I only thought this series would go five games, but the New Jersey Devils stretched it to six on the back of a very good Game 5 performance by Martin Brodeur where he was helped out by one or two goal posts.
Towards the end of the Stanley Cup Finals, it’s time for people to start theorizing on the Conn Smythe Trophy winners as playoff most valuable player. I’m pretty fine with the hardware being handed out to any of the big five names: you could make arguments for any of Brodeur, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Ilya Kovalchuk or Drew Doughty. Maybe fit Dustin Brown in there.
But I’ve read a lot of buzz in the last few days about maybe Bryce Salvador, the 35-year old defenceman who picked the right time to be an impending free agent. Puck Daddy lays out the brief argument:
Salvador is tied with Doughty for the playoff scoring lead for defensemen with 14 points, scoring his fourth goal of the postseason in Game 5. He’s been the Devils’ best D-man while skating 22:28 per night.
Note that Greg didn’t explicitly state that Salvador ought to win the Conn Smythe. He was listed eighth on a group of ten players. He’s also not the only one; Ed Willes, a Vancouver Province writer I quite like, also put forth the notion in his weekend wrap-up colum.
The themes are both the same: Salvador has 14 points and is a plus-10 playing long minutes.
If you told me that Bryce Salvador would be the highest scorer among playoff defencemen at the start of the post-season, I would have theorized that it was due to an uptick in percentages and not necessarily performance. Salvador scored nine single assists this season in 82 games, but he already has 14 points in 23 playoff games.
Four of those 14 points are goals, and one of them came in Game 5, a re-direct off of Los Angeles’ Slava Voynov. Bounces like that are why Salvador’s shooting percentage is 13.8% in this playoff run, while his career shooting average (including all playoffs) is 5.4%—a normalized rate for a defenceman.
Salvador’s post-season PDO, according to timeonice.com, is at 104.3%, which is pretty elevated considering he’s played so many even strength minutes in the playoffs. PDO is the addition of player on-ice shooting and save percentages, and the number tends to regress to 100% over the course of many many games. Brief increases in production can usually be attributed to a high PDO.
The Devils have shot 9.4% with Salvador on the ice this playoffs, and Brodeur has stopped 94.9% of pucks at even strength. While it’s tough to get without context, it’s worth noting that Salvador has been a negative possession player during this playoffs: the Devils have been out-shot 171-196 with Salvador on the ice.
He has been playing decently tough minutes, but it’s making most of his offensive opportunities, not making the most of his minutes, that has been the primary driver of Salvador’s production. In the Stanley Cup Finals, shooting and scoring chance numbers are stacked against the Devils, but Salvador moreso.
In the Finals, the Devils have been out-shot 32-42 with Salvador on the ice. As far as quality shots are concerned, Corey of ShutdownLine and NHLNumbers, who has been tracking scoring chances, posted a chart on his Twitter feed last night that showed that the Devils have been out-chanced 15-33 with Salvador on the ice. His minus-18 in scoring chance differential is the worst on either team.
Now, him and Marek Zidlicky have matched up a lot against Kopitar-Dustin Brown-Justin WIlliams, but he’s barely treading water against the depth players as well and has been blown out by Los Angeles’ lines one and two.
Salvador I think is a cute story, but at 35, this is a case where production hasn’t reflected performance. I have no personal beef with Bryce Salvador, but he’s not on my list of Conn Smythe Trophy nominees.