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Bruins-Lightning Game 5 preview: Five things, stats and players 05.23.11 at 1:12 am ET
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The Bruins learned the hard way Saturday that they need more than a strong start and a big day from Patrice Bergeron to get their third victory of the Eastern Conference finals. After blowing a 3-0 lead in Saturday’s Game 4, the Bruins will be back at home Monday to take on the Lightning in Game 5.

FIVE THINGS THE BRUINS NEED TO DO

Statistically, Michael Ryder is enjoying his best stretch of the season. (AP)

- Take advantage of playing at home/score the first goal. The Bruins don’t want to find themselves a loss away from elimination when the teams head back to Tampa for Game 6, so taking care of business in their own building will be key.

The B’s weren’t able to score the first goal in Games 1 and 2, though they were able to head to Tampa with the series tied at a game apiece. The first goal hasn’t been everything this series, as the team to strike first has gone 2-2 thus far.

- The B’s must get the type of production from David Krejci’s line that made the second round such a walk in the park. Krejci was a minus-3 with zero shots on goal in Game 4, while Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic each had just one shot on goal in the loss.

- The Bruins’ second line probably would be a stinker as well if it weren’t for the redeeming qualities of Bergeron. If it weren’t for a Brad Marchand interference penalty in the second period, there would be minimal proof that the feisty rookie even played in Game 4. Marchand had no shots on goal for the second time this series. The B’s have lost both games in which the 23-year-old has failed to put a shot on net. Mark Recchi is a minus-4 this series and has just five shots on goal.

- Selective memory would probably serve the B’s best after their Game 4 collapse. Remember that it happened, but don’t think about just how much momentum the come-from-behind win could have given Tampa Bay.

- Not that they will, but the B’s should at least give consideration to playing Steven Kampfer. We said it last week, and Saturday’s soft showing behind the net on a costly turnover to Sean Bergenheim only confirms it: it’s worth seeing what Kampfer can do in place of Tomas Kaberle. Kaberle looked better in Games 2 and 3, but if you’re going to give him between 11 and 12 minutes a game and he still finds a way to make them costly minutes as he did Saturday, you’re better off easing Kampfer back in with an 11-or-12-minute night. Kampfer has as many goals this season against the Lightning (two) as Kaberle has had turnovers that resulted in Tampa goals this series.

FIVE CRAZY STATS

- Kaberle’s 11:35 of ice time in Game 4 isn’t just ridiculously low for someone the team invested so much in, but it’s the lowest total that Kaberle – two injury games aside — has played in his entire career. While with the Maple Leafs, he left the team’s March 2, 2007 game vs. the Devils after being blindsided in the second period by Cam Janssen, and he left a Jan. 6, 2004 game with a shoulder injury in the first period. Back then, injuries were all that could keep Kaberle from playing less than 12 minutes. Now, it’s just poor play.

- That stuff about Michael Ryder turning it on in the playoffs is true. Ryder has seven points (3 G, 4 A) in his last five games. He never amassed more than five points in any five-game stretch during the regular season, and this five-game stretch ties for Ryder’s second-best as a member of the Bruins. He had nine points over the Bruins’ first five games of the 2009 playoffs.

- Tim Thomas has allowed four goals four times this postseason, and the Bruins are 3-0 thus far in games that directly followed said performances. Thomas allowed one goal in 89 minutes in Game 5 of the first round after allowing four goals two nights earlier. He followed the team’s 5-2 loss in the conference finals opener by allowing five in Game 2, but the B’s came away with the win. It was after that contest that Thomas really bounced back, blanking the Lightning in Game 3.

- Neither the Bruins nor the Lightning have scored a power play goal since Game 2 of the series. This marks the first time this postseason that the Bruins and their opponent have put up a goose-egg on the man advantage in consecutive games.

- Steven Stamkos is a minus-2 this series, and has only had a positive rating in one game this postseason. The lone positive rating came in Game 5 of the quarterfinals when he had two goals, an assist and was a plus-1.

FIVE KEY PLAYERS

- Whichever Lightning goalie starts. Dwayne Roloson has been chased from two of the series’ first four games, and Guy Boucher has yet to reveal whether Roloson will be a go for Game 5. If Boucher makes a change, it will be Mike Smith, who has stopped all 20 shots he’s seen from the B’s in 60:51 this series.

