BOSTON – There seems to be no lengths Michael Ryder won’t go to in order to win a hockey game once the playoffs start.
Ryder, a notoriously poor player in the regular season two years running now, did not score a goal or even register a point in tonight’s Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Montreal two nights after his overtime goal tied the series at 2.
But in Boston’s 2-1 TD Garden victory, he still made a giant impact that went well beyond the three shots on net he recorded or the numerous scoring chances he and linemates Chris Kelly and Rich Peverely created.
In fact, other than goaltender Tim Thomas’ stop on Brian Gionta in the second overtime, Ryder made the most spectacular save of the night .
With 8:19 elapsed in the first period of a scoreless game, Ryder filled the blue paint for a moving Thomas and with his right glove slapped away a sure goal by Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec. Ryder said he’d played goaltender in ball hockey and even as a kid in ice hockey, but obviously he was never in a moment as big as the one he faced against the Habs.
“It was something like a 2-on-1, 3-on-1, and our D went over and they just made a pass in front and I knew Timmy was out of position and I tried blocking any way I can, and ended up getting the glove on it,” said Ryder.
Head coach Claude Julien has stuck with Ryder through all his struggles this season and last. He talked endlessly about how Ryder could be a contributor in the playoffs because the winger has a knack for big situations. There was none bigger than that save.
“This is something that just shows some desperation. He knew where he was, he knew what he had to do and he just desperately made the move. And kudos to him for doing that and certainly not something you practice but desperation makes you do a lot of things,” said the coach.
Thomas called Ryder’s save awesome and joked: “He actually probably knows what it’s like to be one of the old goalies without a mask more than I do.”
There was more to Ryder’s defensive game than even just that save. Late in regulation, he backchecked as hard as anyone ever has to get back and alter a Gionta shot on a 2-on-1. These are all aspects of Ryder’s game we rarely see in the regular season. The backchecking, the hitting, the goaltending … who knew he had so much in his bag of tricks? Well, other than Julien.
Ryder is relishing the opportunity his coach has given him.
“Yeah, I feel good out there. Confidence is back up and I think playing with ‘ Pevs’ and ‘Kels,’ we have chemistry together now,” said Ryder. “We’re getting more used to each other. This is definitely the time of year where you want to play well and try to do anything you can to make your team win.”
Doing anything, even playing the one position no one but the guy in the pads should have to play, is just what Ryder is doing now when it counts the most for the Bruins.