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)

Tampa Bay Lightning's Mike Smith has proven himself a No. 1 goalie and leader

Mike Smith grabbed a roll of black tape from the bench as he stomped onto the St. Pete Times Forum ice for a morning skate last week. He let the loud squawk draw the attention of his teammates as he wrapped bands of it around his blocker glove and stick.

There was laughter. There were nods. Visible behind the cage of his mask, Smith wasn't so much smiling as projecting the wild-eyed glare his teammates have learned to associate with his intensity.

But Smith, 26, wasn't playing for chuckles as he taped his stick to his glove the morning after a controversial thrown-stick ruling gave the Avalanche a goal and the Lightning a shootout loss.

Acquired in the spring in the deal that sent popular Brad Richards to Dallas, Smith has not only solidified a position that vexed the Lightning last season, but he has asserted himself as a leader on a team in need of them.

For the first 33 games of a dreadful season, Smith has been arguably the best player, and certainly the most consistent, as he has established himself as an NHL starter.

But Smith, a 2001 fifth-round draft pick of Dallas from Kingston, Ontario, says he's not satisfied.

"Yeah, the numbers are good," said Smith, who made 15 saves Tuesday in shutting out the potent Penguins. "I've played pretty well, but the main thing is I've got (six) wins and our team is not doing very well."

Smith enters play against Florida tonight seventh in the NHL with a .925 save percentage (his 840 shots faced is fifth-highest) and 12th with a 2.40 goals-against average.

Freed from a perpetual backup role behind veteran Marty Turco in Dallas, Smith won the starting job in camp this season over veteran free agent Olie Kolzig and holdover Karri Ramo. His 26 games this season are approaching his 34 last season with the Stars and Lightning.

"Obviously, Smitty is ready to be a No. 1," captain Vincent Lecavalier said.

As a player and a leader.

"I want to be a leader. I think I'm a vocal guy," Smith said. "We don't have a ton of guys in here that speak up and talk, and I think it's important to have those guys in the room that aren't afraid to say something."

Smith spoke up and took the blame for a 4-3 loss in Colorado on Nov. 29, though he entered the game with a three-goal deficit in relief of Kolzig. He allowed the fourth goal trying to make an aggressive pass up-ice.

"I love his competitiveness" for taking the blame, interim coach Rick Tocchet said, but a young player, especially a goaltender, has to be careful he "doesn't get too high and too low."

"You try to do everything, and that's when you start to struggle," Tocchet said. "So far he's just done a good job of keeping his head."

Might be all the tape.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Mike Smith has proven himself a No. 1 goalie and leader 12/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 26, 2008 8:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs-Bills report card: Grading the Bucs' 30-27 loss at Buffalo

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Hard to believe, but this was only the second time in their history that the Bucs played a regular-season game in Buffalo. After Sunday loss, they wouldn't mind going another 40 years without playing here again.

    Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, seen during the first half, had a heck of a day calling plays, Tom Jones writes. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  2. Bucs-Bills: Social media reactions to the Bucs' 30-27 loss

    Bucs

    Here's a sampling of reactions from the media and fans to the Bucs' 30-27 loss Sunday at Buffalo:

    Buffalo Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka (4) is mobbed by teammates after kicking the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Buccaneers-Bills: A by-the-numbers look at Tampa Bay's 30-27 loss

    Bucs

    Here's a by-the-numbers look at the Bucs' 30-27 loss at Buffalo on Sunday:

    173

    Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) screams in jubilation after running for a first down late in the fourth quarter. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. T.J. Ward 'at wits' end' about being part-time player

    Blogs

    Three-time Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward said he is at his "wits' end" about being used as a part-time player for the Bucs.

    Buffalo Bills tight end Logan Thomas (82) makes a touchdown catch over Bucs defensive back T.J. Ward (43) during the second half.
  5. Bucs-Bills roundtable: Deonte Thompson's late catch spelled 'instant disaster' for Bucs

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Adam Humphries' fumble led to the Bills' game-winning field goal in Tampa Bay's 30-27 loss Sunday at Buffalo. But the Bills' first play after the Bucs finally took the lead was almost as deadly.

    The Buffalo Bills' Deonte Thompson (10) catches a pass in front of Bucs cornerback Brent Grimes (24) during the first half. [AP photo]