BOSTON — If it seemed like the first couple months of the NHL season Boston Bruins winger Michael Ryder was trying out centers like Larry King gives wives a spin, you’re right.
Ryder bounced from Marc Savard to Patrice Bergeron before Thanksgiving arrived. Then the day after Turkey Day, he landed on David Krejci’s right wing and scored two goals. To say Ryder has found a perfect fit would be an understatement.
Ryder has scored 14 of his 17 goals on the season in the 20 games since he was joined with Krejci and left winger Blake Wheeler. The Newfoundland native’s two goals today helped the Bruins down Carolina, 5-1 — and both were the result of feeds from Krejci.
“Last year when we were playing against him, I noticed him on the ice – the skill level that he has,” said Ryder, the former Montreal Canadiens sniper, about his current pivot. “And now playing with him, he’s real patient with the puck and he makes things happen and gives me and ‘Wheels’ time to get open and he finds ways to get pucks to us. It’s good when you have a guy that can hold onto the puck and give your wingers time and space.”
Ryder gave the Bruins a 4-0 lead with a backhand shot over the pads of Michael Leighton 7:20 inot the second. Then Krejci pulled out a pass Larry Bird would’ve been proud of — a behind-the-back feed from the slot to Ryder gliding toward the left post. Ryder stuffed it in for a 5-0 lead with 3:55 remaining in the middle period. That pass made Ryder remark that maybe we should “check his head” for eyes in a place they shouldn’t be.
“I kind of was expecting it. I didn’t know if he was going to do it because it was a tough pass and I was just gliding there toward the net and he just threw it behind his back and it was pretty much an open net,” Ryder recalled.
When he decided to sign with Boston as a free agent last summer, Ryder just wanted a chance to play every night and have a center feed him the puck. It was widely assumed that Savard would fill that role, but Ryder’s more than open to taking passes from anyone — especially Krejci. Two years ago when he was a 30-goal man, Ryder benefitted from the playmaking of Montreal captain Saku Koivu. Now he’s found a partner-in-crime in Krejci.
“Yeah, pretty much. Koivu used to do the same thing – hold onto the puck and create plays. And (Krejci) does that too. But they’re a little different players too,” said Ryder.
Koivu and Krejci might be different, but Ryder is the same old goal-scoring threat he was back when Bruins coach Claude Julien had him in Montreal. He was in the doghouse with the Habs, but now he’s in the penthouse — neighboring Krejci and Wheeler.
“Put it this way: he’s just in one of those situations where he is what he is right now,” Julien said of Ryder. “What I mean by that is, the Ryder you see right now is the Ryder that has been a player in the NHL and throughout his young career he’s been like that for the most part. He’s a gifted goal-scorer, he’s a hard worker, he makes things happen when he’s at his best.”