BOSTON – He captured hero status with two goals and an improbable glove save against Montreal in the first round.
Then he registered just two assists in the blink-and-you-missed-it second-round sweep of Philadelphia.
Now Michael Ryder seems to be in another one of his goal-scoring slumps.
Entering tonight’s Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final with series-leading Tampa Bay, Ryder hasn’t scored a goal in eight games and has just three assists over that span. All three of his points against the Canadiens came in the Bruins’ Game 4 win.
The Bruins’ balanced scoring attack isn’t as balanced as necessary when it’s not getting production from players like Ryder in its bottom six. The veteran winger knows that.
“For sure, you know, it’s definitely been a while [since I scored]. I’m getting some chances, you know, and I’ve got to find ways to get it in the back of the net,” said Ryder after the Bruins’ morning skate today at the TD Garden. “The team needs scoring, we need to find the back of the net and I’m hoping tonight I can do that.”
Regardless of the status of center Patrice Bergeron, Ryder figures to have Chris Kelly back as his center after skating alongside Rich Peverley in Game 1. Kelly was Ryder’s center through the last week of the regular season and first two rounds of playoffs. Kelly gives the line a defensive bent that might keep it on the ice in tougher situations, whereas in Game 1 head coach Claude Julien avoided having Ryder, Peverley and Tyler Seguin on the ice in defensive situations.
The two-way challenge could be greater for Ryder and his mates tonight.
“If we’re out there, we’ve got to make sure we’re responsible defensively,” he said. “And when we get the puck, we’d rather play in the offensive zone, that’s for sure. But when we’re in the defensive zone, we’ve got to be really smart and strong on our sticks. Those guys are skilled players and they make plays. And we’ve got to be ready to shut them down.”
A Bergeron-less lineup would probably keep Tyler Seguin on Ryder’s opposite wing. The veteran and the rookie showed solid chemistry during the regular season and in Game 1, as Ryder sprung Seguin near the red line for his move into the Tampa Bay zone and the subsequent goal that got Boston on the board.
While it might look like Ryder’s focused on finding Seguin sometimes – the two hooked up later in the game on for a pass Seguin couldn’t stuff in past Dwayne Roloson at the right post – Ryder says it’s all part of the flow of the game.
“It just kind of happens,” Ryder said. “He’s got a lot of speed, so maybe I’ll look wide to see if maybe he’s busting. I think he’s pretty good at stretching out the D, he’s pretty quick. So he gives us the advantage that way. But we don’t really look for each other like that. We just try to find the open guys. Segz played well in his first game, the last game, and I think he was excited. Hopefully, he can do the same thing again tonight, work hard and hopefully get better results.”
That could easily be Ryder’s mantra for tonight as well: work hard and hopefully get better results. The Bruins could use those results now the way they benefited from them against the Canadiens.