Make us your home page

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

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning G Smith out to prove he deserves to be No. 1

Mike Smith, making a save against the Rangers on Tuesday, was okay last season after coming from Dallas in the Brad Richards trade. But he showed enough to earn the Lightning’s faith.


Mike Smith, making a save against the Rangers on Tuesday, was okay last season after coming from Dallas in the Brad Richards trade. But he showed enough to earn the Lightning’s faith.

TAMPA — Mike Smith said he has wanted to be an NHL goaltender since he was 3 years old, playing hockey in his family's driveway.

Twenty-three years later, as the Lightning's No. 1, a job the team announced is his to lose, Smith said he has no intention of blowing it.

"I know I can play in the NHL," he said. "I know I can be a starter. I'm here to prove to the organization I belong here."

Smith, of Kingston, Ontario, took a solid step in that direction Tuesday at the St. Pete Times Forum with 38 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Rangers in his first preseason action.

It was one of those games that teams with good goalies win; Tampa Bay was outshot 40-18, including 11-2 in the third period.

"He was very much under control," goaltenders coach Cap Raeder said. "He wasn't doing a lot of scrambling. He had a nice presence about him. He's a competitor, and he certainly has great instincts for the position."

Smith, who had no chance on New York's goals, knows there are doubts he couldn't possibly erase in one preseason game.

He never before has been a No. 1, and he didn't exactly light it up after being acquired in February from the Stars as the centerpiece of the Brad Richards deal; he was 3-10 in 13 games with a 2.79 goals-against average and an .893 save percentage.

Even so, the Lightning signed Smith to a two-year, $4.4-million extension to keep him from perhaps becoming a free agent after this season, in which he will make $950,000. It was a show of faith but also a calculated risk.

"That's the new NHL," coach Barry Melrose said. "He comes in here, plays 75 games and becomes the best goalie in the league, and we lose him. You have to have faith in your people. You have to believe in Mike Smith. We thought he was a great guy and would become the goalie we envisioned, so we took a chance. … I think we'll be rewarded."

Smith said he focused his summer workouts on flexibility and injury resistance. He gained 7 pounds of muscle and now has 218 pounds on a 6-foot-3 frame.

With the intimidating John Tortorella fired in June, he also has a new coach.

"It's a fresh start for everyone," Smith said. "Not everyone is out there gripping their sticks and white-knuckling it. They're not thinking out there. They're just playing the game. That makes a world of difference.

"Barry is a guy, yeah, you can make mistakes. He's probably going to get upset. Mistakes are part of the game. But with a guy not down your back all the time, it's nice to be able to play and have fun."

Smith played with confidence against the Rangers, showing off his puck-handling skills and, by Raeder's count, making eight passes to the defense that resulted in breakouts.

"It's a whole 'nother dimension getting out of our zone," Raeder said. "He handled the puck with a purpose, and that excited me."

"This is the chance I've been waiting for," Smith said. "I've waited my whole life to be a No. 1 guy."

Well, 23 years, anyway.


Lightning at Rangers

When/where: 7; Madison Square Garden, New York.

Radio: 620-AM.

Lineup: TO COME.

Lightning G Smith out to prove he deserves to be No. 1 09/24/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 25, 2008 6:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bruce Arena blends intense demands with humor to lead U.S. soccer


    SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Bruce Arena bites his fingernails religiously, a habit he has had since age 10.

    Among some other unmentionables.

    Bruce Arena
  2. Red state: Yes, Bill O'Reilly is a Bucs fan


    TAMPA -- The question was simple enough for Bucs fans: Why is former Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly wearing a red Bucs polo?

    O'Reilly was wearing the polo during a few video clips from his "No Spin News" podcast posted on his website Monday, which was exciting news for some Bucs fans and not-so-exciting …

    Former Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly was sporting a red Bucs polo during his "No Spin News" video podcast Monday. An assistant said the shirt was given to him by former Bucs tight end Dave Moore.
  3. For starters: Slumping LoMo, Dickerson not in Rays lineup tonight vs LHP


    1B Logan Morrison and LF Corey Dickerson, two of the main slumpers in the Rays lineup, are not in tonight's lineup with the Orioles throwing LHP Wade Miley.

    Logan Morrison is 0-for-12 on this homestand.
  4. Ex-Buc Booger McFarland becomes ABC college football analyst


    Former Bucs defensive lineman Booger McFarland is continuing his broadcasting rise by joining ABC's studio coverage for the upcoming college football season, ESPN announced Tuesday.

    Former Bucs lineman Booger McFarland (No. 92) will become an ABC studio analyst this college football season.
  5. Rank the top 10 Bucs players? Here's what fans said


    We mentioned this morning that is was a fun challenge, in response to Sports Illustrated's ranking of the NFL's top 400 players, to ask fans to rank their top 10 Bucs players.

    Bucs receiver Mike Evans celebrates with quarterback Jameis Winston during last year's Bucs win against the Seahawks. Evans and Winston finished 1-2 in an informal Twitter poll of fans ranking their top Bucs players.