Thursday, June 14, 2012

How did Bryce Salvador score so much this postseason?

Let's look at a brief comparison between NJ Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador's 2011-2012 regular season and his 2012 postseason...

Bryce Salvador
2011-2012 Regular Season GP 82 G 0 A 9 PTS 9 +/- +18
2012 Postseason GP 24 G 4 A 10 PTS 14 +/- +9

The numbers don't lie... but several questions emerge.  Did the Devils use him in a different role or in a different position?  Was he the benefactor of an improved collective offensive output for the entire team?  or... did his good habits produce more results in a tighter-checking environment?

Let's use some numbers to make a point-
* In the regular season the Devils averaged 2.63 goals a game.  In the postseason the number was 2.45 goals a game.
* Tracked per player, the Devils were a combined -63 in the regular season... in the playoffs, the Devils were a +43.
* Salvador was 15th in team scoring in the regular season, and 3rd in the postseason.
* Salvador's Regular Season average was 1.29 Hits per game and 1.30 blocked shots per game.  In the postseason those numbers were: 2.25 Hits per game and 1.41 blocked shots per game.
* Salvador has averaged .14 points per regular season game over his 11 year career (692games).  In the postseason he averages .24 points per game.

So the question remains... how and why the offensive explosion?

Perhaps these quotes will shed some light.  Devils captain Zach Parise, who scored New Jersey's first goal on Saturday, of Salvador. "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."  "Go figure, All season, now these bounces off shots go right in the net," said Salvador.

Look at the some of the goals...

In the end I think it comes down to two things 1) Great Habits & 2) Playoff Urgency.  Salvador's goals were scored by doing the basic principles every young defenseman should understand: quick and surehanded retrievals and walking the blueline to create a better angle, open up opportunities for screens and tip-ins.  Salvador's shot placement is impeccable... they all hit the end, and are 0- 18 inches off the ice.  By walking the blueline he is creating an angle where even if he does miss the net, the rebound is coming right back out to the slot or near the net, rather than rimming out of the zone.  When you combine these good habits with a playoff atmosphere, where teams are trying to block every shot and finish every check, the ability to keep it simple actually makes the routine somewhat unexpected as shots are more difficult to see and the play is moving quicker.  Lastly, and you can see this illustrated in his plus/ minus, Salvador's positive play demanded increased minutes and his coaches responded.  Good Habits= More Production= More Minutes.

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