Moncton Wildcats fans remember the 2018 1st round upset of the Rimouski Oceanic and Dylan Seitz’ outstanding job at shadowing of Alexis Lafreniere like it was yesterday.
Nevertheless, when you mention shadowing and the Rimouski Oceanic, there’s only one Playoff Series and two players that really come to mind.
Ryan Salvis and Sidney Crosby in the 2003-2004 President Cup Playoffs.
Just imagine going head to head with hockey’s next superstar.
Now imagine going head to head shadowing hockey’s next superstar for an entire playoff series when the stakes are at the highest.
That’s exactly what confronted former Moncton Wildcat forward and current Wildcats Assistant Coach Ryan Salvis.
Oh yeah he wouldn’t change it for the world.
“It was a great experience, something that I still remember vividly to this day,” said Salvis.
“It was a great challenge going up against one of the best in the world.”
“Sid was only sixteen-years-old at the time so to get under his skin was a little bit easier than it would be now.”
QMJHL contributing writer and longtime hockey analyst Will MacLaren has very fond memories of how that amazing series played out.
“Rimouski was a young team and of course Crosby was just a rookie, but no one was able to stop him up until that point,” MacLaren said.
MacLaren believes that Christian La Rue who was the Head Coach of the Wildcats at the time took a page out of Real Paiment’s playbook to shadow the opposition’s top player.
La Rue was an Associate Coach under Paiment while he was in Moncton.
“They needed a player responsible enough to do the job, in the case of the Moncton Wildcats they had Ryan Salvis.”
“At that point Salvis was in his third year with the Cats and was very strong defensive and checking forward who didn’t take a lot of penalties as a rule and knew how to contain a player one on one,” explained MacLaren.
“La Rue used that strategy to the best of his abilities and the Wildcats abilities.”
So what was said between the two during their epic battles during that President Cup Playoff Series.
“I tried not to talk too much and just let my play annoy him,” admitted Salvis.
“But, I do remember one game, I think I had a goal and assist, and he only had an assist that game so I let him know that a third liner had outscored him that game.”
“You could tell Crosby was getting frustrated and I think it was a learning experience for him, which would be evidence from the following year which no one stopped him until the Memorial Cup Final,” MacLaren said.
So just how nerve racking was it to shut down a superstar.
“To be honest, I didn’t have a lot nerves there because of the job I had,” Salvis said.
“Being so far in the playoffs at that stage created some nerves and I just tried my best to help the team.”
“I knew I had to be focused and skating my hardest every shift. If you take a shift off against him he would make you pay so I took it shift by shift and made sure to be moving my feet out there the entire time.”
“It was a big personal challenge and I knew if I could do my best every game it would give us a very good chance to advance to the league finals.”
“One thing that stands out from that series was how stiff my neck got from constantly checking over my shoulder to see where Sid was,” said Salvis with a smile.
“If you go back through the game summaries from that series you notice that Rimouski heavily out shot Moncton, and a lot of people would give a lot of credit to Corey Crawford for winning that series,” MacLaren said.
“Crawford was amazing, but a lot of those shots came from the outside and Ryan Salvis was a big reason for that.”
Former Wildcat standout defencemen and franchise leader in points as a defencemen James Sanford is also quick to credit Salvis’ play during that series and his career with the Cats
“Ryan is a great example on how to adapt as a player,” Sanford said.
“He was an offensive player through his minor hockey, but when he came to the Wildcats we had lots of fire power and for him to make the team and get ice time he adapted to a 200 foot player and became a pivotal part of our championship run,” explained Sanford.
“Ryan really separated himself as an elite checker the year before against the Quebec Remparts.”
“They had an extremely skilled player in Dmytro Timashov.”
“He was task to shut him down and he did just that.”
“That carried over into the next season,” confessed Sanford.
“I think Crosby had like 13 points in 4 games against Shawinigan. So going into that series Ryan was once again asked to do the job on the best player we’d ever seen.”
“Salvis’ skating ability was his greatest asset in that series against Rimouski.”
“Every time Crosby touched the puck Ryan was there.”
“Crosby couldn’t could move or get away from him. Ryan wasn’t a very vocal guy, but he had the mouth that could get under anyone’s skin,” Sanford said with a smile.
“I don’t think Crosby had more than 3 to 4 points in those games,” admitted Sanford.
“Ryan Salvis did everything within the rules to stop Sidney Crosby long enough to win that series and the fact that the Wildcats actually won that series in five games says a lot about the job Salvis did,” MacLaren said.
They say hockey players have long memories well that could be said about Eric Neilson and Sidney Crosby.
“Another little jab that Sid gave me was last summer he was in Europe with a few buddies and I got a call from Eric Nielson,” confessed Salvis.
“Eric wanted to relay a message from Sid, “I wasn’t the reason we won that series; Corey Crawford was.”
“Which is very true,” admitted Salvis.
“Corey was outstanding that entire playoffs, along with a lot of other players, and I just did my best to contribute to the team success,” explained Salvis.
Salvis went on to have a very solid eight year pro career finishing up in 2014-2015.
It’s highly unlikely that Wildcats will employ the shadow game in Game 496 of the QMJHL schedule tonight, but they sure have a coach that could teach them a few things about it.