When Michael Ryder
scored an empty netter late in a 2-0 win by the Dallas Stars over the Anaheim Ducks on March 10 at American Airlines Center, not only did it increase his career-long point streak to nine games but that tally also gave him 30 goals for the third time in his career but for the first time in five years.
The 31-year-old Newfoundland native is in his ninth NHL season but first with the Stars. He signed with Dallas as a free agent last summer after playing for Boston during their run to the 2011 Stanley Cup. But before the three seasons he spent in Beantown he was in Montreal, who drafted him in the fifth round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.
Ryder made his debut for the Habs in 2003, a season he finished with a solid 63 points (25-38-63) as a rookie. However, in his second year with the Canadiens, the first after the lockout, he took his game to a new level, becoming a 30-goal scorer for the first time (30-25-55).
He followed that impressive showing up by delivering a second straight 30-goal campaign the following year (30-28-58), but until this season, he hadn’t reached 30 goals again. He had come close with 27 for the Bruins in 2008-09 but had yet to reach 30 again.
But it isn’t just reaching 30 goals for the first time in five years that is special for the man known as “Ryds”. He’s also pretty stoked about being part of a team currently making a push toward possibly ending a playoff drought that has now reached three consecutive years.
“Yeah, it was the year after lockout, my second and third year. I don’t really know what to say. It definitely feels good to get there. I’m just happy about the situation here to be honest,” Ryder said. “We’re battling for a playoff spot and now we’re first in our division, so that’s the main goal. We have 10 games left now, so I’m pretty much going to focus on doing what I can to help the team.”
Current Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray
was a teammate of his on that 2005-06 Montreal team and he remembers Ryder’s first 30-goal season of his career quite well and adds that he hasn’t really changed all that much since they were fellow Canadiens.
“Well, then I know he had a lot of power-play goals as well. He’s got such a good shot, just good hockey sense. You see him skate and he looks a little unorthodox but he knows where to go. The puck seems to find him and when he gets it on his stick, he can really snipe,” Souray said. “Not much has really changed in that regard. When I look at him, I still think he’s the same guy. Nothing’s really changed. His attitude’s the same. He doesn’t look like he’s aged at all. He’s happy go lucky about the game. I still see him as that guy.”
However, “Hammer” wasn’t the only current member of the Stars who remembers that season well. Dallas second-line center Mike Ribeiro
was also teammates with Ryder and Souray on that team in a season that was his last with the Habs before being traded to the Stars in September 2006.
Some hockey players might not be aware of their numbers or current goal total and while Ryder definitely fits into that mold, he was aware his late goal against the Ducks gave him 30 for the season. “Yeah, obviously I knew it was 30. Not me, it’s nice and everything but just happy to be helping the team and doing what I can,” he said.
That goal would be his last point in his nine-game point streak, which ended on Tuesday night in Minnesota, a streak which in the early stages featured a goal in four straight games. But he’s also had a six-game point streak since the All-Star break and in the 24 contests since the break he has 22 points (11-11-22).
“I didn’t even know [about my recent streak] until someone said something to me I wasn’t even aware of it. It just seemed like I was in the right spots at the right time and they were going in. I just think of it as a line trying to do what we can to help the team,” Ryder said. “It seems like when we play well and contribute we have success getting in the win column. It doesn’t matter who scores or who does what, as long as we contribute on the score sheet as a line that’s the main goal.”
The affable winger was just one several roster additions Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk made last summer, new faces that have definitely had a favorable impact not just on the ice but also in the room.
“I think it’s been a real good fit. We brought in quality individuals. They all brought in pieces of the puzzle that we were missing,” Stars first-year head coach Glen Gulutzan said. “Ryds brought a guy who can put the puck in the net and a right shot, something that we needed here. Our guy Joe’s done a heck of a job in addressing needs.”
Ryder liked the fact that with the Stars he’d be reunited with the likes of Ribeiro and Souray, but there were also other factors in play as to why exactly he decided to come to Dallas.
“Definitely knew when I first got here with the team what we could do. I just wanted to make sure I proved to them I could play in the situations they wanted me to, help this team and score some goals. It’s been going well since I’ve been playing with Ribs and Loui. Earlier I played with Bennie and Loui earlier in the year, mixed around a bit but found chemistry here with these two guys [Eriksson and Ribeiro],” he said. “We’re doing a lot of things well. When we work hard in the defensive zone, it seems like things start there and just go. If you play strong defensively, then everything else falls into place and that’s what seems to be happening for us.”
And while some might have been surprised to see him reach 30 goals again, especially in his first year in Dallas, he wasn’t too shocked to equal his career high in goals.
“I’d scored 30 twice before and then 25 and 27, so I knew that I could score 30 again. It was just a matter of getting that opportunity and getting put into different situations,” Ryder said. “When I signed here, I thought I’d probably get that here and that’s what I wanted to do. I thought that we’d have some success here.”