Bruins

Bruce Cassidy could embrace a youth movement this postseason – and it might be Bruins’ safest bet right now

(Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The reasoning was clear when the Bruins pulled the trigger on a pair of deals with the Anaheim Ducks back in February.

In exchange for David Backes, Danton Heinen, Axel Andersson and a 2020 first-round pick, the Bruins scooped up a pair of wingers in Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie — both drastically different players, but each with a unique set of skills designed to complement a top-heavy forward corps for Boston that was in need of some skill and size.

In Kase, the Bruins received a smooth-skating winger with a tendency to pepper the net on every shift (10.54 individual shots per 60 minutes over last two seasons) — making him a natural fit next to a playmaking pivot like David Krejci. 

In Ritchie, the Bruins swapped Heinen's versatility and defensive contributions for a physical power forward that could significantly boost his value during the slog that is playoff hockey — with the 6-foot-2, 225-pound forward's knack for entrenching himself around Grade-A ice (0.87 individual expected goals per 60 minutes) offered some intrigue for a Bruins club in need of more consistent 5v5 scoring.

While Boston's hopes of orchestrating another deep Stanley Cup run this spring were going to hinge on the play of franchise cornerstones such as Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka RaskDon Sweeney's deadline moves were expected to a correct the few evident flaws on this B's roster, potentially putting a motivated group over the top with playoff hockey around the corner.

Now, after a four-month break, there are just two more practices that separate the Bruins from a resumption of play, starting with an exhibition matchup against the Blue Jackets on Thursday.

There stands a good chance that both Kase and Ritchie will not be present for that matchup — if not even longer in Kase's case.

Along with the uncertainty surrounding Kase after missing the team charter Sunday evening, Ritchie has suddenly found himself behind the eight ball as well. Despite traveling with the club up to Toronto, Ritchie has not skated in five straight practices — including both of the club's on-ice sessions since arriving in Toronto.

Now, for the time being, the Bruins have a number of younger options that could slot into the vacancies created by Kase and Ritchie, with 21-year-old Jack Studnicka and Anders Bjork both skating next to Krejci and Charlie Coyle, respectively, during each of Boston's two practices at the Ford Performance Centre up in Ontario this week.

It could very well be a temporary solution for Cassidy and his staff, as both Ritchie and Kase, fingers crossed, could be back in the fold and regularly participating by the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, if not the later stages of the round-robin tournament.

But, by that point, there's no guarantee that those middle-six vacancies might remain open.