Once a Bruins foe, James van Riemsdyk has found a familiar home in Boston.
Van Riemsdyk has donned a Black and Gold sweater for just 23 of his 963 NHL regular-season games. He’s more known as a thorn in the Bruins’ side as a top-six stalwart with the Flyers and Maple Leafs.
In 49 career regular-season games against the Bruins, van Riemsdyk posted 18 goals and 19 assists, while more than a third of his 71 playoff games have come against Boston.
A 6-foot-3-inch winger capable of generating Grade-A chances by way of screens or slick seam passes, van Riemsdyk has made a living out of planting himself near the crease.
Van Riemsdyk’s allegiances shifted when he signed with the Bruins, but the 35-year-old’s game hasn’t changed much whenever he hops over the boards.
And so far, the Bruins have reaped the rewards.
“He’s holding on to pucks a lot more than I think he’s ever done — in a while, anyway — in his career,” coach Jim Montgomery said Wednesday. “But what he’s added to us, one of the things we like to track is net-front battles. We seem to win that almost every night this year, and he’s one of the leaders in that.”
Signed to a one-year, $1 million deal in July, van Riemsdyk has been one of the best value adds across the NHL.
According to CapFriendly, van Riemsdyk ranks 17th in the NHL in cost per point ($62,500) with five goals and 11 assists in his first 23 games.
Twelve of the 16 players in front of van Riemsdyk are rookies on team-friendly, entry-level deals, such as Anaheim’s Mason McTavish ($42,579), Detroit’s Lucas Raymond ($46,250), and Chicago’s Connor Bedard ($47,500).
After scoring just two goals and 4 points on a toothless Flyers power play in 2022-23, van Riemsdyk already has three goals and four assists on the man-advantage this season.
“They’re just smart players, so they know the times to move the puck, the times to hold it, the times to shoot it and things like that,” van Riemsdyk said of playing alongside David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand on the power play. “It seems like a simple thing, but when you make the right plays at the right times, it really helps open a lot of things up for everyone else.”
Van Riemsdyk also has established himself as a veteran resource in a dressing room anchored by Marchand.
“You knew how dialed in he was and how much he loved the game and stuff like that,” van Riemsdyk said. “But I think it’s always kind of fun and funny in a way when you battle with a guy for so long and then you get on their side and you realize how great of a guy they are. I think that’s the fun part of the game where you have these rivalries over the years and a lot of hotly contested games and things like that. And then when you get on the same team, you kind of get to see behind the curtain a little bit more and realize what the other person is really all about.”
Van Riemsdyk shared a sentiment routinely echoed by other players who land with the Bruins, where a culture cultivated by the likes of Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron has made for an easy transition.
It might just be 23 games, but van Riemsdyk already feels settled into his new home, and that seamless fit has been reflected on the scoresheet.
“You always hear about things. But until you experience it, you don’t really fully know,” van Riemsdyk said of playing in Boston. “There’s not any stones unturned as far as guys’ resources that they have available to us as far as the different avenues to help us be prepared to be at our best on the ice and take care of us off the ice mentally, and things like that. It seems like the group really tries to take care of each other. That’s been fun to be a part of.”
Area of focus
After allowing another last-minute goal to the Maple Leafs last Saturday, the Bruins closed out an extended practice with a spirited six-on-five session in an effort to snuff out opponents’ late rallies with the goalie pulled . . . Montgomery voiced his displeasure earlier in practice, abruptly stopping a two-on-two drill in order to harp on his defensemen’s struggles with getting under sticks and pushing skaters to the outside.
Conor Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.