By Joe Haggerty
TAMPA In Game 2, Claude Julien just might have found a permanenthome for 19-year-old Tyler Seguin when it comes to the playoffs. Julien placed the heraldedrookie with Michael Ryder and Chris Kelly, and the three showed chemistry together almostimmediately, tallying four goals in Boston's 6-5 win.
What makes Seguin's stable new home even better for the Bruins, though, is thatit should only help the youngsters confidence after he endureda season of musical chairs and uncertaintywith his linemates.
Seguin skated on the right side with Ryder workingoff the left wing and with the underrated Kelly at center. The trio jolted the Bruins' offense to life and helped the B's even the series with the Lightning, 1-1 after a strong effort that again showed off the B's forward depth.
We put it behind us . . . and its off to bigger and better things, said Seguin. Im trying to bring the compete level and battle level to my game, and it seems to be working out.
The Ryder-Seguin connection has seen plenty of action throughout the season, if not on the scoreboard. Sometimes they looked great. Other times, they were average at best -- and certainly disappeared as Ryder cooled off and Seguin learned the ropes.
But Ryder showed exactly what he can do while riding shotgun and playing against the vaunted Lightning, just as he did during Bostons barnstorming trip through Ireland and the Czech Republic to start the season. He also now has 13 goals and 27 playoff points in 37 career postseason games with the Bruins -- a number that carries plenty of weight after the wingeroft-times waltzing through the regular season. "You look back at some of the stats in the playoffs and what Ryderhas done in the past and even last year, was a real tough year for him," said Julien. "But in the playoffs he was a decent player and Michael Ryder has been really reliable in the playoffs for us ever since Ive known him. There is no doubt he seems to be one of those players that plays his best when the playoffs come around."
On that European trip to start the season, he helped Seguin score his first career NHL goal with his vision and his overlooked passing ability.
In a pass similar to the one that allowed Seguin to break free against the Coyotes in Prague, Ryder authored a near carbon copy at the neutral zone in the second period of Game 2 and Seguin did the rest. He beat Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne Roloson with a schoolyard backhander that was exactly the opposite of the forehand hed utilized two nights before in Game 1.
That synergy between Ryder and Seguin lasted all night as Seguin showed the willingness to take a hit in order to make a play. He risked both life and limb in a way that he wouldnt have earlier in the season.
He made one no-look backhand pass while up against the boards that eventually opened up a scoring chance for Ryder, which Ryder finished.
Ive seen it," Julie said of Seguin's development. "There are times where maybe Seguin would have heard footsteps on that playand would have got rid of it instead, but thats what confidence is, thats what growing is. And thats the part that sometimes can be tough for people on the outside to see. They see the potential, but its our job to work with this guy and help him grow properly.
"And I think right now what were seeing, were not disappointed. There is no doubt we like what we see. And like I said, the timing couldnt be better.
For his part, Ryder has voiced a comfort level with whatever charges might be coming his way, and the line of SeguinKellyRyder is primed to have a very good run. It's due in large part to the play of Seguin as well as the oft-maligned Ryder, who has a knack for stepping up in big games. He's come a long way from a guy with humble beginnings in practice. "First time I met him he came out of Newfoundland and where he lived andhe hardly practiced, he just played games with his team. So he was really really raw," said Julien. "But when he came to our junior team at the time, the Hull Olympiques, I could tell right from training camp he had a lot of raw talent."Hes one of those guys, just like Tyler Seguin, that had to grow through this in his first year, not used to practicing or being on the ice everyday, and thats where he earned the nickname, Easy Ryder, because there were some days where he would have preferred being off the ice."One thing is for sure: Ryder paired with Seguin during this year's B's playoff run is a long way from his "Easy Ryder" days.