Montador earning Ruff’s confidence

Posted on April 16, 2010 by Patrick Moran

He’s perhaps the most unheralded defensemen on his Buffalo Sabres squad, but head coach Lindy Ruff regards Steve Montador as an important part of the team.  So much in fact, that in Buffalo’s opening game victory over Boston in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoffs, Montador was on the ice for 24:18, a mere six seconds less than team leader Toni Lydman.

“He’s been a rock for us back there all year long,” teammate Jason Pominville said following the grueling 2-1 victory Thursday night.  “He’s not the flashiest player in the world but he’s tough as nails, smart and he gets the job done for us.  He’s become a big part of our success with his play and headiness.”

Not much was made in early July 2009 when Montador signed a two-year, $3.1 million deal with the Sabres, but more and more he’s showed everyone that he’s a valuable part of the organization.  His 5 goals and 18 assists during the regular season will hardly blow you away, but players like Montador don’t…  or at least shouldn’t get judged by statistics.

“All good teams need players like Stevie in the lineup because he does so many things that don’t show u in the stat sheets,” backup goaltender Patrick Lalime said.  “He plays smart and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’s also the first guy to stick up for one of his teammates.  Everybody in the locker room has a lot of respect for him.”

While rookie sensation and Tyler Myers and partner Henrik Tallinder deservedly get a lot of the praise for the Sabres turnaround, it was the pairing of Lydman and Montador that got the majority of ice time from Ruff Thursday night, including the majority of shifts in the third period with the Sabres protecting a precious one goal lead.

Montador appreciates the confidence Ruff has shown in him.

“It doesn’t matter who’s out there as long as we get the job done but of course it feels great knowing that Lindy has confidence in me to have me out there in critical situations,” Montador said.  “I feel like me and Toni (Lydman) have developed a good sense of chemistry and I’m comfortable playing with him.”

Against a Boston team that is clearly trying to physically intimidate them, the rugged Montador is not one to back down.  What the Bruins lack in offensive firepower they try to make up for by playing aggressive and laying a body, forearm, fist, stick—whatever on opponents.

Montador says he’s more than ready for anything, or anyone that’s thrown his way.

“I expected them to come out physical and they did,” he said.  “We have to match the physicality they bring and I think tonight (Thursday) we did that. It’s going to be a rough and grueling series so we have to make sure to match their intensity and we did that.  But it’s a long series.  I can promise you we’re not going to back down from them.”

His veteran play has been solid enough through most of the season that Ruff has alternated youngsters Andrej Sekera and Chris Butler in and out of the lineup while making Montador a main stay in the lineup.  That’s expected to continue through at least the rest of the post season.

“Again it just feels good that Lindy shows the confidence in me,” he said.  “I just go out and there and give it everything I have and hopefully more times than not that’s enough to get the job done.”

The Sabres host Boston in game two at the HSBC Arena Saturday afternoon at 1pm.

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