrej Kase made his return to the lineup Monday night against the Islanders. Acquired at the trade deadline in February of 2019 from the Ducks for David Backes, defensive prospect Axel Andersson and the Bruins’ 2020 first-round draft pick, Kase played on a line with Curtis Lazar at center and Jake DeBrusk on the left wing.
Kase played just under seven minutes in the game and left in the second period after taking two shots on the net and being on the receiving end of an open-ice hit from Islanders defensemen Adam Pelech. Tuesday, coach Bruce Cassidy said that Kase leaving the game did not have to do with his concussion history, but more of a conditioning issue. His availability for the playoffs remains up in the air.
It’s hard to believe that the 56-game regular season is over and the Stanley Cup playoffs begin Saturday night against the Capitals. Aside from Kase, the Bruins appear healthy heading into the postseason, which is a good thing since they have been battling injuries all season long.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.