- Simon Gagne: The veteran winger simply slays the Bruins, and he did it to the tune of three points and a plus-4 rating in Game 4.

- Ryder and Tyler Seguin: In the event that Lucic and Horton fail to step it up and Bergeron’s wingers continue to struggle, the B’s will need the magical Ryder/Seguin duo to light it up the way they did in Game 2. Seguin was on the ice for three of the Lightning’s five goals Saturday, but he’s been second to only Ryder this series as far as who the B’s best winger has been.

- Dennis Seidenberg: One last opportunity to point out that the B’s minute-eating defenseman had seven blocked shots in Game 4. He and Kaberle were out there for Gagne’s game-winner.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Dennis Seidenberg
Michael Ryder says Game 4 will come down to ‘first 10 minutes’ 05.21.11 at 12:24 pm ET
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TAMPA — The Bruins are expecting a big rush from the Lightning at the beginning of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. If they can withstand that, many Bruins feel they’ll have a good chance to win the game and head back to Boston with a chance to clinch on Monday night at TD Garden.

“Definitely excitement, that’s for sure,” Bruins winger Michael Ryder said of the feeling in the dressing room prior to Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game. “It’s a big game, it could be an even series or up 3-1. It’s the biggest game of the series so far. For us, we have to take that mindset. I think we’re ready to go. It’s all about the first 10 minutes of the [first] period. We have to come out hard, throw pucks in and just get that momentum and take it to them quick.”

On the rare occasion this season the Bruins failed to look energized, it seemed to always come on a Saturday afternoon. Daniel Paille says he’s not exactly worried about that today, considering a win will leave the Bruins one win from the Stanley Cup finals and a chance to clinch Monday night at TD Garden.

“There’s no excuse for that,” Paille said of any energy drain from an early Saturday afternoon start. “I think everyone one of our guys and their guys will provide a lot of energy. If you can’t get up for Game 4 in the conference finals, you’ve got a lot of trouble. I know, myself, I’ll be really energized today.”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, Daniel Paille, Michael Ryder
Don’t expect more ‘pond hockey’ between Bruins and Lightning for Game 3 05.19.11 at 1:19 pm ET
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TAMPA — Steven Stamkos may only be 21 years old but he certainly can articulate like a crafty and well-versed veteran in the ways of winning playoff hockey.

He also proved Thursday morning in the hours before Game 3 at St. Pete Times Forum that he was playing close attention to what his coach was preaching and teaching during film analysis of the Game 2 loss to the Bruins Tuesday night at TD Garden.

After the game Tuesday, Guy Boucher spoke of how his team got into pond hockey and lost the race. He told his players in film study that he didn’t want that to happen again, even if it means giving up some scoring chances that came from desperate hockey in the third period.

“I don’t think for us there is a fine line,” Stamkos said. “I think that line doesn’t exist. We don’t want to play that run-and-gun pond hockey. That’s not our structure. That’s not how we’ve won games this year. At the end of the day, we had a lot of scoring chances, probably moreso that any other game we’ve played, maybe all year, but we didn’t win the game. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, Martin St. Louis, Michael Ryder
Bruins-Lightning Game 3 preview at 2:10 am ET
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TAMPA – The Bruins can pick up their third straight road win and first series lead of the Eastern Conference finals with a Game 3 win Thursday at St. Pete Times Forum. The B’s might have momentum on their side, as they took a high-scoring contest Tuesday in defeating Tampa, 6-5. With the number three in mind, here’s a preview of Thursday’s game:

Michael Ryder had two goals Tuesday. (AP)

Three things the Bruins need to do:

- Keep Ryding the hot duo: Whether or not Patrice Bergeron returns to the lineup, any shakeup should not include a separation of Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder. The two have totaled five goals thus far in the series, and their chemistry is evident. The Lightning will try to be more physical to knock the rookie off his game, but Seguin simply needs to show that these games have given him more confidence. Expect him to stay with Ryder and Chris Kelly in Game 3.

- Extend the power play success: Who said this team stunk on the man advantage? Two goals in Game 2 (one of which came with one second remaining after the team failed to score on a 5-on-3) matched their postseason production on the power play entering the night, and there are certainly encouraging nights. Tomas Kaberle played better on the man advantage Tuesday, while Seguin was finally given the opportunity to contribute on special teams and did.

