Mike Smith makes a save with Joe Thornton waiting for a rebound on the doorstep. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
At 2-3-3 after eight games, the drastic turnaround some expected after the Lightning’s off-season overhaul hasn’t come to fruition. But fans of the team can take solace in the fact it’d be a helluva lot worse if Mike Smith wasn’t holding down the fort between the pipes.
Smith, acquired at the trade deadline last season as part of the deal that saw Brad Richards head to Big D, has been nothing short of phenomenal. He currently sports the league’s second best save percentage (.942) to go along with a stellar 2.11 goals-against average.
“So far, so good,” Smith said after making 37 saves in a 3-2 win over the Maple Leafs Tuesday. “I don’t like to see 40-odd shots per night, but that’s my job, to go out and make saves and hopefully get wins.”
At 26, Smith is getting an opportunity to show his stuff as a No. 1 after spending four years in the American League and one-and-a-half as Marty Turco’s backup with the Stars.
“It’s a lot easier playing a lot than it is to play every two weeks,” said Smith, Dallas’s fifth round draft pick in 2001. “It’s nice to get in games and play well.”
During the Halloween season, the Kingston, Ont., native is giving onlookers something to cringe over (besides the make up of Tampa’s defense corps or their team’s scoring prowess).
Both Smith and fellow goaltender Olaf Kolzig are sporting masks inspired by the Saw horror film series, which, not coincidentally, is produced by new team owner Oren Koules.
“I went to Oren and asked him if he’d have a problem with me doing a Halloween helmet with a Saw theme through the month of October and he thought it would be a great idea,” said Smith. (For a photo gallery of the masks, click HERE.)
Smith’s mask was painted by artist David Arrigo, who has now done three masks for the goalie with more to come.
“I really enjoyed this one as there are some crazy images to work with,” said Arrigo. “As well, the mask had to be designed, painted and delivered within a week. There were definitely some sleepless nights here, between working on it and dreaming about some crazed mass murderer coming after me.”
The Saw masks, both of which surely would have had a place in The Hockey News’s latest special issue, The Greatest Masks of All Time, will be auctioned off with the proceeds going to Athletes Against Autism a charity Kolzig, who is the father of an autistic child, helped start.
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog normally appears Thursdays.
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