Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Goaltender Mike Smith starting to regain form for Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning goalie Mike Smith, making a save Dec.  9 against Edmonton, has stopped 89 of 93 shots in his past three games.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning goalie Mike Smith, making a save Dec.  9 against Edmonton, has stopped 89 of 93 shots in his past three games.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There are expectations, and then there are unreasonable expectations.

Add to the latter what was expected of Lightning goaltender Mike Smith coming into this season.

Smith will not cop to that, of course; even taking into account the seven months he was off skates recovering from post-concussion syndrome, and that he did not face live action between Jan. 30 and a Sept. 18 preseason game.

"I expected of myself as much as anyone else," Smith said.

As it should be, goaltenders coach Cap Raeder said, but let's be real, "He missed half the year."

It shouldn't be a surprise, then, Smith took this long to find his game. He is making it seem it was worth the wait.

Smith, 27, is on a 4-1-1 streak with a 2.15 goals-against average and .937 save percentage. He was the league's No. 2 star for the week ending Sunday.

Compare that to Smith's first 19 games in which he was 5-9-5 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .894 save percentage.

"He's coming back to the level he was at last year," coach Rick Tocchet said.

That was when Smith dazzled with his puck-handling ability and athletic style, and he was team MVP for the first half of the season.

Smith played seven weeks after sustaining a concussion in a Dec. 2, 2008 game with the Flyers when then-teammate Vinny Prospal inadvertently kneed him in the head. Smith said he kept the symptoms to himself until he was pulled from a Jan. 30 game at home.

Fast-forward to this season. Antero Niittymaki, who was supposed to be the backup, started strong and stole playing time. Smith was uneven and in a seven-game stretch from Oct. 31 to Nov. 14 played just 27 minutes.

But he was a demon at practice, and that, Smith said, might have been what turned things around.

"Cap and I really worked hard. We'd go out there early every day and I battled in practice to take advantage of the time. It's just so important. It carries into games."

"His work ethic is 100 percent better than last year," Raeder said, adding, "A lot of this is confidence.

"What did you do? I left him alone. At this level, a lot of it is management. I told him, 'You haven't played badly. It's not to the level you want, but you've done a good job. It will come.' It's hard to be patient like that, but the cream comes to the top. That's what I told him."

Smith, who starts his seventh straight game tonight against the Sabres at HSBC Arena, said patience while playing helped him most.

"Early in the year I was thinking way too much about how I was stopping the puck instead of just stopping it," he said. "I was thinking how I was going to make the save, technically, and you can't play like that. It happens way too fast out there."

"The last three or four games it's been, 'Just stop the puck' …The pucks that were bouncing in seemingly turned around and started to hit my pads."

Like last season.

"I guess what it comes down to," Smith said, "is you're coming off an injury, and sometimes you're behind the eight ball coming into a new season."

Sounds reasonable.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Goaltender Mike Smith starting to regain form for Tampa Bay Lightning 01/05/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 8:28am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs' Doug Martin relying on strength from drug rehab to power his return

    Bucs

    TAMPA — He would not talk about the drug he abused. He would not identify the rehab facility he entered in January or how long he was there.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buc Place, the team's training facility, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
  2. NCAA: Former USF basketball assistant gave improper benefits

    Colleges

    TAMPA — Former USF men's basketball assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided impermissible benefits, including lodging at his home, for two prospective student-athletes while they received on-campus tutoring, according to findings reported to the school by the NCAA.

  3. Back to .500, Rays feel ready to roll (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Who wants to be mediocre? Middling? Average? Run-of-the-mill?

    Rays catcher Jesus Sucre tags out the Angels’ Mike Trout trying to score from second base after a perfect peg from rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. in the first inning.
  4. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. preserves shutout with perfect throw

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The closest the Angels came to scoring off RHP Matt Andriese in Thursday's 4-0 Rays victory occurred in the first inning, when DH Mike Trout tried to score from second on a single to right. But the throw from RF Steven Souza Jr. was on the money, and Trout was out.

    "That …

    Colby Rasmus collects high fives and shoulder rubs after driving in all four of the Rays’ runs in their victory Thursday. Rasmus had two run-scoring hits a day after hitting a home run.
  5. Rays at Twins, 8:10 p.m. Friday, Minneapolis

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Twins

    8:10, Target Field, Minnesota

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Chris Archer (3-3, 3.76)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)