For the second straight postseason, James van Riemsdyk is reminding everybody why he was the No. 2 overall pick — taken behind Blackhawks star Patrick Kane — at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound power forward is coming off a stellar Game 1 of Philadelphia’s Eastern Conference semifinal against the New Jersey Devils. JVR scored once, put five shots on goal and finished plus-3 in 17:31 of ice time. The ice time total was huge, more than his first two playoff appearances (Games 5/6 vs. Pittsburgh) combined.
As such, he’s being lauded with compliments from teammates and coaches alike.
“He is a beast,” Claude Giroux told CBC. “He looks like the James from last year in the playoffs. He is so strong and so fast. He has everything a player would want.
“He was unbelievable again.”
Daniel Briere, van Riemsdyk’s linemate in Game 1 (along with Jakub Voracek), also heaped praise on the 22-year-old.
“The way he played yesterday was simply amazing,” Briere said. “He changes everything up front. Now we have another player other teams have to worry about it.
“We already have enough offence. Add James to the mix and it’s a big addition. His play in the second and third period, the way he was skating around defencemen and the scoring chances he created on top of that was a huge part of the difference in us winning.”
JVR he missed 39 games this season because of three separate injuries (groin, concussion, foot) but still managed 11 goals and 13 assists in just over half a season. Regular season success has been fleeting but, with his size, speed and ability to drive the net, he’s immensely valuable in the postseason, which is where he does the majority of his damage.
He had seven goals in 11 playoff games last year and looked to be Philly’s most dangerous forward on most nights.
Against New Jersey, he’s using his large frame and parking it in Martin Brodeur’s kitchen. JVR provided the screen on Briere’s overtime winner and Devils coach Peter DeBoer recognized his team needs to do a better job of getting van Riemsdyk out of Brodeur’s way.
“We have to do a better job of boxing out in front of Marty,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said Monday. “We also have to do a better job of limiting the time they spend in our end of the ice. We need to clear the puck out and keep the puck in the other end.”