Bruins reward Ryder with more ice time, and he rewards them with a goal

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Bruins reward Ryder with more ice time, and he rewards them with a goal

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Michael Ryder stood in the Bruins' locker room at the TD Garden after Monday's 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils, in which he scored the first goal of the game, and was asked if his mindset had changed after being moved to a line with Gregory Campbell and Brad Marchand.

He looked up, smiled, and came back with a well thought-out answer.

"We have four lines on this team that can play, you know, and playing with Soup and Marchy was a little adjustment," said Ryder.

His response wasn't odd. It was the right thing to say. But approximately 15 minutes later, we found out he had no real reason to be upset with the line change.

He was just being rewarded.

Ryder wasn't ready to throw his former linemates under the bus. He wasn't about to call out Tyler Seguin and Daniel Paille. Because in reality, the swap of Ryder-for-Shawn Thornton was about nothing more than finding Ryder more ice time, something he began to see much less of while on the right wing with Seguin and Paille.

So after back-to-back losses in which the Bruins scored only one goal against Montreal and Ottawa, coach Claude Julien decided to shake things up, for reasons that weren't known until his postgame press conference, minutes after Ryder was peppered with postgame questions of his own.

"What you've got to remember, too, for Michael, is that playing with Seguin and whoever has been on the left wing, Paille and other guys; when you look at their ice time, it hasn't always been to maybe what Ryder has been deserving of," said Julien. "Some way, you try to find him some more ice time. And I think, the more ice time you get, the more you get involved in the game. And I think, putting him on that line, gave him that edge, and with the games we've lost lately, we have to find a little something, and try and tweak our lines here."

It says a lot about Seguin and Paille, who continue to see less and less ice time on a nightly basis. It also says a lot about the contributions that Campbell ("Soup") and Marchand ("Marchy") have made to the team.

But perhaps it says even more about Ryder, a guy who is constantly portrayed as being the first "overpaid" trading chip that should be shipped out of town when it comes time to create salary cap space for the impending returns of Marc Savard and Marco Sturm.

The 4 million winger scored his fifth goal of the season on Monday night. It gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead with 4:34 left in the first period. The Bruins are now a perfect 7-0-0 when scoring the first goal this season.

So needless to say, it was a big one.

"That was part of our game plan tonight, no doubt," said Julien. "The longer you let the other team in the game, the better chance they have of winning. And that's what teams, that come on the road, want to do. They want to stay in there as long as they can. So it was important for us to grab that lead. We seem to be a team that plays better with the lead, obviously, and seemed to build on it, and protect it well. So it was nice to see us get that first goal."

It was also nice to see Ryder get rewarded. And it didn't come while on his new line. He scored on the power play, a 5-on-3 power play, to be exact. He took a Patrice Bergeron pass to the left side of the net, and sniped, short side, from the goal line, on Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur.

"I was looking to pass pretty much the whole time," said Ryder. "I was trying to wait for the right spot, and then it kind of didn't open up, and I looked over and saw Brodeur cheating a little bit, so I just threw it short side on him, and I caught him moving to the left."

Ryder had gone four games without a goal prior to Monday night's win and it was thought Julien wanted more offense, especially in David Krejci's absence. Seeing Ryder's line change at Sunday's practice led to the belief Julien was trying to give Seguin and Paille an offensive boost by adding the energetic Thornton and subtracting Ryder.

It's just the natural reaction when one sees Ryder get bounced down to what was dubbed, unofficially at least, as the Bruins' "fourth line."

Wrong.

Julien has never put a number on one of his lines. So it shouldn't come as a surprise to see Ryder's move as an upgrade in Julien's eyes.

Seguin's line has seen its ice time take a hit. Julien wanted to play Ryder more. He feels he's deserved it.

"He's competing hard, and he comes to play every night," said the Bruins' coach after Monday's win. "He's scored some big goals for us. He's made some big plays, too. You look at some of the assists he's got. They've been some pretty good passes for goals.

"He's into it, there's no doubt," added Julien. "He's confident right now. I guess he's playing on, probably, more confidence than he did at this time last year."
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard

Rask given maintenance day as Bruins return to practice

Rask given maintenance day as Bruins return to practice

BRIGHTON -- The Bruns got back to work on Friday, but were without their No. 1 goaltender for practice at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of their biggest game of the season Saturday night against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center 

Tuukka Rask was given a maintenance day after playing three games in four days, and Matt Beleskey was also missing “on family leave." The off-day for Rask could have very well about getting away from the rink mentally as it was physically; he has a 3-6-0 record during the month of March. 

Interim coach Bruce Cassidy said after practice that he wouldn’t be making a decision on his starting goalie in Brooklyn until Saturday, but it would be stunning if Rask didn't play.

“We’ll see how things clear up . . . and see where we’re at,” said Cassidy of any Bruins lineup changes against the Isles. “We’ll know by then. [The starting goalie] will be determined tomorrow. I don’t want to get out in front of it, to be honest with you.”

Here are the line combos and D-pairings based on Friday’s practice, with Cassidy uncertain of any changes he might make between now and Saturday night: 
 
Marchand-Bergeron-Backes
Stafford-Krejci-Backes
Vatrano-Spooner-Hayes
Moore-Nash-Acciari
 
Chara-Carlo
Krug-McQuaid
C. Miller-K. Miller

Cassidy: Rask 'needed to be better' . . . and Rask agrees

Cassidy: Rask 'needed to be better' . . . and Rask agrees

BOSTON -- It's the wrong time of year for the No. 1 goaltender to struggle. 

But that's what's happening with Tuukka Rask and the Bruins. The former Vezina Trophy winner allowed five goals, including a couple of softies, on 28 shots in Thursday's 6-3 loss to the Lightning, which extended Boston's losing streak to four games. Rask is 3-6-0 in the month of March with a 3.01 goals-against average and .890 save percentage in nine games.

Rask had some good stops early in the game Thursday as the Bruins slogged their way through a slow start, but began to break down at the end of the second period while playing his third game in four days and 59th of the season. Still, interim coach Bruce Cassidy didn't seem inclined to use overwork as an excuse. 

"He needed to be better tonight," Cassidy said of Rask. "We needed to be better in front of him, and he needed to be better on some of those goals, It's March 23, so really, our focus needs to be there. You'd hope it's more fatigue than focus at this point in the year, but I can only speculate."

Tampa Bay's third goal was an odd-man rush with clear breakdowns in front of Rask, but he was also beaten high short side on his glove hand by Anton Stralman while squared to the shooter. Then in the third period Jonathan Drouin uncorked a shot from the face-off circle that beat Rask far-side under his glove hand for the game-winning goal. 

It was a soft goal any way you break it down, and it had Rask accepting responsibility postgame with a voice that softened and trailed off as he copped to his culpability. 

"You have to [pick up your team]," he said. "A lot of the time that's the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there. [On Thursday] I didn't. That's part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it's your fault. There were a couple of times I should've made the save but it happens sometimes . . .

"We're fighting for that last [playoff] spot, it doesn't matter who you play against. There are no easy games and everybody should know that. But, then again, look how we started the game, I don't think that was the plan. We got the late lead [in the second period], but then they came back every single time. Then they extended the lead there and got the win. It was just embarrassing."

The Bruins only hope is that Rask gets it back together and provides the brick-wall goaltending Boston is going to need to prevail in the next eight games. There's a good chance that Boston will be riding him the rest of the way, given Boston's currently narrow hold on a wild-card spot with just a couple of weeks to go.