Hawks rookie Ben Smith familiar with high-pressure games
BY ADAM L. JAHNS email@example.com April 9, 2011 12:02AM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
DETROIT — Blackhawks rookie forward Ben Smith knows something about overcoming nerves and being in a pressure-filled game in Detroit.
Almost exactly a year ago today, Smith was in Detroit at Ford Field playing for Boston College in the NCAA’s national championship game against Wisconsin. On Friday, he started on a line with Patrick Kane and Michael Frolik in a key game for the Hawks against the Red Wings.
Smith had a goal in the title game as BC won its second crown in three years, and he was named the Frozen Four’s most outstanding player.
Against the Wings, Smith scored his first NHL goal after Kane forced a turnover and set him up all alone in front of goalie Jimmy Howard.
The Smith-Frolik-Kane combo also factored in defenseman Brian Campbell’s first-period goal. Smith, who was plus-2 in 14:49, also saw time on the penalty kill, powering his 5-11, 205-pound frame to a scoring chance in the second period.
“I can only have dreamed of being here last year, playing with Chicago and against the Red Wings,” said Smith, 22. “It’s exciting. Every game is so big, every point is so big. You just have to be ready to go.”
Before the game, Kane (two assists) likened Smith’s style of play to that of Troy Brouwer, whose shoulder injury led to Smith’s recall.
“My game is just keeping it simple, working hard, winning battles, getting pucks out and getting pucks deep,” Smith said. “If the coaches think you can work well with a guy like Patrick Kane, you just do your best and hope it works out.”
Coach Joel Quenneville felt confident enough to use Smith in the final minute of regulation in the Hawks’ overtime win against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday. It was what Smith did with Kane and Frolik late against the Blues that led to him playing with them again in Detroit.
“I think his instincts are high end,” Quenneville said. “Defensively, he’s usually in the right spots. . . . He gives you some confidence in different situations. His play without the puck reinforces that.”