Bruins turn Islanders into carved-up turkeys
|11.28.08 at 4:14 pm ET|
What are all the inflammatory Bruins-haters going to point to now that the easy-to-slam punching bag — after a strong two-goal performance in a 7-2 win for the Bruins over the Islanders — isn’t quite such a stationary target any more?
Easily satisfied critics searching for something with a little juice have gone hard after winger Michael Ryder since he entered the Black and Gold fold this off-season, and things only got worse when the Bruins took off as a team — while leaving Ryder behind in a sad little cloud of ice chips. The Bruins piled up a 9-1-1 record during the month of November heading into Friday afternoon’s tilt against the New York Islanders, but Ryder’s mad bomber wrist shot managed only one goal during those 12 days of team hockey dominance.
“When they want you to score and that is the role they see you in, it can be tough when you’re not scoring,” said Ryder, who had the grin of a man that had just shed a 30-pound monkey off his shoulders. “I just need to make sure I keep going to the net and shooting pucks and eventually they will start going in.”
The unforgiving cold metal of the red pipe and the lighting-fast action of a goalie’s gloves had become the bane of Ryder’s puck existence while the righty shooter accumulated only three goals in his first 22 games.
Ryder was inked to a three-year contract this summer — amid criticism that the Bruins were wasting money on a disappointment fleeing from Montreal and Canadiens’ coach Guy Carbonneau’s “maison de chien” — with the idea that he would fire goal-scoring wristers in bunches for the Spoked B’s, and it was the one glaring thing that really wasn’t clicking at overwhelming capacity during Boston’s storybook first two months.
He was certainly playing good two-way hockey and getting himself involved physically, passing the puck and firing away at the net with impunity from his customary happy zones around the net (Ryder is second on the team with 66 shots fired this season), but he wasn’t lighting the lamp and he wasn’t getting it done on the power play. Sensing it was time to shake things up with a player he’s coached at the junior, minor league and pro level, B’s coach Claude Julien once again pushed the perfect buttom at the precisely correct moment. He lifted Ryder off the first power play unit in favor of the active, rugged Chuck Kobasew, and he played the former Habs forward on a line with crafty centerman David Krejci and rookie wonderboy Blake Wheeler.
Problem solved…that was easy.
The kids apparently sparked the 28-year-old Ryder, who potted a pair of goals in the drubbing of the Islanders during their traditional day-after-Thanksgiving matinee at the TD Banknorth Garden. The first was a thing of hockey beauty as it came after a bad Islanders turnover in their own zone. An errant New York outlet pass ended smack dab on the blade of Ryder’s stick and he simply took a step in, fired a wrist shot at the top right corner of the cage and beat netminder Joey MacDonald under the crossbar. The goal was officially ruled an unassisted tally for Ryder, but Krejci was a big factor as he jumped up and screened the Isles goalie directly in front of the net as the puck careened toward the goal.
The second goal was a protypical Ryder strike with the forward’s quick release and dead-shot accuracy on display as he whistled a shot from the high slot that beat Isles rookie goalie Peter Mannino’s glove hand.
“[Ryder’s scoring] means more depth obviously in that area. We know that one of his strengths is scoring goals and we like him to play to his strengths,” said Julien.”We’ve been saying for numerous weeks now that he’s had some great chances, it’s not from lack of trying, or from lack of work.
“I think he was snakebitten, personally, for a while. But at the same time he was still playing other parts of the game really well, he was being physical, strong on the boards, good defensively,” added Julien. “You can jump on a guy for one dimension of his game but you also have to recognize the other things he’s been doing.”
It is uncanny that both Ryder and Marco Sturm squelched their offensive struggles almost immediately after being getting in touch with the deft offensive instincts displayed by Krejci throughout the early going.
It’s a hockey fun fact that wasn’t at all lost on Julien.
“Whoever you put [David] Krejci with it seems to get them going so he’s done a great job and whether that’s intentional or not, Sturmy [Marco Sturm] started scoring goals, now we’ve got [Michael] Ryder,” said Julien, who watched Ryder, Wheeler and Krejci each pile up a +3 after an afternoon’s worth of hockey. “We’ve got Koby [Chuck Kobasew] also scoring on Bergy’s [Patrice Begeron] line, so we got scoring from our different lines tonight and that was good to see as well.”
The only problem with Ryder’s goal-scoring binge? Those easy-to-please critics will have to find something shiny and new to rail on now that the goal-scoring punching bag is no more.
Foes are impressed
The Bruins and their 15-4-4 start are obviously beginning to pry open unbelieving eyes all over the world of the National Hockey League, and they’re duly impressing alumni that have since moved on to other NHL barns. Old Friend Bill Guerin was leading a scrappy Islanders squad that visited the Garden yesterday, and he came away a believer when it comes to a Big, Bad B’s squad that’s trampling the Eastern Conference like an in-his-prime Godzilla stomped all over Tokyo.
“[The Bruins] played great tonight. They have a scary combination: they’ve got size and talent,” said Guerin, who was stoned by goalie Manny Fernandez on a breakway attempt in the third period that became a huge momentum-shifting turning point during the game. “A lot of their big guys have real good talent to go along with it. You don’t see that a lot. They have got a lot of tough players to play against. Everybody on their team does something. They had a good game today. You have to tip your hat to them.”
Strong words from a Massachusetts-born veteran forward that tallied 66 points for a 2001-02 Bruins squad and finished the regular season with 101 points and the Eastern Conference’s best record that season. Of course, the B’s also fell tragically in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs that season, but we won’t be making big mention of that.
Deep is the Word
The Bruins debuted their “Black Friday” third jerseys during Friday’s noontime tilt against the New York Islanders, and the skaters responded by finishing with an amazing seven players notching multiple-point games. Ryder finished with the aforementioned two goals, and Dennis Wideman, Blake Wheeler, Krejci, Matt Hunwick, Phil Kessel and Marc Savard all finished Friday’s afternoon beatdown with two points apiece on the full scoresheet.
“That’s the perfect world for any team when you can throw any line out there and you have confidence that they’re going to be successful and that’s kind of been the staple of our team this year,” said Wheeler, who potted a goal and squeezed off two shots in another strong game for the first-year player in 11:22 of ice time. “That we have four lines that can pretty much cycle through all four of them and they’re going to go out there and ge the job done and that’s the biggest testament to our success this year.”
Looch Celebrates a Milestone
Milan Lucic played in his 100th game as a Boston Bruin Friday afternoon, and he came up just a goal short of the elusive Gordie Howe Hat Trick against the down-and-out Isles. Looch made a nice backhand pass that set up Phil Kessel’s 12th goal of the season in the waning moments of the third period, and — of course — the butt-kicking, brawny Bruins winger dropped the gloves with Islanders Big Guy Brendan Witt in the immediate aftermath of a Dennis Wideman scored that had made it a 5-1 hockey game.
Here’s the post-Thanksgiving Lucic/Witt fisticuffs courtesy of youtube, with a fairly close judge’s scorecard decision going to the Big, Bad Looch: