Is it possible to have a coming-out party at 36 years old? Because Bryce Salvador seems to be having one. The Devils defenseman has 10 points this postseason while logging an average of 22:29 per game. In 50 previous playoff appearances with New Jersey and St. Louis, he had four points.
“I think there’s someone like that every year in the NHL playoffs,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said today. “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. I think that’s the beauty of the NHL playoffs. And Bryce has been outstanding.”
New Jersey’s defense isn’t at all daunting on paper. Salvador, Marek Zidlicky, Andy Greene, and Mark Fayne each average over 20 minutes per game. Not one of them is in the Norris Trophy conversation. They’re not even in the same room the conversation is happening.
Yet the back end is absolutely essential in executing the Devils’ tenacious forecheck.
“Once our ‘D’ started to be allowed to jump into the play and get involved in the offense, it opened some things up for everybody,” Zach Parise said last week.
“It opens up second opportunities. You’re allowed to get more offensive zone time. They’ve done a great job in the playoffs keeping pucks alive, keeping cycles going and really hemming teams in their own zone. From a forward’s standpoint, it’s kind of a relief to get those ‘D’ men involved. It just makes life a lot easier.”
For Salvador, playing DeBoer’s system didn’t come naturally.
“I think throughout the season the pressure system that we play, the offensive zone, and getting the defense to be more involved in the pinching and playing live in the offensive zone, it was a learning experience for us,” Salvador said today.
“You just have to give [DeBoer] credit that he had the patience and the belief to stick it out and then once we are starting the success we had from it, it was an easy sell going forward.”