By Danny Picard
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."
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