- Tighten it up: As much as Bruins fans can get on board with watching Tim Thomas come up big on multiple breakaway bids, the B’s would just rather they not happen at all. The Bruins could have had a much better defensive effort on Tuesday, and correcting it will lower the number of quality opportunities for the Lightning.

Three crazy stats:

- By scoring three goals on Dwayne Roloson Tuesday, the Bruins bumped the Lightning netminder out of the top spot in postseason goals against average and save percentage. The leader in both those categories now? Carey Price, who posted a 2.11 GAA and .934 in the first round against the B’s.

- The Bruins are 0-2 in games this postseason in which Nathan Horton fails to register a shot on goal. They’re 9-2 when he has at least one. Horton leads the B’s with 13 points, and his 34 shots on goal are second to Bergeron among forwards.

- Only two Bruins players have a minus-3 rating over the last three games. Those two players would be Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi. Think they’d like to get Bergeron back?

Three key players:

- Patrice Bergeron: As fun as the Seguin Show was to watch on Tuesday, the Bruins aren’t kidding themselves here. They need Bergeron back, and after taking contact he could return to the lineup for one of the games in Tampa. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

- Dwayne Roloson: The Tampa goaltender was not as bad as the numbers were on Tuesday, but it will be interesting to see how he responds to being chased for the first time this postseason.

- Johnny Boychuk: The 27-year-old has goals in two of his last three games, but he was positively wretched in Game 2. Boychuk’s sloppiness resulted in a minus-3 rating that would have been worse had the puck he accidentally banked off the skate of Kaberle in front of the net gone in. He ended up playing only 16:06, his lowest time on ice total this postseason.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Chris Kelly, Dwayne Roloson, Johnny Boychuk
Tyler Seguin is finally ready for his moment in the playoff spotlight 05.12.11 at 7:15 pm ET
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He was drafted by the Bruins No. 2 overall in last summer NHL entry draft. He was picked by the Bruins as the face of the franchise moving forward into the next decade.

With the latest concussion to Patrice Bergeron, that moment has arrived faster than anyone could have imagined – or hoped.

But we’re about to find out – ready or not – just what kind of special player 19-year-old Tyler Seguin can be for the Bruins.

“I’m trying to keep as sharp as I can both on and off the ice even though I’m not playing,” Seguin said. “You have to work out pretty hard when you’re not in the lineup and do a lot of hard skates and hard workouts so I feel great.

“It’s been a huge learning curve. My defensive zone has gotten a lot better I think. I also believe on a compete level, my battling skills have gotten better and still improving.”

Veteran Mark Recchi, 24 years older than Seguin, doesn’t think the rookie will be overwhelmed in his first playoff action on the Bruins’ third line with Rich Peverley and Michael Ryder, partly because he’s seen the fire of intense playoff hockey in his recent past.

“His competitive level was huge,” Recchi said. “In juniors, I think he was just so darn good that he could kind of get away with skill. He learned how to compete every night and he learned to be a pro. It was great to see he was willing to learn, he was willing to talk to guys, get better, want to get better and when you have that, you’re going to get better. If you think you’re too good, you’re not going to get better, but he improved tremendously over the course of the season in terms of how hard he competed and it was great to see. This is another level, and he’s ready for it. It will be fun.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Mark Recchi
Bruins not worried about adjusting to new line combinations 05.11.11 at 1:12 pm ET
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At this point in the season, you would expect any team still playing to have its line combinations set, and the Bruins did through the end of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs. But with Patrice Bergeron out with a concussion, Claude Julien has had to shuffle his second and third lines.

Chris Kelly has moved up to take Bergeron’s spot as the second-line center between Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi. Meanwhile, Michael Ryder has switched from right wing to left wing to make room for Tyler Seguin to be the third-line right wing. All that movement and potential unfamiliarity could be reason for concern, but Julien doesn’t see it that way.

“Those guys have gone through those kinds of things throughout the whole year,” Julien said. “I think our guys have been used to playing with each other. Even in practice, we mix and match and you see different pairings at times. I thought our guys adjusted well, and if we did decide to make some other changes, I’m sure it wouldn’t be a big issue.”

