Ryder finally puts it all together for playoffs

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Ryder finally puts it all together for playoffs

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON It was refreshing to hear that not even Claude Julien the veritable king of the Michael Ryder Fan Club can explain exactly what flicks the switch on and off for the streaky Bruins winger.

Julien has coached Ryder on four stops along his hockey career: in Quebec Major Junior League hockey with the Hull Olympiques, in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs, and in the NHL with both the Canadiens and the Bruins. Ryder has played some of his best hockey under Julien, but, when asked how hes able to get the mostout of the veteran forward, the coach basically threw up his hands.

Well, obviously, I dont all the time, said a smirking Julien. I wish I could.

For now, though, the switch is as on as its been all season. Ryder scored twice, including the game-winner, in the Bruins' Game 4 overtime victory in Montreal, and in Game 5 he turned defensive and made a for-the-ages glove save on Tomas Plekanec with Tim Thomas far from his crease. Thomas authored his own show-stopping piece of goaltending thievery on Brian Gionta in the second overtime, but The Save by Ryder was truly something to behold.

In a strange sense, Ryders willingness to stand up and face a Plekanec shot head on and go right into glove-save mode -- rather than protect his face or body -- is more telling than an entire tape recorder full of 60-minute effort and put-the-biscuit-in-the-basket clichs.

I feel good out there. Confidence is back up and I think playing with Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, we have chemistry together now, said Ryder. Were 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.

The save was the ultimate evidence that Ryder is fully committed, and it showed a focus that too often strays during the regular season.

Michael Ryder is one of those guys that when hes on his game, as you can see, hes a very good player," said Julien. "Saturday, when he made the save, he showed another side of him . . .

"I think hes really feeling good about his game right now. Hes certainly been a pretty good player for us in the last few games. And hes just one of those guys who, believe it or not, can be a difference-maker. Ive seen it in the past and I know that.

He was brought in here as a free agent in 2008-09 to be an addition to our hockey club . . . and he had that first year where he scored the types of goals we thought he would, or the amount he would (27 goals, compared to 18 each in both 2009-10 and 2010-11). Hes had challenges in the last couple of years. But this is a situation where you remember players for how they finish, not how they start. Mike is having a pretty good playoffs so far and hopefully he continues to do that.

The challenge now is to keep up the intensity and maintain that production. Its no coincidence Ryders scoring chances have increased as Kelly and Peverley have started dominating Montreal's struggling defensemen (Hal Gill and P.K. Subban in particular).

Its that production which rewarded Julien for showing faith in Ryder and Kelly while the team struggled to generate offense early in the series.

Thats the bottom line. At the end of the day you have to believe in the lineup that you have," said Julien. "If you feel its the best lineup, there's no need for a change . . . And, again, this is a process of not just one guy but a whole organization . . .

We talk and you have discussions and you share thoughts and at the end of the day you make a decision, and, yes, the final decision probably ends up on my shoulders. But we really felt our hockey club as a whole could play better.

Both Ryder and the hockey club have been playing better for the last three games, and now is the time for both of them to show some of the consistency thats eluded both player and team this season.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.