Ryder sees last season’s offensive dip as team effort
|10.06.10 at 10:33 am ET|
PRAGUE — There’s no hiding how mightily the Bruins struggled in the scoring department in the 2009-10 season. From Blake Wheeler to David Krejci to Michael Ryder, many players saw their point totals take a hit en route to the team finishing with an NHL-worst 2.39 goals per game. After the offseason acquisitions of Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin, both of whom scored in Tuesday’s 7-1 victory over Liberec HC, the team appears — on paper, at least — to be in much better offensive standing than their squad of a season ago. Still, if the team is going to get to the Eastern Conference finals after being eliminated in the second round in two consecutive seasons, they’ll need some of their top scorers, like Ryder to return to form.
Last season wasn’t the first sign of a statistical speedbump from Ryder, who throughout his career has seen his numbers go up and down. In fact, almost amazingly, his points have never increased in consecutive seasons. In his six NHL seasons, his totals have been as follows: 63, 55, 58, 3, 53, and 33, the last two of which were with the Bruins. Though certainly accountable for last season, Ryder has hopes that the team can be more productive offensively. Should that happen, Ryder could be a big part of it.
“It was tough here for everyone,” Ryder said of what needs to change this season. “Even though I didn’t score like I wanted to, I was still third on the team. The whole team struggled to score and it was tough. The one thing we want to work on this year is that we want to produce more goals and try and get our offense going and still keep the defense as solid as it was.”
Ryder has been skating on the third line, centered by Tyler Seguin, with Jordan Caron and Daniel Paille the other wing candidates. The line, formerly made up of Ryder, Seguin and Blake Wheeler before Wheeler was moved to the second line, very much has an x-factor intrigue to it, as Ryder could be either the 27-scorer he was two seasons ago or the 18-goal man who drew the criticism of fans last season.
“We’re still getting adjusted,” Ryder said of his chemistry with the second overall pick. “There are little things we need to work on, like trying to get a feel for where each other’s going to be on the ice. I think that comes with practice. The more we practice and get used to each other, it will come and then after that we can get a little more of a feel for each other and make each other better.”
The 30-year-old winger hasn’t jumped off the page through camp so far, with Peter Chiarelli saying in a conference call last week that he didn’t “mind” Ryder’s preseason performance. Even so, Ryder has been commended by many, including Claude Julien, for looking better prepared and stronger at this point of the process than in seasons past.
Ryder identified strength and bulk as areas in which he aimed to improve over the offseason. As a result, he’s up to 197 pounds and taking a mentality of being more focused on being stronger on the puck. With this season being the last of his contract, he’ll be playing for both his contract and proving to the Bruins that sending him and his $4 million cap hit to Providence should be out of the question once Marco Sturm and Marc Savard return from their respective injuries.