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Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer

Joe Smith

Joe Smith became the Tampa Bay Lightning beat writer for the Tampa Bay Times in 2014. He spent the previous six years splitting time covering the Rays, Bucs and Lightning He joined the Times in 2006 after spending two years with the Modesto Bee in California, where he did everything from covering the Single-A Modesto Nuts minor league baseball team and high school football to tackling first-person stories on whitewater rafting and adventure racing. Smith grew up in the Detroit suburbs and attended the University of Michigan, where he covered the football, basketball and hockey teams for the Michigan Daily. He freelanced for the Associated Press and Detroit Free Press before securing internships at Crain's Detroit Business and the Raleigh News & Observer. An avid runner, Smith loves traveling, bowling and singing karaoke.

Phone: (813) 310 9024



Lightning Strikes

  1. Tough goalie call in Lightning's future

    Lightning Strikes

    For nearly a decade, the Lightning desperately searched for a No. 1 goaltender.

    Now Tampa Bay has two in All-Star Ben Bishop and prized prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy, with coach Jon Cooper dubbing them a "1 and 1A" tandem.

    "A lot of people think they're very, very close as far as ability," NBCSN analyst Eddie Olczyk says.

    That's a good problem to have — for now — with Bishop, 29, and Vasilevskiy, 21, the primary reasons the Lightning even sniffed a playoff position during an inconsistent first half of the season....

    Ben Bishop, who has developed into one of the league’s top goalies, has one more season left on his contract at $5.95 million. Andrei Vasilevskiy, considered a future star by some, has one year left on his entry-level deal at $925,000. He can be a restricted free agent after next season. Their futures could be tied in part of the Lightning’s other contract situations.
  2. Lightning Nuts & Bolts: Stralman okay on guitar, great with Ikea furniture

    Lightning Strikes

    Short shift w/ D Anton Stralman

    Go-to karaoke song: I don't think I've ever done karaoke. I sang Enter Sandman by Metallica, had to sing on my bachelor party because they sent me to a music studio to make fun of me. But I nailed it.

    What can you play on your guitar? I actually started when I first moved in with (wife) Johanna. Kind of had to give up the video game there. I played some music growing up, played jazz flute for how many years in school. I probably picked it to please my mom. I always wanted to play guitar, and I picked it up, self-taught myself to somewhat of a (bad) level. I play mostly grunge stuff, like Alice in Chains....

    Associated Press
  3. Lightning's hard-luck Paquette: Not my year

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — During Thursday's practice, Lightning C Cedric Paquette took a slap shot off his right shin and buckled to the ice in pain.

    After getting helped off to the Ice Sports Forum dressing room, Paquette returned after practice ended, drawing a large ovation from teammates.

    "It's not my year," he said.

    Paquette was fine, and he played Friday night against the Penguins. But he has had his share of bad luck this season. It started with a left foot/ankle injury during the preseason blocking a shot, and later he missed a month after aggravating it in mid November....

    Lightning center Cedric Paquette has played just 26 games this season after hurting his left foot and ankle blocking a shot in the preseason.
  4. Lightning's Paquette: 'It's just not my year'


    During Thursday's practice, center Cedric Paquette took a slap shot off his left shin and buckled to the ice.

    After getting helped off to the dressing room, Paquette would return after practice at the Ice Sports Forum ended, drawing a large ovation from teammates.

    "It's just not my year," he said afterwards.

    Paquette has had some bad luck, missing a good chunk of the season due to a right foot/ankle injury suffered blocking a shot during the preseason and then reaggravated in November....

    Cedric Paquette has had some bad luck, missing a good chunk of the season due to a right foot/ankle injury suffered blocking a shot during the preseason and then reaggravated in November.
  5. Scoring first key not just for Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Veteran defenseman Anton Stralman said he can't explain it.

    Why do NHL teams that score the game's first goal win more than 75 percent of the time this season, as the Elias Sports Bureau says?

    "It's just one goal," Stralman said.

    But it's an extremely important one.

    The Lightning enter tonight's game against the Penguins having won nine of its past 10 games. Of those nine wins, Tampa Bay scored the first goal in seven. It is 21-4-0 when striking first, 6-15-4 when the other team does....

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing J.T. Brown (23) (center) celebrates his goal along with center Vladislav Namestnikov (90) (left) and defenseman Braydon Coburn (55) (right) beating Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek (34), for their first goal of the game, during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Wednesday evening (02/03/16). Joining the celebration in defenseman Nikita Nesterov (89) (on far left).
  6. Lightning-Penguins Friday game preview

    Lightning Strikes


    Lightning vs. Penguins

    When/where: 7:30 p.m., Amalie Arena

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 970-AM

    Key stats: The Penguins are hot, having won four straight games, with star Sidney Crosby sparking a 6-5 come-from-behind win over the Senators on Tuesday with three goals in 20 minutes. … Crosby has 11 goals since Jan. 1, the most in the NHL since then, and 20 overall. … The Lightning won the teams' first meeting, 5-4 in overtime Jan. 15 in Tampa. … Tampa Bay caught a break with Penguins C Evgeni Malkin (lower body) scheduled to miss the game. Malkin has 19 goals and 23 assists in 31 career games against Tampa Bay. … Expect G Ben Bishop to start for the Lightning. … C Cedric Paquette, who took a shot off his left shin in Thursday's practice, expected to play....

  7. Lightning handles Red Wings

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Tyler Johnson said he has tried all season to find his groove, which has been elusive with all the injuries he has dealt with.

    Turns out, all it took was a trip to Cancun over the All-Star break. Saying he felt recharged physically and refocused mentally, the center finally showed the Lightning — and a national television audience — that "Johnny Be Good."

