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NEWARK, N.J. -- Bryce Salvador may have been a so-called "no-name defenseman" going into the Stanley Cup finals.
He isn't anymore.
"I don't know how you couldn't know him," fellow New Jersey Devils blueliner Mark Fayne said after Salvador scored the decisive goal in Game 5, a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
"If you watch any highlights from the playoffs, he's gonna be on them. He's just been a horse for us."
Salvador, 36, has been known throughout his decade-long career as a stay-at-home defenseman, always making the intangible plays -- blocking shots, closing off offensive players on the rush or killing penalties -- that don't show up in the box score.
|Everybody wanted to hear what Bryce Salvador had to say after his Game 5 heroics.|
But ever since the 2012 playoffs began, Salvador has added a never-before-seen offensive dimension to his game. And that dimension was on full display Saturday night.
With 10:55 remaining in the second period and the score tied at 1, Salvador patiently waited for a shooting lane to open before firing a wrist shot from the left point. The puck deflected off defenseman Slava Voynov's shoulder and past goaltender Jonathan Quick. Salvador's fourth goal of the playoffs proved to be the winner as the Devils staved off elimination once again.
"We've been working on that all season, really for the defense trying to contribute, trying to help on the offensive, whether it be pinching, keeping the puck in. It's really just been trying to get the puck through," said Salvador, who is third on the team in postseason scoring, having amassed 14 points, the same amount as vaunted Kings blueliner Drew Doughty.
"I kind of faked a shot there and bought some time so I could kind of go across the grain. Like I said, I think I went off 16 people, and it went in. Clarkie (David Clarkson) did a great job by going to the net and creating a screen, and Poni (Alexei Ponikarovsky) 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."
Salvador has been getting rewarded throughout the playoffs after putting up a goose-egg in the goal department during the regular season. (In 682 career NHL games, he has recorded just 23 goals.)
"We were looking for him to score a goal all year. So he peaked at the right time, if you asked me," goaltender Martin Brodeur joked.
"I went 82 games without scoring, so any goal I can take, I'm taking," Salvador said. "Obviously the points are great and I'm contributing, but like I said all along, you trade all those points to make sure your team is still having success. I'm not getting ahead of myself. I know my role and what I do.
|Anton Volchenkov and Bryce Salvador celebrate Salvador's goal.|
"The fact that some offense is coming along with it is nice. At the end of the day, I want to make sure I'm protecting Marty and keeping the puck out of the net and playing defensively. I have to remember what my style of play is and what I bring to the team."
Salvador couldn't bring anything to his team last season. He missed the entire year with a cochlear concussion. During that time, he certainly wasn't thinking about the possibility that he'd reach his first Stanley Cup final the following season while turning into a hybrid combination of Scott Niedermayer and Ken Daneyko in the process.
"Zach [Parise] and I joke about it," Salvador said. "Last year, we were just worried about tying our shoes up and getting into shape. We trained together in the summer after both missing the season. This was obviously a goal of ours, but a year ago we were just seeing if we could run on the track and get back on the ice."
Salvador's postseason scoring surge began in with an empty-netter in Game 2 of the Philadelphia series, his first goal since March 10, 2010. He has been bestowed with a rare case of puck luck ever since.
"He's been really important to us," Parise said. "Just the big penalty kills that he has and the patience all of a sudden he's gotten with the puck.
"He's been playing great for us and you know we had the best PK in the league this year, hugely because of what him and Volchy [Anton Volchenkov] do. We all trust what he does and that's what's important."
The Devils lack star power on the blue line. So going into the finals, an NHL television analyst referred to the group as a "no-name defense."
That stuck with Salvador. He labeled the water bottle that all the team's blueliners share with the words "no-name defensemen."
Salvador later had an interview with that analyst.
"And when he came on he said, 'I'm surprised you know my name,'" Fayne said.
No need to worry, Bryce. Everyone does now.
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.