Salvador showing his skills at both ends of the ice

Sunday, 06.10.2012 / 1:56 PM ET / Features
By Dave Lozo  - NHL.com Staff Writer
Share with your Friends

Salvador showing his skills at both ends of the ice

During his 11 NHL seasons and 692 games, the Devils' Bryce Salvador has developed a well-earned reputation as a rugged defenseman who is willing to pound forwards, block shots and do whatever it takes to keep the puck out of his net.

It's taken 23 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs to get people to start looking at him in a different light.

Salvador struck for his fourth goal of the postseason Saturday night -- the game-winner -- as the Devils fought off elimination for the second game in a row by defeating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 at Prudential Center to force Game 6 on Monday night at Staples Center. The Kings lead the best-of-seven series 3-2.

At no point during his career did Salvador register more than 16 points in the regular season. During this postseason, he has 4 goals and 10 assists after posting zero goals and nine assists in 82 regular-season games. His 14 points are tied for most among defensemen in the playoffs along with the Kings' Drew Doughty and have him tied for eighth in overall scoring.

"I went 82 games without scoring, so any goal I can take, I'm taking it," Salvador said while cracking a smile. "I think whenever you can contribute on the score sheet, you enjoy it."

Salvador's second period goal that snapped a 1-1 deadlock had equal amounts of luck and skill.

The Devils were applying pressure and beating the Kings to loose pucks during a shift in which forwards Travis Zajac, Alexei Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson were in such thorough control with their cycle they were able to make a partial line change to get Adam Henrique on the ice to replace Zajac.

The puck eventually came to Salvador, who had Kings forward Jordan Nolan smack-dab in the middle of his shooting lane. Salvador showed the skill of a Nicklas Lidstrom, faking a wrist shot to get Nolan out of position, then benefited from some luck in front of the net when the puck bounced off Kings defenseman Slava Voynov and past goaltender Jonathan Quick for the deciding goal.

"I kind of faked a shot there and bought some time," Salvador said. "I think it went off 16 people and it went in. Clarky did a great job by going to the net and creating a screen, and Poni made a great play bringing it up and passing it across. There's a lot of things that went right on that shift and we got rewarded for it."

That patience at the blue line with the puck has become a trademark for Salvador during the postseason. He has 29 shots on goal, many coming from the point after he has been able to miss an onrushing defender with either a delayed shot or a move to get the opponent out of the line of fire.

"That's something that he's really kind of mastered here over the last month of the playoffs," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "He's had great composure back there for us, getting shots through. We wouldn't be here without him."

Salvador's ability to remain patient was something he showed during the 2010-11 season, one he missed entirely because of a concussion. Teammate and captain Zach Parise, who missed 69 games with a knee injury, went through a similar experience last season as both players sat and watched the Devils miss the postseason for the first time since 1996.

The extended absence has made this trip to the Cup Final even sweeter for Salvador.

"It's definitely a great feeling," Salvador said. "Zach and I joke about it -- this time last year we were worried about tying our shoes up and trying to get into shape. We trained together in the summer, after both missing the season. I think being here is a goal of both of ours. A year ago, we were seeing if we could run on the track and get back on the ice. It's been a great experience. It's one of those things that you enjoy because the team's having success."

The offensive outburst hasn't done anything to take the edge of Salvador's defensive game. He's averaging 22:28 of ice time per game -- second-most among Devils defensemen -- and is plus-10. Salvador leads the team's blueliners in hits (51) and is second in blocked shots (33). With the Devils protecting a one-goal lead, Salvador spent the final 1:36 of Game 5 on the ice with the Kings playing with an extra attacker after pulling Quick.

There's nothing Salvador hasn't done for the Devils in the postseason, and he's a major reason the Kings suffered their first road loss of the playoffs Saturday night.

"It's pretty impressive," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "We're looking for him to score a goal all year, so he peaked at the right time, if you ask me. I think it's great. I think it's well-deserved, especially where he came from with spending a whole year on the sidelines not playing. To be able to come back and have the season he's got, the playoffs he's got, it's a credit to get himself in the best shape he can be and well-prepared."

"He's been playing great for us," Parise said. "We know when the game is on the line, 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."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

Author: Dave Lozo | NHL.com Staff Writer




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


K. Palmieri 82 30 27 3 57
A. Henrique 80 30 20 10 50
T. Zajac 74 14 28 3 42
M. Cammalleri 42 14 24 15 38
D. Severson 72 1 20 -8 21
R. Boucher 39 8 11 -13 19
D. Schlemko 67 6 13 -22 19
J. Moore 73 4 15 -12 19
A. Larsson 82 3 15 15 18
J. Blandisi 41 5 12 -14 17
C. Schneider 27 25 6 .924 2.15
K. Kinkaid 9 9 1 .904 2.81