After a difficult regular season that included injury, time as a healthy scratch and underwhelming offensive production, Bobby Ryan has emerged as a pivotal contributor to the Ottawa Senators during the playoffs.
In 13 post-season games, Ryan has five goals and 11 points. He had only 13 goals and 25 points during the regular season — with a $7.25 million cap hit. He’s in the second year of a pricey seven-year contract.
He was a dominant player for Ottawa in the first round, and on Saturday, he set up Jean-Gabriel Pageau for his opening goal and then scored the winner in overtime, giving the Sens a 1-0 series lead.
On the goal, Ryan chipped the puck out of the zone and then outraced Olli Maatta for the loose puck before making a move to the backhand on Marc-Andre Fleury.
He’s been a different player in the playoffs.
He did admit following Saturday’s game that it took him a very long time to get adjusted to the system coach Guy Boucher put in place.
“Game 82. It took me longer than most,” he said of getting comfortable with the Boucher system. “I had a tough year with the learning curve. I had some growing pains with it, and I think that’s evident. I think everyone is well aware of that.
“I bought in like everyone else on the team and stuck with it. I’m finally, I guess, getting a reward for it by being here. I said before I would trade all the offense in the world to be in … the Eastern Conference Finals, and pretty happy about it.”
For most of Saturday’s game, the Senators were able to frustrate the Penguins, keeping them off the score board until late in the third period. That set up the opportunity for Ryan, as he sped away on Maatta and finished the game off with a beautiful goal.
Erik Karlsson has garnered headlines for being an absolute star for Ottawa in the playoffs. Pageau has provided plenty of heroics. Ryan has put together some dominant performances, as well. What happened in the regular season seems long ago now.
“I just think that he really became a good, solid two-way player, but that’s what we’ve asked of all our players, whether it’s our defensemen or our forwards,” said Boucher.
“Some guys took a bit more time to be consistent at it, but we’ve seen terrific stretches of Bobby the whole year. For me right now, this is just the finishing part, that’s where it’s paying off. That’s it.”