Brandon’s Bryce Salvador has done it again.
The 36-year-old New Jersey Devil continued his remarkable post-season run with his fourth two-point performance of these NHL playoffs, helping to open and close the scoring with assists in a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night to stay alive in the Stanley Cup final.
The dependable defensive-minded defenceman — Salvador had only nine assists in 82 regular-season games this season — is having the best playoff of his career — in ANY league. Salvador is tied for ninth in NHL playoff scoring with three goals and 13 points. Who saw that coming? He is just one point back of the top-scoring blue-liner in the post-season in Kings defender Drew Doughty, while also sitting sixth overall in plus/minus at +9.
Salvador’s 13 points in 22 games this spring are even more eye-popping when you consider he had only four points in 50 previous career NHL playoff games and only 16 points in any given season.
"I think there’s someone like that every year in the NHL playoffs, whether it’s a forward that gets hot or a defenceman that comes out of nowhere or a goaltender that shows up that no one’s heard of," Devils head coach Peter DeBoer said in a conference call earlier in the playoffs. "I think that’s the beauty of the NHL playoffs. And Bryce has been outstanding."
Salvador’s performance has made these NHL playoffs all the more intriguing as the Devils try to become the first team in 70 years to bounce back from a 3-0 series deficit to win the Stanley Cup. Of course, it will take a monumental effort, considering the Kings are 10-0 on the road in the playoffs heading in Saturday night’s Game 5 in New Jersey.
Either way, a Brandonite will get his hands on the Stanley Cup this year. Salvador, who was born and raised in the Wheat City before leaving at the age of 16 to start his Western Hockey League career with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, is now in his 11th year in the NHL and fourth season with the Devils.
Meanwhile, Brandonites Ron Hextall and Darren Granger are part of the Kings organization.
Hextall, who played three seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings before moving on to a storied NHL career that included winning both the Vezina Trophy as top goaltender and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1987, is in his sixth season as vice-president and assistant general manager of the Kings. Granger, who also got his start with his hometown Wheat Kings as trainer for five years, is in his sixth season as head equipment manager in L.A.
BOBCAT BEAT: Brandon University women’s volleyball coach Lee Carter is currently working with Canada’s national women’s team during their training camp in Winnipeg. Brandon setter Kellie Baker was one of 49 players from across the country selected to try out, but did not make the final cut to 34 for Canada’s A and B teams, despite a strong showing.
"She had a really good tryout. She just needs to get a little higher and faster with her release," Carter said. Baker should be one of the top setters in Canada West this season.
TICKET TALLY: The Wheat Kings are up to 802 season tickets sold, with the June 15 early-bird deadline to save $25 a week away. Brandon’s season-ticket blitz got off to a late start due to the extended lease negotiations between the WHL club and the Keystone Centre and the team may also be feeling the pinch from the new Virden team in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. The Oil Capitals have already sold 535 season tickets. "We’re more than happy," said Oil Capitals marketing manager Jillian Cockbill. "Anything we sell now is just a bonus, really."
ODDS AND ENDS: Manitoba’s under-17 youth baseball team — coached by Brandon’s Faron Asham — will get a real test this weekend when they face four Manitoba Senior Baseball League teams in an exhibition series starting tonight versus Brandon’s Houstons Marlins at Andrews Field. The provincial team features Brandonites Luke Whelpton, Ty Webber, Shayne MacGranachan, Dustin Asham and Marshal Burgess, along with Garett Rempel of Neepawa ... The Brandon Field Hockey Club will host the Assiniboine Tournament Saturday at the Crocus Plains artificial turf pitch. Brandon and Souris will be joined by four other teams from Manitoba and Saskatchewan … The 52nd annual Grey Owl golf tournament tees off today at Clear Lake.