X-Factor: Defensive stalwart Salvador adding points
When the hype machine for the Vancouver-Boston Stanley Cup Final was kicking into high gear last May, Bryce Salvador had just arrived in Minnesota, where he has a summer home, still with no guarantees that he would ever be able to resume his playing career.
Salvador sat out the entire 2010-11 season with a concussion. The Devils missed him as they failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs thanks to a gruesome first half of the season when they went 10-29-2.
Fast forward to now, and Salvador is preparing to play in his first Stanley Cup Final without missing a single game this season. Not only has he worked his way back to his pre-concussion form of being a solid, reliable defender on the blue line, but Salvador has shown in these playoffs that he can throw his weight around in the attacking zone as well.
Defense - NJD
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 11
SOG: 21 | +/-: 10
Salvador has three goals and eight assists for 11 points in 18 playoff games after chipping in with only nine assists in 82 regular-season games. He's stayed true to his defensive roots as the left-side defenseman on the Devils' top pair with Marek Zidlicky -- but when needed he's come up huge with some unexpected offense.
The Devils are 8-0 this spring when Salvador gets a point. He had two assists in Game 4 of the first round against the Panthers for his first multiple-point game since Jan. 23, 2010. He had two more multiple-point games against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It's not yet to the point where the Devils need Salvador's offense to win, but clearly it helps.
"I think there's someone like that every year in the NHL playoffs, whether it's a forward that gets hot or a defenseman that comes out of nowhere or a goaltender that shows up that no one's heard of," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think that's the beauty of the NHL playoffs, and Bryce has been outstanding."
Salvador, though, will try to give the Kings fits more so in the defensive end, and especially on the penalty kill. That's where he makes his money.
He should be making plenty after this season considering he's an unrestricted free agent.
The key to his game is positioning and strength. He is solidly built at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, but he doesn't toss his body around as much as he takes the proper angles to cut off an oncoming rush. He uses his body to rub out forwards on the wall to free the puck and move it up the ice.
Since he plays with Zidlicky, who is the more fluid offensive player, Salvador's goal is to start the rush with a puck-battle win or simply a good first pass, even if it goes D-to-D. DeBoer's aggressive system allows for him to join the rush when he finds it appropriate.
Clearly Salvador is jumping in at the right times. The Devils would love to see more of it.
"The reality of it is the points are great, but what's important is the wins," Salvador said. "If we're not winning, nobody is going to remember how many points you have."