    Johnson scored the winner in a 3-1 victory Wednesday over the Red Wings in front of a sold-out crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena. In what goalie Ben Bishop said might have been the biggest game of the season, the Lightning (28-18-4), winners of nine of its past 10, moved ahead of Detroit into sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Division. And perhaps just as important, Johnson started to look like the dangerous force the hockey world witnessed in last season's playoff run, an encouraging sign in the Lightning's fight for a postseason spot....

    Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan pins Red Wings defenseman Mike Green against the glass in the first.
  8. Lightning, Red Wings coaches longtime friends, supporters

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The Lightning's Jon Cooper and the Red Wings' Jeff Blashill know their teams are fighting for the same playoff spots in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.

    But the coaches — and longtime friends — have also helped each other along the way. Blashill, in his first year as an NHL coach, said he has sometimes leaned on Cooper for advice.

    "I talk to 'Coop' a lot. We bounce off each other a lot," Blashill said before Wednesday's game between the teams. "Our friendship goes beyond the two jobs we currently hold. We've been friends a long time. I think we help each other in our coaching careers, whether it's been through advice, whether it's been learning from each other....

    Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper looks on as center Alex Killorn (17) appears to argue a call from the bench against the Chicago Blackhawks during third  period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (01/21/16).
  9. Red Wings' Blashill: Lightning 'really rolling now'


    Coach Jon Cooper said tonight's showdown with the Red Wings will be a "measuring stick" for the Lightning.

    Apparently, Detroit feels the same way about Tampa Bay, which beat the Red Wings in a seven-game series in the first round of the playoffs in April. Detorit won the first two meetings this season, but the Lightning has won eight of its last nine to move into a tie for second in the Atlantic Division....

    Steven Stamkos and the Lightning beat the Red Wings in a seven-game series in the first round of the playoffs in April.
  10. Lightning has 'fresh legs, fresh mind' after All-Star break

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Judging by how crisp the Lightning's practice looked Tuesday, it seemed the five-day All-Star break did this team a lot of good.

    "We were joking on the ice after the first two drills — it looked so good, that we almost wanted to end practice right there," coach Jon Cooper said. "You could tell — fresh legs, fresh mind."

    Cooper saw a rejuvenated team with jump, and expects that to carry over tonight at Amalie Arena in what he labels a tone-setting game against the Red Wings, who are tied with the Lightning (27-18-4) and Boston for second in the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay has won nine of 11 but it is just one point ahead of New Jersey, which is out of the playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, making the final 33 games a fight to the finish. The East's second- to sixth-place teams are separated by just six points....

    Jon Cooper said the Lightning has “fresh legs, fresh mind.”
  11. The players-only meeting that may have saved the Lightning's season

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The players-only meeting that likely saved the Lightning's season was one that even some veteran players had never experienced.

    Sitting together in a conference room at the Edmonton Westin on the afternoon of Jan. 6, the players dissected video of their embarrassing loss in Calgary the night before. Usually, coaches run such sessions, but this no-holds-barred critique was a players-only affair. They watched the entire first period, with nearly half the team speaking candidly, including captain Steven Stamkos, goalie Ben Bishop and veteran Brian Boyle....

    "We had a look-yourself-in-the-mirror moment after the Calgary game,'' Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said, "and we've responded since then." [DIRK SHADD | Times]
  12. One of NHL's all-time best believes Lightning's Bishop is among today's elite goalies

    Lightning Strikes

    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop grew up watching Marty Brodeur, marveling at how well the future Hall of Fame goalie handled the puck like a third defenseman.

    Bishop, 29, would be in net in his driveway using a regular stick instead of a goalie's paddle, shooting pucks.

    "I definitely took a couple things from (Brodeur)," Bishop said.

    Last Saturday in Sunrise, it was Brodeur who was the one impressed, witnessing Bishop's playmaking skills outside the crease against the Panthers. Those skills should make Bishop a dangerous weapon in his first All-Star Game on Sunday, especially with the new 3-on-3 format....

    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop plays in his first All-Star Game on Sunday in Nashville.
  13. Stamkos, sticks and souvenirs — an NHL All-Star story

    Lightning Strikes

    There's plenty at stake in tonight's NHL All-Star Game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, including $100,000 going to every player on the winning team of the 3-on-3 tournament.

    But Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said there's one priceless prize he would like to bring home: a stick signed by future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr, 43, the captain of the Atlantic Division team.

    "I want to add him to my collection," Stamkos said....

    Jaromir Jagr, very popular at the All-Star Game, has the most coveted autographed stick in the league. “People think I’m not going to play anymore,” he says, grinning. Jagr, with the Panthers for his 22nd NHL season, turns 44 on Feb. 15.
  14. With trade deadline approaching, Yzerman explores Lightning options

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — While most of his players will be on vacations or staycations during the five-day All-Star break, general manager Steve Yzerman plans to do some scouting.

    Where Yzerman shows up this weekend, if anywhere, could be significant, especially considering how he's actively and aggressively trying to trade disgruntled and suspended wing Jonathan Drouin, who has drawn interest around the league....

    GM Steve Yzerman made moves at last year’s trade deadline and sees needs to address this year.
  15. Podcast: Bishop on journey to first All-Star Game


    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is headed to his first NHL All-Star game, and it is well deserved.

    Bishop, 29, has been the team's MVP this season, playing arguably the best hockey of his career. It has to be gratifying, considering he's now on his third NHL team, finally getting his chance. In this week's Lightning Strikes Podcast, the Times sat down with Bishop, discussing what the All-Star selection means to him, and his journey to get here. He'll join captain Steven Stamkos in Sunday's game in Nashville....

    Ben Bishop has been the Lightning's MVP this season, playing arguably the best hockey of his career.