For any professional athlete, it’s hard to sit out an entire season and then perform to the best of their abilities the following year.
One NHLer that defied the odds and has his team in the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 2003 is New Jersey Devils defenceman Bryce Salvador.
Salvador missed the entire 2010-11 season after suffering a cochlear concussion. The injury forced Salvador to think about what the rest of his NHL career would be like and how he would be able to come back and play at a top level.
Salvador surprised everyone by playing all 82 games in the regular season this year. It was the first time in his 11-year career he was able to accomplish the feat.
In an article in the Star-Ledger, Salvador told Devils’ beat writer Rich Chere that even he did not think this season was going to be this great.
“Obviously it’s been a great experience from where I was last year,” Salvador said today. “It’s been one of those things I’m definitely enjoying. Anytime you get an opportunity to have some success in the playoffs and an opportunity to maybe have some great success, it’s an experience that every player wants.”
In the regular season, Salvador was your average NHL defenceman. He blocked a lot of shots, played a lot of minutes, had a few points (9 points), and was certainly responsible in his end of the ice as he had a plus-nine rating.
Here in the post-season, however, Salvador has raised his game to whole new level.
In 18 playoff games, Salvador ranks fourth on the team in scoring. He has compiled three goals and eight assists for 11 points, which is two more than what he had in the regular season.
This is certainly a surprise to the team, its fans and even the league. For a 36-year-old defenceman who has just 102 points n his career, Salvador’s offence has been at the forefront of this Devils’ hockey team success in the post-season this year.
“I think when I was 10 or 11. I know I lit it up,” Salvador said. “The points are great, but the wins are important. If you’re not winning, nobody will remember the points you get.”
Devils head coach Peter DeBoer told the New York Post that there is usually a player like Salvador in every post-season. This player comes up big, surprises the team with big points and much more.
“There is 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 Pete DeBoer said yesterday. “I think that’s the beauty of the NHL playoffs. And Bryce has been outstanding.”
Hopefully for the Devils, Salvador’s excellent play will not only help to continue to help produce victories, but also hockey’s Holy Grail when all is said and done.