One interesting thing to note about the new lines is that the second line now consists of three left-handed shots, while the third line comprises three righties. Kelly said that shouldn’t be an issue, either.

“These guys can pick up passes on their backhand just as easy as they can pick up passes on their forehand,” Kelly said. “So I don’t think it’s anything that you need to think about or worry about.”

Of course, Recchi has played the off-wing for most of the season, so there’s no adjustment there. Ryder, on the other hand, has been on the right side for the majority of the season. Julien said Ryder is just as much at home on the left side, though.

“Mike is just as comfortable playing on the left as he is on the right, that much I know,” Julien said. “So making that change isn’t a big deal.”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Chris Kelly, Claude Julien, Michael Ryder
Six things the Bruins need in Game 6 vs. Canadiens 04.25.11 at 10:42 am ET
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The Bruins are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the third time in as many seasons. Momentum would appear to be on their side, as they have won the last three games of this quarterfinal series vs. the Habs, including the last two in overtime. In order to close it out and move on, they’ll need to win either Tuesday at the Bell Centre (their first trip to Montreal since Bird Gate), or Wednesday in Boston. Here are six things they might need in Game 6:

1. Never underestimate a desperate team

If the Bruins have trouble with this one, perhaps they didn’t learn anything from a certain series last year. The Habs want nothing more than to force a Game 7 in Boston Wednesday, and given that the teams won’t have a day off before the decisive final game, the B’s wouldn’t want to give the Habs that momentum.

2. Get even a fraction of the Tim Thomas they got in Game 5

Thomas has established himself as one of the better goaltenders in the league since making it to the show with the Bruins. In his six-plus seasons in Boston, he’s done some incredible things. He won a Vezina a couple of years ago and figures to win another for this season’s performance. He broke the single-season save percentage record. He’s even racked up 26 shutouts with the Bruins.

Amidst all the great showings the 37-year-old has turned in, Thomas’ performance in Game 5 had people wondering whether, despite it not being a shutout, they were seeing some version of Tim Thomas that is generally saved for special occasions. Thomas’ save on Brian Gionta when the Habs captain and Travis Moen were on a 2-on-1 was sensational, as he didn’t cheat towards Gionta in anticipation of the pass, but was still able to get over in time to make the highlight-reel stop after it. If the B’s can get that type of performance Tuesday, they’ll certainly be hard to beat.

3. Make the power play an actual advantage

This one’s almost like the free space in Bingo. It just goes without saying, so it’s almost cheap to include this among the six. Even if it does go without saying, the power play has gone without scoring for too long. The 0-for-15 mark it’s posted in the playoffs might make one wonder if the team ever scores on the power play. Such questions can be answered with the reassuring stat of the seven goals they’ve had on 80 power plays since acquiring Tomas Kaberle.

4. Watch out for that pesky blue line

The two teams combined for 10 offsides calls in Game 5. While it is perhaps a goaltender’s second-best friend, there’s no better way to disrupt an offense. This is certainly an area in which both teams would like to see less calls.

5. Get the Chris Kelly line the B’s got in Game 4

The Kelly line with Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley was the biggest one for the Bruins in their Game 4 overtime win. While Ryder made two very big non-offensive plays (a nice save and a nifty backcheck), the line’s output wasn’t nearly what it was when it pumped out three goals Thursday in Montreal. Ryder had three shots on goal Saturday, while Peverley had just one and Kelly had none. Kelly was one of only two Bruins players (Gregory Campbell) to have a negative rating on the night.

6. Let Patrice Bergeron line continue to lead the way, and let Milan Lucic shoot his way out of it

There has been no Bruin better than Patrice Bergeron in this series, and given the way Tim Thomas played Saturday, that’s saying something. Bergeron has six points over the last four games, and it seems his work has also elevated the play of Brad Marchand, who has four points over the last four.

Though the Bergeron line has been great, the David Krejci line has been hot and cold. The coldest link has certainly been Milan Lucic, who still has no goals and just one point through five games, though he was more involved Saturday night and led the Bruins with eight shots on goal in the double-overtime contest. If he can keep sending pucks Carey Price’s way, he’ll be able to snap out of it.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Michael Ryder, Rich Peverley, Tim Thomas
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