‘Devils In The Details’
By Sean Hartnett
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Bryce Salvador is proving that old dogs can learn new tricks. Over 82 regular season games, the 36-year-old Devils’ veteran did not score a goal and recorded 9 assists but has caught fire during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Unexpectedly, Salvador has taken his offensive game to new heights. He’s contributed 14 points in 23 postseason games and is a plus-10.
To put things in perspective, Salvador has totaled onlu 23 goals and 79 assists in 692 career regular season games. His reputation has always been that of a typical ‘stay-at-home’ defenseman. Gusty, physical and committed are all adjectives that have been used to describe Salvador’s style of play over his 11-year career.
How about an offensive force? Well, he’s certainly looking like one during the playoffs. He’s come a long way from the guy who was labeling his water bottle ‘No Name-D’ earlier this season for motivation.
Salvador’s 14 playoff points are tied for first among defenseman, equaling the output of Stanley Cup rival Drew Doughty of the Kings. His 10 assists are one below the three men tied for the playoff lead. Salvador is eighth-best among playoff point-scorers and ranks among top-5 in plus-minus.
His steadiness on the penalty kill, team-first attitude, shot-blocking tendencies and unselfish trademarks have always been appreciated by Devils fans and hockey insiders. Add those consistent attributes to his improved offensive game — and the Devils have one heck of a player.
Salvador’s two-way game was on full display in Game 5. Near the midway point of the second period, he showed a savvy patience in waiting for the shooting lane to develop, resulting in the Devils’ game-winning goal.
Later, in the dying moments of the third period, Salvador and Anton Volchenkov built a wall around Martin Brodeur.
They willingly put themselves in the line of fire to see out the victory that extended the Stanley Cup Finals to a sixth game in Los Angeles.
I asked Zach Parise following Game 5 about Salvador’s ability to keep his cool in late-game situations.
Parise replied, “(He’s been) really important even throughout the game. Just the big penalty kills that he has, the patience that all of a sudden he’s got with the puck. I mean, he’s been playing great for us.”
“We had the best penalty kill in the league this year hugely because of what him and Volchy do. They block shots, make it tough for teams to set-up. We know when the game is on the line and we need to protect a lead, he’s going to be out there for us. We all trust what he does, and that’s important.”
Salvador is also making up for lost time. He missed the entire 2010-11 season due to an inner-ear concussion and at 36, is finally taking part in his first career Stanley Cup Final. Judging by his play, he’s grabbed this opportunity with both hands and has undoubtedly been the Devils’ most consistent player during the first five games of the finals.
As for the task at hand, Salvador isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“I think it’s important from our standpoint not to over-analyze the situation. We’ve got to keep winning games. There’s two games left and we’ve got to win them both,” Salvador said during Sunday’s media session.
He continued, “We have to realize there’s a lot of hockey left. (It’s) going to be a tough game. We know they’re going to come out. Their fans are going to be highly involved. I think we’re focused on tomorrow’s game.”
Focus, no doubt is what you’ll continue to see from Salvador, who isn’t taking his eye off puck for a single moment.
How important is Salvador’s contributions toward keeping the Devils alive in the Stanley Cup Final? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.